Watching musicians interact and create art together is one of the joys of being an audience member, and what better way to observe this cohesion than in the form of the duet. HIP Company and the Irwin Street Collective have been dedicatedly bringing historically informed performance to the fore in Western Australia over the past few years. However, Duo is the first time the groups have officially collaborated. An excellent concept for a performance, every piece in the program was a duet, with members of each group playing with the equivalent member in the other ensemble. This concept proved incredibly successful, in a highly enjoyable evening which celebrated the joys of communication and collaboration in Baroque music.

Duo

Shaun Lee-Chen, Sarah Papadopoulos, Bonnie De La Hunty, and Sara Macliver. Photo © Partografia Photography and Film

Partners on the vocal lines were Sara Macliver (ISC) and Bonnie De La Hunty (HIP Co.), as they effortlessly sang through the program with contrasting but compatible voices. Whether in duet harmonically or polyphonically, each vocal piece was full of musical intention combined with an underlying sense of joy. One could be utterly content listening to the pair sing duets all day, especially the likes of Cozzolani’s Bone Jesu, fons amoris, Op. 2 and Monteverdi’s Zefiro Torna, e di soavi accenti, SV 251. The sectional nature of both these pieces allowed Macliver and De La Hunty to easily demonstrate their early music prowess to the populous audience. 

Performing their own duets, or as obbligato with the singers, the violins wove a binary dialogue within the music, which was both compelling and blissful. Shaun Lee-Chen (ISC) and Sarah Papadopoulos (HIP Co.) performed on period instruments, working with each other in a way that was skilfully controlled, but no less impactful. In particular, their performance of Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonata for 2 Violins, Op. 12, No 6 was an excellent demonstration of the breadth of the Baroque sonic lexicon. Performed solely by the violinists, they journeyed with the audience through the piece, abound with cohesive phrasing and development.

It wouldn’t be a Baroque music concert without a hardworking continuo section driving each piece, represented in Duo by Cecilia Sun (ISC) on harpsichord and Krista Low (HIP Co.) on cello. Collaborating seamlessly, the pair were the heart of the ensemble, determining energy levels and driving section changes with ease. This was particularly evident during the last piece in the program, Monteverdi’s Zefiro Torna, where the dance-like ground bass proved highly enjoyable. Sun and Low also had their own duet piece: Vivaldi’s Sonata in B flat major Op. 14, No 4. It was an excellent opportunity to hear the deeper timbre of the cello work melodiously with the harpsichord, a symbiosis of melodrama and playfulness inherent within the piece.   

Altogether, the entire program was masterfully constructed. It managed to showcase each performer and instrument to the best of their abilities, while remaining entertaining the entire time. It featured several lesser-known works, including those by Chiara Magarita Cozzolani and Barbara Strozzi, both powerhouses of composition in their time whose pieces deserve to be brought to the fore. The audience was given the opportunity to learn about these women and the other works performed, as each piece was introduced by a member of the ensemble. These introductions were both factual and personable, maintaining the connection between performers and audience between pieces, a layer of polish and finesse on top of an excellent chamber music performance. 

It was truly a privilege to witness the musicianship and skill inherent in this performance by the Irwin Street Collective and HIP Company, both of which are set to make a considerable contribution to Perth’s chamber music scene, if the standard of Duo is anything to go by.