Lachlan Skipworth’s trumpet concerto Altiora Peto premiered by Brent Grapes & Cygnus Arioso at Grove Library

David CusworthThe West Australian
Cygnus Arioso Chamber Players with Brent Grapes, right, at the Grove Library for Cappuccino Concerts Grove Classics series on Sunday.
Camera IconCygnus Arioso Chamber Players with Brent Grapes, right, at the Grove Library for Cappuccino Concerts Grove Classics series on Sunday.

“I seek higher things” might be the motto for any aspiring trumpeter — it’s also the title of WA composer Lachlan Skipworth’s trumpet concerto, Altiora Peto, premiered on Sunday by WA Symphony Orchestra principal Brent Grapes and Cygnus Arioso string ensemble.

The world premiere topped the bill for the launch of Cappuccino Concerts’ latest Grove Classics series, taking its inspiration from the school motto of Tony Lennon, the series sponsor who commissioned the piece.

Lennon said it should be “optimistic, uplifting, joyful”, with a touch of nostalgia, and Grapes found all that in a tuneful test of technique that would grace any teaching program but which first and foremost was fun to hear.

An upbeat, breezy opening in the solo was also athletic in exploiting intervals, echoed and supported in the nine-piece string ensemble led by WASO violinist Akiko Miyazawa, co-founder with her husband Skipworth of the Cygnus Arioso group.

A second theme introduced in violins and developed in trumpet also explored the range but in a more languid style, with deft phrasing and tonal control, duetting with Miyazawa.

The upbeat opening theme returned, with strings echoing then accompanying the trumpet, tight co-ordination within the group enabling Grapes to set tone and tempi.

Brent Grapes
Camera IconBrent Grapes

Cello introduced a nostalgic note in the Tranquillo second movement, which Grapes reflected on flugelhorn — every serious trumpet player’s self-indulgence — with a smooth timbre more often heard in jazz and brass bands.

Flugel blended in easy familiarity among the strings, a sense of yearning in duet with violin giving way to a more expansive figure over rhythmic accompaniment then reprising the earlier nostalgia; rising in volume before ceding the cadence to strings.

A crisp fanfare launched the Allegro finale, advancing the pace and technical challenge, offbeat notes testing the group dynamic.

Here was the “uplifting, joyful” element on a very human scale; virtuosic in service of expression rather than sensation.

Cooling the mood, Grapes paused for breath then returned upbeat, joining violins in a romp through the register before rising to a florid conclusion.

Skipworth’s Fanfara — another 2021 composition, premiered in March by Sydney Symphony Orchestra and WASO principal conductor Asher Fisch — had opened the bill.

Dramatically surging melody in heroic vein over busy rhythm gave way to a folkloric duet between Miyazawa and lead cello Miranda Murray-Yong.

A fanfare-like passage then passed the lead motif from higher to lower strings, introducing a march.

Cygnus Arioso Chamber Players in the round at the Grove Library.
Camera IconCygnus Arioso Chamber Players in the round at the Grove Library.

Skipworth showed again how contemporary classical music can follow conventions of melody and harmony while remaining fresh, with a quartet of violins and viola giving way to pizzicato over sustained chords, then sweetly bowed violin, as if channelling the leafy surrounds of the Grove Library venue.

Playing in horseshoe formation, players kept excellent eye contact and co-ordination from the senior players — Miyazawa and violist Kathy Potter — to the juniors they mentor, building seamlessly to a dramatic conclusion.

For the second half, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, the group arranged themselves and the audience in the round to exploit the mutual reliance of chamber music.

Cygnus Arioso and Cappuccino Concerts were first movers last year in bringing classical music back from lockdown, and Miyazawa has clear plans for her group.

“I am aiming for Cygnus Arioso Chamber Players to contain only young musicians soon,” she says.

“This time Kathy and I will play with them, but in the big event I’m planning in January next year, they will play without pros, so you can really see how they are training themselves, getting more experienced and blossoming into an established group of musicians.”

Cygnus Arioso continues its Beethoven violin sonata cycle at Perth Concert Hall on November 10.

Grove Classics continues to the end of the month, with Don Candy in solo guitar recital at 5pm on October 10, Tommy Seah in solo piano recital at 5pm on October 17, Rod McGrath in solo cello recital on October 24, and cellist Michael Goldschlager and pianist Irina Buevska-Cowell at 5pm on October 31.

Disclosure: The reviewer is a trumpet tragic.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails