Above – Anthony Romaniuk. Photo – Richard Dumas

My more attentive readers may have noticed my fondness for the adjective “kaleidoscopic”. But I have seldom found a better use for this word than to describe Anthony Romaniuk's recital Perpetuum, one of the series of lunchtime recitals called, oddly, Daylight Express, given at the Elder Hall in the University of Adelaide. His one hour program contained no fewer than 20 pieces, played without a break, mainly on piano but also on harpsichord and electric keyboard. The pieces ranged in style from 16th century England, through Bach and nineteenth century Germany to Ligeti and Glass – but certainly not in that order – and included two improvisations.

The title Perpetuum is taken from a jazz piece from the Penguin Café Orchestra, but could well apply to most of the pieces. Apart from the three Pièces froides by Erik Satie, all the pieces involved a welter of semiquavers, a perpetuum mobile, usually forming a background to the main musical events in each piece.

The kaleidoscope turned often, revealing the pixel colours in a different symmetry. The performances were fast without being flashy. The Schumann intermezzo was poetic, and the Schubert Gb impromptu was a dream disturbed by images of the shadow of death. Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin was incredibly fast; but the overall effect of his performances was that Romaniuk had made each piece his own. And I have never heard the last movement of the Storm sonata of Beethoven played more stormily. It was riveting.

One might imagine that this was all a bit breathless. But, although Romaniuk went from instrument to instrument while still holding down the final note of the last piece, those final chords, lovingly held, provided sufficient moments of repose to breathe between the pieces.

The concert was preceded by a speech by a representative of the Elder Conservatorium, reminding us that the Adelaide Festival started in the University all those years ago, and telling us what delights Daylight Express still had in store. No other concert I’ve attended in the Festival had such a speech before it; I did not need it, the information was in the Festival brochure which I’m sure everyone in the audience knew, and it would have been more in place at a country town talent show, even down to the microphone not working properly. Further, it delayed immersion into Romaniuk’s carefully curated recital in an irritating way.

Four or five members of the audience in my field of vision, and possibly more outside it, filmed and recorded parts of the performance on their phones. This despite notices insisting, thankfully, that everyone turn their phones off, as it is deeply disturbing to a listener immersed in the trancendental experience of listening to live music to see a screen flashing, or hear a ring tone. But here the organisers of the Festival are caught on the horns of a dilemma. With laudable intention of not wasting paper, they have issued the programs for the shows digitally. This means that audience members wishing to follow the program of any performance must do so on their phones. Myself, I would rather have a single sheet of program than be on tenterhooks during a concert, wondering when the next phone screen would flash.

This was a really marvellous concert, the enjoyment of which was for me slightly dampened by a few trivial but nonetheless important administrative failings.

Event details

Adelaide Festival 2024
Perpetuum
Anthony Romaniuk

Venue: Elder Hall | The University of Adelaide (entry via North Terrace), Kaurna Country, Adelaide SA
Dates: 7 March2024
Tickets: $39 – $30
Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au

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