MUSIC – Lior and Westlake – Festival Theatre – 4.5K

5128138-3x2-340x227By Peter Maddern

There aren’t too many folk singer – orchestral composer combinations that can work as well as that between Lior, the younger Israeli-Australian and Nigel Westlake, a, if not the senior statesman of Australian classical music. Beyond their abilities, there can be no doubt that there is a synergy between these two gentlemen that transcends their backgrounds and stages of career that lifts the quality of their joint work well beyond the ordinary.

In the first half of Friday’s night performance, from row N, Lior reminds one occasionally of a young Cat Stevens, though his voice is so much more refined and sophisticated, as he takes us through those songs that have made his name over three albums and the past six years. Though strangely perhaps, the song that got the most audience reaction was My Grandfather, the self-arranged ode to his own that he first previewed at last year’s Sessions and which is yet to make it to vinyl (as it were.)

indexAfter the interval, the true test of this partnership was played out – the jointly composed work of Compassion where Lior brings a considered collection of Hebrew and Arabic poems on that theme to life with Westlake’s arrangements. It is quite a resounding success.

Thanks to an informative program, one can contemplate the translations and reflect deeply on the words, especially in the context of the sub-text of the hatreds that play out in Lior’s original homeland and its surrounds.

One singer alone before a sixty piece orchestra has its own risks but this performance was testament to the work that has gone into its formation. At times Lior’s voice dominated the players behind him, then blended, or played a subservient role but always he remained in command; his three octave range a colour of delight.

Westlake’s arrangements take the seven songs in the Compassion cycle to all points of the compositional compass, with at times distinct but not clichéd resort to Arabic and Hebrew themes, playing hard up against thunderous crescendos that seem packaged for one of his film scores. An ample cello and double bass section provided a set square configuration on stage to the active ASO timpani placed immediately below the rear curtain.

Compassion is a work that deserves its initial rave reviews when first performed last year at the Sydney Opera House. It is a concept we could all take additional instruction on while Westlake’s music delivers a wonderful feast of sensual sounds. While the CD is fine, hearing this live is quite the experience.

Kryztoff Rating  4.5K

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