Elysium Ensemble: Reviews
Founded in 1985 by Greg Dikmans, the Elysium Ensemble has been acclaimed by critics for its exciting performances, fine musicianship and authoritative interpretations of music from the Baroque and Classical periods.
“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)
“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 (12 June 1990)
“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 (27 May 1991)
“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)
“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 (13 Jan 1993)
“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 [Adelaide] Advertiser (3 Oct 1995)
“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)
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 (4 Nov 1996)
“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 (19 Jan 1999)
“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 Sun (13 Dec 1999)