Day Four: Monday May 4

Whispers and Thunder

The first concert of the midday Sound on Site series was held at the Turkish Embassy, in a room that is lined with Turkish and Australian photographs from Gallipoli. What looked on paper like a possibly incongruous mix of traditional Turkish music, English Renaissance polyphony and contemporary composition felt in fact like a harmonious whole. Indeed, the members of The Song Company stood in a symbolic circle. In his featured work ‘some echo still’, Turkish composer Ekrem Mülayim, taking inspiration from the stillness in circular movement of the whirlish dervishes, uses whispers and repeated spoken lines (in English) from the poet and mystic Rumi. Oğuz Mülayim opened the concert on his ney, or Turkish flute. It has an enchanting, ancient sound. I thought of mountains, places of the spirit. The instrument, which is played like a recorder, looks like a bamboo flute and even sounds a bit like a shakuhachi, but it is made, he told me, of a very strong reed that grows slowly in dry places. I wondered what it was like for Oğuz Mülayim, a musician from another tradition, to sit in the middle of the circle of singers, at the centre of such exquisite Western polyphony. The whole room seemed to be vibrating, so I imagine he was too. The last item was Arvo Pärt’s prayer for peace, ‘Da pacem Domine’. It was sung off-stage, as it were, and was somehow all the more moving for that.

It’s not often you have the chance to hear a recital for two pianos, and the Silver-Garburg Duo is certainly a hit with audiences. The modest Beethoven sonata for four hands, Opus 6, was a discovery for me. Charmingly Haydnesque, it was probably written as a teaching piece. I thought I might give it a go with my teacher. Then it was nineteenth-century virtuosity with double the oomph in the huge Liszt sonata and the Saint-Saëns showpiece. We were treated to two lively encores, after which the ambassadors of Germany and Israel spoke briefly, and aptly. Gil Garburg and Sivan Silver are Israelis who live in Berlin. Music can’t save the world or erase history, but it can, and does, bring us together.

Concert 10 was supported by Donna Bush, and Concert 11 by Muriel Wilkinson and June Gordon.

– Diana Brown