So Much Myself: Piano Portraits

The Adelaide Festival of Arts is a gift which keeps on giving, even as it draws to a close. 

Last night in the Adelaide Town Hall the gift was to take the audience on a journey through time and history.  

Robert Davidson and Sonya Lifschitz have collaborated in a program portraying notable speeches by remarkable women. It was a joyous performance in which old film clips, excellent photography and imaginative music were blended into a fascinating program full of surprises. Who would have guessed that Nina Simone had once pulled a gun on the CEO of a recording company. Who would have thought that while Brahms was regarded as a composer of sublime music, his comportment towards the young female students of Clara Schumann bordered on the very inappropriate. Ethel Smyth, in her segment, made no hesitation in separating the man Brahms, who she did not like, from his music which she revered.

During one segment we met the great aunt and grandmother of Sonya Lifschitz, both of whom, as young children, had escaped Kyviv at the beginning of World War II.There was much sadness in their story and  lost opportunities, but they told it together in the typical sibling way of friendly banter, contradictions, and laughter.

Another standout was Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, delivered in Parliament.  Strangely, Anthony Albanese and Wayne Swan, sitting behind her, looked almost as uncomfortable as did the smirking Tony Abbott. Male solidarity?

The final part began with Aunty Deltae Barton and Jackie Marshall speaking of the gift of creation. Then we heard from Rachel Carson, with her sincere and urgent, yet restrained, plea for action to protect the environment and finally the anger of Greta Thunberg. ‘How Dare You’ she shouted. How dare we leave young people to pick up the pieces of our neglect.

Robert Davidson

The music, composed by Robert Davidson matched the period, style and concept of each speech, highlighting key phrases. Sonya Lifschitz never faltered through an hour and a half at the piano, sometimes providing commentary as she played.  The success of the evening was due to their work and enthusiasm for the project. We have been promise a sequel.

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