Elysium Ensemble: Reviews



Boismortier: Six Sonates (Op. 51)

Review of a period instrument recording of
Jospeh Bodin de Boismortier: Six Sonates (1734)

The Sunday Times (London)

The week’s essential new releases

Boismortier may be one of the (better-known) also-rans of the era of Couperin and Rameau, but these duos for “flute traversière et violon par accords” epitomise the civilised conversational art of the style galant prevalent at Louis XIV’s court.

Greg Dikmans (traverse flute) and Lucinda Moon (violin) are leading lights of Australia’s period-instrument movement. Their easy rapport guarantees 70 minutes of delight in the sequence of airs and dances that owe their structure to the Italian church sonata, but sound unmistakably French.

Hugh Canning – The Sunday Times (London) — 14 August 2016



Boismortier: Six Sonates (Op. 51)

Review of a period instrument recording of
Jospeh Bodin de Boismortier: Six Sonates (1734)

Classical Ear

The two performers are undoubted experts in this field, their playing elegant and nuanced, highlighting the rhetorical nature of Boismortier’s genteel instrumental dialogues

Greg Dikmans (baroque flute) and Lucinda Moon (baroque violin), the two leads of the period-instrument Elysium Ensemble, here essay a somewhat unusual example of French baroque chamber music.

Boismortier, who was something of a specialist when it came to novel instrumental combinations, scores his Op 51 collection for flute and 'violon par accords', which means the fiddle frequently fills out the harmonic accompaniment with chord voicings, at least to the extent that this is possible on four bowed strings.

The accompanying booklet is chock full of detail about French baroque performance practices, and the two performers are undoubted experts in this field, their playing elegant and nuanced, highlighting the rhetorical nature of Boismortier’s genteel instrumental dialogues.

If the overall result comes across as slightly insipid 'Tafelmusik', it’s no reflection on them. Far removed from the tempestuous energy of, say, Tartini or Vivaldi, this is music for the polite parlours of the French bourgeoisie.

Mark Walker – Classical Ear — 06 Sep 2016



Barthold Kuijken
on Quantz: Sei Duetti, Op. 2

A period instrument recording of
Johann Joachim Quantz: Sei Duetti (1759)

Barthold Kuijken

Barthold Kuijken

“I listened with great pleasure to the Quantz duet recording of Greg Dikmans and Lucinda Moon. They made me rediscover these works, that have too often been undervalued as dry and uninteresting compositions.

“I am glad that Greg Dikmans and Lucinda Moon did not take the easy superficial approach, but made the effort to take these light and charming works “seriously” enough and bring out so many different shades of colours.

“Quantz himself recommends playing these pieces with two different instruments in order to do justice to the polyphonic writing, and I am particularly happy hearing them being performed on flute and violin rather than two flutes.

“Thanks, Greg and Lucinda!”

— Barthold Kuijken, Gooik, May 21st 2015



Quantz: Sei Duetti, Op. 2

International Record Review

Review of a period instrument recording of
Johann Joachim Quantz: Sei Duetti (1759)

The Elysium Ensemble was established in Melbourne, Australia, by the recorder and flute player Greg Dikmans in 1985 with the aim of performing Baroque chamber music in historically informed style on period instruments. This is the first recording in its Baroque music performance research project to bring to a wider audience neglected and newly discovered works in performances informed by careful scholarship and lengthy reflection. The project began with Johann Joachim Quantz’s famous 1752 Essay of a Method for Playing the Transverse Flute as applied to his Six Duets for Transverse Flutes, which he published in 1759, his eighteenth year working in Berlin for the flute-loving Frederick the Great.

Rather than performing these works on two flutes as written, Dikmans is partnered by the Ensemble’s principal violinist, the exceptionally talented Lucinda Moon. The contrasting timbres of the two instruments are beautifully suited to the delicate interplay of the two parts in each duet. As Dikmans points out in his extensive programme notes, these are elegant and light works whose principal interest lies in their well-crafted contrapuntal writing and witty exchanges between the two instruments, which a performance with two flutes might obscure a little. Of interest too is the mixture of Baroque and Classical stylistic elements in Quantz’s writing. Those looking for arresting melodies and powerful ideas will be disappointed (after all, they were written in the mid-eighteenth century, when ‘tasteful expression’ and ‘sentiment’ were extolled above all other musical qualities), but these gentle works repay attentive listening in a calm and meditative mood – and, I can say from experience, certainly not directly after listening to Bach, Vivaldi and Handel.

It is evident that Dikmans and Moon have put a lot of thought into the best way of performing these duets. Their tempos are generally moderate and they have resisted the temptation to heighten the colour of the works with pronounced dynamic and textural shifts. Also evident is the sympathy between the two musicians. Moon successfully restrains the brasher tone of her violin, without any loss of colour or texture, to match the lower volume and more transparent tone of Dikmans’s flute. There are moments when one has a sense that Dikmans needs to blow quite hard to match his partner’s louder and more brilliant instrument, but his playing remains poised and devoid of any strain throughout the recording.

Resonus Classics recordings are not available as physical discs. They can be downloaded from the label itself or one of six other digital outlets including Quobuz and eclassical.com, with several formats available, including both CD-quality WAV and high- definition 24 bit/96 kHz files delivered without loss of quality in compressed FLAC format. A computer (or player hooked up to the Hi-Fi) that is equipped with the software to decode FLAC is needed to hear the latter. In either case, the sound quality is exceptional in terms of clarity and tone, though the high- resolution version has a touch more clarity and immediacy than the standard CD quality version. The fairly resonant yet clear acoustic of the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Studio, completely free of any background noise, gives both flute and violin a nice bloom that adds considerably to the aural pleasure of the recording. Dikmans’s comprehensive notes about the composer, the music and the performances add further to the enjoyment.

The Baroque music connoisseur looking for refined and expertly crafted performances of neglected musical gems will find this recording an unalloyed delight.

Christopher Price – International Record Review (December 2014)



Quantz: Sei Duetti, Op. 2

MusicWeb International

Review of a period instrument recording of
Johann Joachim Quantz: Sei Duetti (1759)

The Elysium Ensemble on Resonus, who also perform on period instruments, have employed the writings of Quantz, C.P.E. Bach and others to determine an authentic period style for the Duetti, but that doesn’t mean that the performances are stuffy. This may not be exciting music – it isn’t intended to be – but all concerned, performers and recording engineers, have conspired to make this an ethereal experience. The booklet is a model of clear and valuable information. Better still, this is advertised as the start of a new project supported by the Early Music Studio at the Melbourne Conservatorium.

Brian Wilson – MusicWeb International (December 2014)



Quantz: Sei Duetti, Op. 2

Classical Ear

Review of period instrument recording of
Johann Joachim Quantz: Sei Duetti (1759)

Poor old Quantz: you have to feel a bit sorry for him, stuck at Sans Souci palace for years on end churning out endless works for his enthusiastic amateur flautist employer Frederick the Great. Still, at least it was a steady job, and it did insulate him from the vicissitudes of changing musical tastes.

Probably more aimed at performers than listeners, his Sei Duetti for two flutes were published in 1759 and function as a kind of appendix to his 1752 treatise ‘On Playin the Flute’, providing opportunities for practising contrapuntal melodies and, in the slow movements, expressive rubato phrasing.

Taking a hint from Quantz’s introductory remarks, Greg Dikmans and Lucinda Moon sensibly provide listeners with some welcome aural variety by performing the duets on flute and muted violin. They are a fine team, admirably ardent advocates for Quantz, and illuminate the surprisingly musical charms of these pedagogic pieces.

Mark Walker – Classical Ear (15 Sep 2014)



Quantz: Sei Duetti, Op. 2

Review of a period instrument recording of
Johann Joachim Quantz: Sei Duetti (1759)

Source: Flute Tutor Australia

The Art of Elegant Conversation, a recording of Johann Joachim Quantz’s Sei Duetti by Greg Dikmans and Lucinda Moon of the Elysium Ensemble, is the first of a series of recordings intended to promote newly discovered and hitherto neglected chamber music from the Baroque and early-Classical periods. Despite the fame Quantz enjoys in the flute community, particularly for his treatise Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (1752) and some of his better-known sonatas and concertos, much of his vast compositional output remains unpublished and unrecorded.

Performed on period instruments and informed by a close study of the Versuch, this CD is a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of Quantz’s rarely performed Sei Duetti. From 1741 until his death in 1773, Quantz served in the court of King Frederick II of Prussia, a flute player and an avid music lover. Quantz was Frederick’s flute teacher and was responsible for the King’s private chamber music concerts; he was also the only member of the court permitted to critique the King’s flute playing.

Written as didactic works (in his preface to the score, Quantz extolls the virtues of playing duets as an important part of a musician’s training) it is not impossible that the Sei Duetti were first played by Quantz and King. Although Quantz composed these duets for two flutes, in his preface he outlines a number of different possible instrumental combinations, writing: “In general, duets as well as trios produce a better and more intelligible effect on two instruments of different type than upon instruments of the same kind.” The combination of flute and violin used in this recording is particularly effective. The two distinct timbres provide clarity between the voices, allowing the listener to follow Quantz’s two-part writing and enhancing the impression of a sophisticated dialogue.

Dikmans and Moon form a crisp, well-balanced ensemble, their parts weaving independently at times before joining together in perfectly synchronised flourishes. The result is beautiful, engaging and far more interesting than one would expect from over an hour of flute duets. This CD will be fascinating for those interested in the music of Quantz and the style that straddles the end of the Baroque and beginning of the Classical period.

Well-researched and insightful, this performance is also an excellent example of the practical applications of the study of Quantz’s Versuch. A PDF scan of the first edition of the score, from 1759, is available from the International Music Score Library Project for those who want to delve more deeply into this music. The Art of Elegant Conversation is a charming, multifaceted recording that will delight both casual listeners and aficionados of historically informed performance. Dikmans and Moon have taken Quantz’s duets, deceptively light on the surface, and turned them into a conversation that is stimulating as well as elegant.

The Art of Elegant Conversation is available from Resonus Classics and iTunes.

Angus McPherson – Flute Tutor Australia (December 2014)



Quantz: Sei Duetti, Op. 2

Review of a period instrument recording of
Johann Joachim Quantz: Sei Duetti (1759)

Source: Victorian Music Teachers' Association Journal (Australia)

The delicately honed musical collaboration of flautist Greg Dikmans and violinist Lucinda Moon is evident in this splendid recording of the Quantz Sei Duetti, Op.2.

The Duetti conform to a three movement format–fast, slow, fast–excepting the idea of an Allegro in this context is more about the Affect of agreeableness than of eagerness. The first Duetto opens with a pleasant exchange, as if one were projected into a Jane Austen novel, deep in a paragraph regarding the propriety of behavior between the sexes. In fact, an analogy with Sense and Sensibility is not so absurd. It rather reminds me of the exchanges between Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood. The second movement is characterized by a sort of melancholia that is alluded to, but never elaborated. I would refer to it as an Elinor Dashwood moment. The Presto third movement marks a return to refined but light-hearted discourse or the arrival of Edward Ferrars announcing his bachelor days aren’t numbered. But this evocation of the social mores, conversations and civility of a bygone era says much about the excellent musical interpretations of this recording. Being able to recontextualise the music in order that it speaks of different values to our time only enhances the contribution that this partnership of musical scholarship and performance offers.

The character of the second Duetto is quite different, opening with an apparent seriousness, fast, but delightfully balanced. The instruments, while in imitation of phrases, have unique sonorities that contribute to a varied yet surprisingly more unified timbre than expected. We are not so conscious of the difference of wind against string instrument, and yet, despite this euphony there is a unique quality to the combination. The dissonances of the opening of the second movement are a lesson to all teachers and performers on the interpretation and execution of appoggiatura and 4-3 suspensions. Often these are difficult to explain to students because teachers themselves have little experience with the finesse of this repertoire. The poise required to fulfill these ornaments is both subtle and demanding in terms of technical requirements and without knowledge of a firm musical ideal, almost impossible to impart.

While I could continue a run-down of every movement on the recording, words cannot do justice to the beautiful phrasing, exquisite balance of the voices and refined musical ideals so ably displayed.

There would be many benefits to listening to this from a study perspective. Two-part writing, although having moved into the galante genre here, is expertly defined. This recording would help string, woodwind and keyboard players develop a better understanding of the interplay of Baroque voicing in things such as the J.S. Bach Inventions and his string sonatas.

It goes without saying that we are fortunate in Australia to have such fine performers dedicated to the advancement of lost musical gems.

Helen O’Brien – Victorian Music Teachers' Association Journal (Australia) (Spring 2014)



Joseph Haydn:
Divertimenti for flute, violin & cello

Elysium Ensemble’s Lucinda Moon Greg Dikmans and Hilary Kleinig bring Haydn to life on period instruments at Elder Hall

A program of six Divertimenti by Haydn? A bit samey, surely?

Quite the contrary.

Spirited playing from Lucinda Moon (violin), Greg Dikmans (flute) and Hilary Kleinig (cello), all on period instruments, ensured that both Haydn’s fecund invention and his craftsmanship were even more clearly revealed than usual.

And even more to be admired.

Not for him predictable fast-slow-fast order of movements. Surprises, as in the A major number — two slow, then segue into a lively Menuetto. And a Scherzo replaced the courtly dance in the second of the two G major pieces. Beethoven waits in the wings.

Modulations often led far away from the home key, but the way back was always secure.

Motifs that on first hearing seemed of little consequence (a mere four notes) turned out to offer myriad possibilities for development.

Occasional flourishes for violin, flute, even cello; reminders that baroque ornamentation, now passé, still had points to make.

These pieces must have been composed for fine players, like Elysium — or maybe, given the passage of time, Moon and her mates are even more skilful and more perceptive and definitely more knowledgeable than their counterparts way back in 1784.

Haydn wrote the recipes. Elysium turned them into delectable music. Almost every movement ended with delicately moulded cadences, many of them suspended, melting away into charmed silence.

Classicism at its most perfectly formed, and most persuasively performed.

Elizabeth Silsbury – The Advertiser [Adelaide] (12 May 2014)



Elysium excellence
without the jingle bells and whistles

1999 Melbourne Series: Baroque Festival - 8 Dec 1999

About this time of the year, most serious music ensembles are gearing up for the predictable Christmas round: carols and the nine lessons, lashings of sentiment, and imported (mainly British) seasonal color — all part-and-parcel of the annual cheerful fusion of God and Mammon.

The Elysium Ensemble is this city’s foremost group specialising in Baroque music; its farewell to 1999 made no concessions to Christmas. Rather, Greg Dikmans and his colleagues went through a solid program of J.S. Bach, Vivaldi and Telemann that gave most of the group’s members a chance to shine, either as soloists or as vital lines in the accompanying fabric.

Dikmans has a solid reputation as one of the country’s foremost experts in baroque flute, recently lending his talents to the pit for the Opera Australia’s version of Handel’s Rinaldo. He has given previous performances of the Bach Suite No. 2 in B minor (that for flute, strings and continuo), but I doubt if we have heard him so much at his ease as on Wednesday evening, each movement distinguished by an informed subtlety in breathing and phrase shaping.

The flautist made no attempt to blind his audience with speed and abrupt alterations of dynamic or attack, but maintained an evenly spun line, making points with tact and quiet insistence, as in the genially spry Badinerie, a movement that all too many players turn into a 19th-century virtuosic gobble.

The group’s leading violinist, Lucinda Moon, played the Bach A minor Concerto with compelling clarity, stripping layers of varnished lacquer from the three movements and showing us their rock-solid framework. Moon’s vibrato-light performance style requires a firm resolve, unshakeably true pitching and confidence in the accompanying envelope. This reading made a splendid stretch of music making, pure in its articulative purpose which rarely faltered, even under uncomfortably muggy playing conditions.

Dikmans returned for Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons, a transcription from the violin solo original that did less damage than many another, like James Galway’s over-excited, if popular, recording. Yet this amiable diversion was all but forgotten during the ensemble’s finale: the Tafelmusik I Concerto in A by Telemann, with Dikmans, Moon and cellist Roseanne Hunt making up the central trio of soloists.

Here was extremely fine work, a refresher course in the lean polyphony and graceful instrumental writing that made the composer so popular with public and peers in his own time, even if his reputation later declined to that of a prolific hack. The Tafelmusik had the virtue of being a rarity after three very familiar masterpieces, the Elysium players giving it utterance with a gusto and spirited pulse that carried through each of the four movements.

Much of the impetus came from Calvin Bowman’s energetic harpsichord work and the unobtrusive power of Ruth Wilkinson’s violone bass line, but the final impression was of a communal dedication, a vibrant realisation of this score underpinned by generous collegiality.

In all, an excellent end to the year. Elysium heads towards the millenial Christmas after yet another superior exhibition of musicianship and interpretative skill.

Clive O‘Connell – The Age [Melbourne] (13 Dec 1999)



Irrepressible fire and passion

Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival - 16 Jan 1999

[T]he Elysium Ensemble began with a well co-ordinated plunge into the regal opening of the Overture from Bach’s Suite in B Minor. The vigorous dotted rhythms, exaggerated according to the French style, were firmly placed yet breathed an airy grace due to the deft employment of articulatory silences…

At times the flute is no more than a subtle emanation from within the orchestra, floating like an aura, thickening and coloring the string melodies. From these striking unisons Bach launches the flute into more divergent solo trajectories, and here Greg Dikmans pushed determinedly to the fore in a spirit of unfettered, joyful elan. His approach throughout was uncluttered by indulgent ornamentation or affectation, instead remaining true to the essential of the line…

[The ensemble] succeeded in conjuring the irrepressible fire, passion and relentless momentum that lies at the heart of the baroque.

Johanna Selleck – Herald Sun [Melbounre] (19 Jan 1999)



Top-notch Baroque

1996 Melbourne Series: Baroque Festival - 2 Nov 1996

[Greg Dikmans and Lucinda Moon] are ideally matched: their phrasing is energetic but warmly burnished, they click like fine joinery when playing in harmony, and present music as if from a single organising mind. They are of that rank of players who can actually put across the music with the simplicity and calm innocence that the composers intended…their timbral combination is the musical equivalent of whipped cream…

Dikmans’s mini-festival covered a lot of big Baroque names; a solid sample of what the period has to offer. As well, performances underlined the fluidity, sense of purpose and elegance that typify the best music of the period. Some top-notch playing, then; all this festival needs is a mini-Schofield to attract an audience its fine quality deserves.

Clive O’Connell – The Age [Melbourne] (4 Nov 1996)



Refinement and sensitivity

Les Nuit d’Eté Festival (Sydney) - 22 Feb 1996

An audience of around 150 were driven wild by the delices of the music of Jean-Fery Rebel…and his contemporaries. The overall sound…was delightfully warm, very telling in imagining what constitutes appropriate bon goût in this music—refinement and sensitivity, with a lot of underlying, almost brooding, strength…

Concerts like this are not only entertaining, but edifying, challenging perceptions from recordings, and introducing music as yet unrecorded and otherwise unavailable.

Rod Byatt – Early Music News (April-May 1996)



Perfection and bliss abundant

Barossa Music Festival - 1 Oct 1995

Elysium proved that its name is no idle boast. The playing was little short of perfection—and bliss abounded…

Elysium’s interpretations of Rameau and Telemann…were so fresh and entertaining that they can be counted as the stuff of revelation. No Barossa patron’s calendar should be without at least one taste of this particular heaven.

Elizabeth Silsbury – The Advertiser [Adelaide] (3 Oct 1995)



Each recital is a rare pleasure

Retrospective review of music in Melbourne in 1992.
The Elysium Ensemble was given its own heading!

Music 1992—A Year in the Arts: 8. Elysium
… This ensemble plays early music with as much insight and dedication as one could wish; each recital is a rare pleasure.

Clive O’Connell – The Age [Melbourne] (13 Jan 1993)



Uncomplicated music for virtuous listeners

Music at Christ Church, Geelong - 8 Nov 1992

Elysium, in classical Greek literature, is a place where the virtuous enjoy complete happiness and innocent pleasures. This was the concert experience on Sunday afternoon… All music performed by the Elysium Ensemble was delivered with an authority derived from constant and careful study of this early period in which the group specialises…

The professional familiarity which the Elysium Ensemble exhibits towards the music of what used to be obscure composers such as Bassano, Rossi, Schmelzer and Marais demonstrates the value of academic study in this field which results in increased aesthetic delight for all music lovers.

Brian Chalmers – Geelong Advertiser (10 Nov 1992)



Elysium players enhance reputation

1991 Melbourne Series - 25 May 1991

The Elysium players continued to reinforce their reputation as close to the finest exponents of Baroque and Rococo music that Melbourne owns.

Clive O’Connell – The Age [Melbourne] (27 May 1991)



Soft-voiced instruments well chosen

1990 Melbourne Series - 9 June 1990

One of the major products of J.S. Bach’s last years, the ‘Musical Offering’, is a work little performed; the preserve of musicologists more than musicians…In terms of performance, it was exemplary music-making graced by a fluid seamlessness and an elegant, polished Baroque mixture of timbres.

Clive O’Connell – The Age [Melbourne] (12 June 1990)



Antique aural pleasures

Music Viva at Six Series (Sydney) - 10 July 1986

The music itself offered a diverse world of aural pleasures. But it was the performances that united these elements [the music, the style of performance, and the acoustic] into a pleasing exhibition of antique works which remain, in such hands, treasured pieces, as capable now as some 250 years ago of bringing happiness to mortal ears. For this praise must go to the leader [of the Elysium Ensemble] Greg Dikmans, whose playing captures the spontaneity and grace of this music.

David Vance – Sydney Morning Herald (12 July 1986)