Reviews

Ulpirra Sonatines - CD Review - The Music Trust, October 2016
Ulpirra Sonatines. Australian and French music for flute and piano.

“The concept of matching and contrasting music from Australia and France has resulted in this most attractive collection of works for flute and piano.”

Mark Isaacs’ Sonatine, written in 2009 as a commission from Melissa Doecke, receives its premier recording here. Isaacs’ Sonatine is a most satisfying and enjoyable piece, and a notable addition to the Australian repertoire of music for flute and piano.

Ross Edwards Nura...Excellent performances from Doecke and Isaacs.

...Doecke demonstrates fine sensitivity in her interpretation of the reflective, meditative, even spiritual nature of this exceptional composition.

Ulpirra ... receives a happy, sparkling rendition from Doecke.

The French component is represented by Francis Poulenc and Henri Dutilleux. Poulenc’s Sonata (1957) is a well-known favourite and an essential in any flautist’s repertoire. Doecke and Isaacs give an impressive interpretation of this masterwork; it is hard to imagine a better performance.

Another masterwork for flute and piano is Sonatine by Dutilleux (1943) which concludes the CD in a symmetrical ‘bookend’ to the Isaacs at the start. The influence of Debussy and Ravel has been integrated into the composer’s distinctively individual sound. Contrasting sections segue into each other, varying from sombre, lyrical and sprightly to intense and energetic; a virtuosic cadenza for flute precedes the breathless acceleration to an exhilarating, dramatic climax. Top technical skills and fine musicianship are evident in the performances.

Melissa Doecke is to be congratulated for her enterprise in choosing this interesting program of new and less new, Australian and European music and particularly for commissioning new Australian composition.
Loudmouth E-zine, The Music Trust
Ulpirra Sonatines - CD Review - Limelight Magazine, March 2017
Named for an Aboriginal word meaning pipe or flute, Ulpirra Sonatines places Ross Edwards and Mark Isaacs – who joins flautist Melissa Doecke on this disc – alongside Poulenc and Dutilleux.

The disc opens with the lush first movement of Isaacs’ Sonatine, Doecke soaring over Isaacs’ undulating piano. The recording catches the complex edge of Doecke’s sound as she produces ethereal harmonics and earthy flutter-tonguing. Isaacs’ The River for alto flute and piano revels in the velvet sound of the lower instrument, while providing plenty of opportunity for Doecke to sweep up through the range with a light, flitting agility.

The colour and virtuosity of Edwards’ Nura has no doubt contributed to its popularity in the flute repertoire. Wild Bird Morning channels Messiaen while Ocean Idyll is eerily tranquil. In this performance the normally fiery Earth Dance is given a carefully paced, detailed treatment. Doecke’s clean sound winds meditatively above gently flowing water in Edwards’ Water Spirit Song, originally a work for cello, while Ulpirra dances playfully.

After this, it is jolting to be thrust into 20th-century neo-classicism with Poulenc’s oft-performed Sonata. Doecke’s tone is honeyed, however, as she delves into the low register and glistens on the high notes but the finale is on the stately side. She infuses the rarely heard Un Joueur de Flute Berce les Ruines that follows with haunting pathos.

Isaacs and Doecke cap off a fine album with a vividly characterful rendition of Dutilleux’s 1943 Sonatine.

by Angus McPherson on March 17, 2017
Limelight Magazine, Australia
The Enchanted Flute - In Review
On Saturday 5th of March, the audience at Theme & Variations Piano Services were delighted by a unique and thought-provoking selection of French and Australian music. Performing were renowned artists Melissa Doecke on flute and Mark Isaacs on piano as part of their Australian Tour – ‘The Enchanted Flute’.

The program began with one of Isaacs own compositions, a Sonatine dedicated to Shakimra – Isaacs’ sister-in-law. The piece grabbed the audience with a dark and lyrical opening, setting the stage for the rest of the program. In three contrasting movements the Sonatine captured many different characters and moods, from the reflective to the energetic.

The Dutilleux Sonatine for Flute and Piano followed. A standard of the flute repertoire, the piece is demanding both technically and musically for both flute and piano. Finishing with an animated and frenzied accelerando from both instruments, the high-intensity ending was certainly a favourite with the guests!

Individual works by Isaacs, Edwards and Poulenc set the rest of the program and certainly demonstrated consummate mastery from both performers. The standout feature for me was the number of colours both instrumentalists were able to ‘serve-up’. Each plate had a different flavour, a different texture and a different aftertaste! The palette of timbres available was a kaleidoscope of sound, all tailored with control and artistry. Finishing the program with another favourite in the flute repertoire was the Sonata for Flute and Piano by Poulenc – a cheeky, intense and satisfying way to complete a wonderful program.

Just as one thought the program could not get any better, a much anticipated encore was performed – an arrangement of Debussy’s most famous Arabesque in E major, a fitting addition to the French theme...Having feasted on such tantalising delights from France and Down Under, the audience had nothing but praise to share as they left the showroom.
Andrew Rumsey - Theme and Variations
Elder Hall Recital - Melissa Doecke & Mark Isaacs 11 Sep 2015
Fine musicians round out balanced program of flute and piano
Stephen Whittington
The Advertiser

Send the audience home humming a tune is conventional concert programming wisdom.

Poulenc’s tunes are very hummable or better, whistleable, so his Sonata for flute and piano was appropriately placed last on this program on flute and piano music.

Informed by folk songs, cabaret songs and dances which have been recast with a classical touch, mixing sentimentality with whimsical humour and occasional melancholy, they are easy to digest and tend to stick in the mind.

Melissa Doecke was fully in touch with French sensibility — l’esprit gaulois — epitomised by Poulenc, shaping her line with elegance and restrained emotion. Mark Isaacs’ alter ego as a jazz pianist led him to an interesting approach to the piano part, with some spiky accents and a strong rhythmic underpinning. This was a fresh, engaging performance of a work that has suffered many decades of rough handling by flute students but in the hands of fine players remains very appealing.

The program began with another French work — a Sonatine by Henri Dutilleux. While perhaps not one of his best works, it has considerable interest and makes substantial demands on the flautist, including a couple of virtuosic cadenzas.

Melissa Doecke was more than a match for its challenges. Between the French works were a clutch of Australian pieces. The River by Mark Isaacs, adapted from his Children’s Songs, is, as befits its title, an evocative, flowing work of shifting patterns and rhythms. His Sonatine is a more abstract work notable for the rhythmic inventiveness. In the slow movement, Melissa Doecke showed her command of an array of different colours and effects; the almost religious aura of this movement was beautifully conveyed in this performance.

Ross Edwards’ lively Ulpirra for unaccompanied flute was paired with an unaccompanied work by Poulenc, rounding out a well-balanced program by these two fine musicians.
The advertiser - Adelaide
BIFEM: Inventi Ensemble - Urban Gypsies - 5 Sep 2015, Bendigo
BIFEM: Inventi Ensemble, Urban Gypsies
5 Sep 2015, Bendigo
Melissa Doecke - flute
Ben Opie - oboe
Marco Cher-Gibard - electronics
Melody Eotvos - sound/visuals

From the initial notes of Saturday’s Inventi Ensemble concert, I was struck by the excellent quality of sound produced—the tonal integrity of the acoustic instruments was consistently the central focus and the electronic material was expertly integrated...
In Passages (1979) by Jean-Claude Risset, Melissa Doecke’s solo flute interacts with a quaint episodic array of late 1970s electro-acoustics...
Urban Gypsies (2005) by Johannes Kretz for oboe, electronics and film...Ben Opie’s mournfully pleading oboe conjures faces and words that become more forceful as images of grass and dirt give way to concrete and traffic...

Forty years earlier, Paul Gauguin made his first journey to Tahiti where, along with some of his most famous paintings, he produced a woodcut and travelogue both with the title Noa Noa. Kaija Saariaho’s 1992 work of the same name has become a standard work for flute and electronics, borrowing material from Gauguin’s text. Stage whispers are skilfully combined with quarter-tone recitations, air sounds and multiphonics. Doecke has throughly absorbed the composer’s stance on extended techniques and they are brought to life as the natural extensions of fragrant breath and song. This piece is an excellent example of how sound alone can create a rich and beautiful world of imagery.

The final work in the program, Melody Eötvös’ House of The Beehives (2015) was commissioned by lawyer and human rights activist Julian Burnside. The current ecological plight of the bee population is explored here with flute, oboe, electronics and film... Inventi Ensemble’s Urban Gypsies illuminated many opportunities for multi-disciplinary artists wishing to combine images with sound.

Inventi Ensemble
Urban Gypsies
5 Sept 2015
Stratagem Studio, Bendigo
Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music
Charles MacInnes
Partial Durations
Six Degrees Ensemble - Melbourne Metropolis Festival
Six Degrees Ensemble weaves a polyphonic web at Melbourne Recital Centre
April 5, 2014


For their Metropolis Festival recital, the Six Degrees Ensemble began with an underwhelming trio by Somei Satoh, soprano Justine Anderson, pianist Jacob Abela and Peter Neville's percussion mounting a diatonic-friendly vocalise of little interest.

More meat emerged in Helen Gifford's Music for the Adonia, a surprise-packed construct for instrumental octet; and conductor Elliott Gyger supervising the Melbourne composer's edgy piece that gives a tightly wound but gripping vision of the ancient Greek (and elsewhere) women's festival.

This spiky and urgent piece, now over 20 years old, was followed by Liza Lim's Garden of Earthly Desire, which can lay claim to being the most complex Australian chamber work of the past 30 years. A dense polyphonic web persists for most of its duration, fluctuating bar-lengths adding to the mix as Lim generates her chain of tarot card interpretations, although pack members proved hard to differentiate. Full marks to its dedicated interpreters, unflagging in energy to the final wisp-like bars.
Sydney Morning Herald
London Debut Recital - Purcell Room, London, Park Lane Group Series
... the flautist Melissa Doecke had the best music. Giles Swayne was in the audience to hear her fearless and beautifully poised performance of his Ophelia piece, Canto for solo flute. And Julian Anderson’s The Colour of Pomegranates for alto flute and piano (Mary Callanan) was heaven itself...
The Times, London, UK
BBC Proms - Composer Portrait Concert
BBC Proms Composer Portrait - Jonathan Harvey

Vers - for piano solo
Run Before Lightning - for flute and piano ( UK premiere)
The Riot - for flute/piccolo, bass clarinet and piano

Melissa Doecke (flute/piccolo)
Andrew Harper (bass clarinet)
Mary Callanan (piano)

... the performance required and received in the expert hands of both players a fearless interpretation. Eerily-blown elements in the flute part gave an evocative sense of disorientation to the listening experience, thus creating a link with the music's dream source...
The exuberant performance conveyed a sense of fun that was very much implicit within the writing. Although in Part one of the work things feel sometimes about to spin out of control all three performers hold the work firmly within their grasp...
... it was the highly professional performances that brought Harvey 's themes to life with remarkable ease for anyone approaching the composer for the first time.
Classical Source

Events Diary


12 May 2018 
Guest Tutor
MYO, Melbourne

13 May 2018
Inventi Ensemble
Hawthorn, VIC

19 May 2018
Inventi Ensemble on tour
Warrnambool, VIC

25 - 30 May 2018
Australian Ballet / OV
Merry Widow
Canberra, ACT

18 - 29 June 2018
Inventi Ensemble 
Regional Tour, VIC

Visit the EVENTS PAGE for further info & booking details

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