The final instalment in the Kupka’s Piano 2016 season was a triumphant celebration of Chris Dench and polyphonic music. 

Chris Dench is Australia’s leading polyphonic composer, with an impressive career spanning more than 40 years.  Composing pieces for varying ensemble sizes, he seems to play with the sonic imagery between instruments and attempts to breakdown conventional musical tropes, which makes for an interesting listening experience. 

The concert program showcased works by Dench from throughout his career, with the World Premiere of his new piece, flux, which was written specifically for this concert.  The rest of the program included a four-part work for flutes entitled Vier Darmstädter Aphorismen; esperance, a mini sonata for solo piano; and finishing on the ensemble piece eigenmomenta. 

The only way to describe the two ensemble pieces (flux and eigenmomenta) is chaotic, overwhelming and complex.  Polyphony is the simultaneous combination two or more parts, each playing a different melody and harmonizing with each other.  At the height of both of these pieces, there were seven different parts being played at once – and at a loud dynamic.  Combine with this the atonal quality of Dench’s music, the constantly changing time signature, and the seemingly fluid tempo – one may just hear it as a wall of sound.  But once you got past the jarring sounds and could focus in on one element of the score, you can hear the individual melody lines and how they are interplaying with each other – or in some cases deliberately creating tonal or rhythmic dissonance. 

Each of the seven musicians were wonderful and had their moment to shine within the ensemble pieces.  However, special mention must be made to Alex Raineri for his performance of Esperance on piano and Jodie Rottle for her solo performance of A.R.T.A.U.D. on the bass flute.  Rottle’s technique was incredible – the different tones and sounds she created during the piece were a real treat – as well as her ability to effortlessly fluctuate the tempo and time that the piece required.

Overall, an interesting auditory experience and wonderful performances by the musicians of Kupka’s Piano.

Written by Brady Watkins

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