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Brendan O'Donnell

Recorder Rara - Januar 2014

Blown away by shape, nuance

In the time of J.S. Bach, music was often a family business, and the Bachs were the most remarkable of all.

For recorder player Brendan O'Donnell it's also a family business. On this occasion he was ably accompanied by his mother, Glenys March, at the harpsichord as together they explored some rarities of the recorder repertoire.

If your experience of the recorder is limited to out-of-tune school ensembles, or you imagine that the expressive range of the instrument is limited to pleasant tootling, then this concert would have been a revelation.

The passionate intensity of Jean-Baptiste Loeillet's Sonata in G minor was striking, with O'Donnell giving the melody line exquisite shape and nuance.

Despite the extreme heat, intonation did not become a serious problem; it's difficult to stop a recital and retune the harpsichord so it fell to O'Donnell to compensate, which he did very well. The technical demands of the program were considerable, culminating in a virtuosic sonata by one Ignazio Sieber, a name that scarcely resounds down the centuries if you are not a recorder player. His Sonata No. 9, although it has abundant difficulties, is more than a show piece; it does have musical substance.

O'Donnell conquered most of its challenges with ease, leaving the audience to appreciate the composer's inventiveness and the performer's exceptional skill.

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- Stephen Whittington, The Advertiser, 23. Januar 2014


Breathless - Februar 2013

Seven recorders one gong, one double bass. A singing crocodile, a leaping, squawking monkey jerking around his actor-puppet master. Ratio of notes - zillion to one.

Brendan O'Donnell is virtuoso, scholar, presenter (of rare charm and lucidity), switching from little descant recorder to very big bass, sometimes blowing two at once, adding his own voice to make three part harmony, dynamics ranging from sweet tootling to louder than you would have thought possible.

Half the program old (14th, 17th century), bristling with notes, rests few and far between. The rest new. Picture pieces, jazz plus wah-wah in cahoots with Harley Gray, finally the impossible Breathless by Moritz Eggert.

We were left breathless with admiration. O'Donnell ended up red-faced but still breathing.

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- Elizabeth Silsbury, The Advertiser, 6. März 2013


Bowerbird Ensemble
The Coal Man's Musick Room, März 2014

No kidding. His name was Thomas Britton, his dates 1654-1714. With the profits from his small coal business he set up The Coal Man's Musick Club in his attic, attracting eminent musicians of the day to perform their own and other composers' works.

Bowerbird Ensemble’s re-creation was inspired. Guests were greeted by Thomas ("Call me Tom") in proper (cleaned up) gear. Initiator Brendan O’Donnell dazzled and charmed the assembled company with his virtuoso recorders in a concerto by Mr. Handel – he may drop by – and a sonata by Dr. Pepusch (gracing us with his presence).

Simone Slattery and her infinitely expressive violin his perfect match in most selections, notably Mr Bannister's Air, teasing and tantalising (Oh those whispering cadences!) in Maestro Castrucci's Ciaccona.

And what a beautiful bassoon! Jackie Hansen burbled discretely as continuo partner for Glenys March's harpsichord and drew several bravos for more prominent patches.

Bethany Hill's clear, clean soprano sang sweetly of love in The Wakeful Nightingale by Mr Weldon (also present) and Mr Reading’s Paradox, wherein her excellent diction elucidated the conflict between hate and love for the one lady.

The announcement of the sad demise of Mr Britton after a premonition called for a toast. We were restored to good cheer by a lovely sonata from Mr Loeillet, rumoured to be the subject of an addition by Bowerbird to his beautiful nest.

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- Elizabeth Silsbury, The Advertiser, 5. März 2014


Ensemble Galante & Syntony
Gloria: The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach, November 2013

Baroque flautists flaunt it

The lovely tones of Brendan O'Donnell's voice flute and Tim Nott's baroque flute were ably supported and complimented by cello and harpsichord continuo by Hilary Kleinig and Glenys March in J.S. Bach's Trio Sonata in G major BWV 1039, characteristic of the 18th century works labeled "stile galante".

Elegant, graceful, yes. Also strong, disciplined, even heroic. Superb technicians, O'Donnell and Nott made complex passage work sound easy in the fast movements. No vibrato, no imposed dynamics, and canny perception of what Bach could do with a simple semitone. Vocal quartet Syntony opened and closed the program. Countertenor Matthew Rutty gave their texture a baroque flavour.

For Bach’s Mass in A major BWV 234, Katerina Stevens and Emily Dollman (baroque violins) and Anna Webb (baroque viola) joined the flutes and continuo for a colourful ensemble. Quite galante, in fact.

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- Elizabeth Silsbury, The Advertiser, 21. November 2013


Adelaide Baroque
Barocco: Music of 17th century Italy, Juli 2013

Bassoon baroques the house in flavour filled program

Just an hour, without interval, packed with musical incident and flavoursome morsels of Baroque ingenuity.

That clever combination kept listeners alert after Sunday lunch as they appreciated some energetic and sparkling performances by Brendan O'Donnell, Jackie Hansen and Katrina Brown on recorder, baroque bassoon and harpsichord respectively.

There was plenty of sun in their almost exclusively Italian program from the 17th century benefiting from the church's refined acoustic and the gracefully enticing tones of the baroque bassoon, not an instrument especially well known in a solo capacity.

But Jackie Hansen, more familiar as our ASO's principal contrabassoonist, was in her element producing subtle ear-candy ranging from the eloquent to bee-in-a-matchbox buzzing when necessary.

The composer of their final number, Bartolomeo de Selma, was apparently a virtuoso exponent and allowed her full latitude in his Canzon Quarta a doi Basso e soprano.

Frescobaldi's harpsichord solo Toccata Settima was performed with stylish poise by Katrina Brown, a fine artist heard all too rarely around the state.

She produced some wonderfully long expressive lines with tremendous character and a real sense of dramatic timing that would have rivalled the best concert pianists for colour and effect.

Youthful recorder player Brendan O'Donnell led the ensemble with plenty of panache and enthusiasm.

The complex decoration of Marini's Romanesca, partnering Hansen's Bassoon, proved no challenge for his technique and sonic felicities as they demonstrated the capacity of Baroque music to transcend the centuries.

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- Rodney Smith, The Advertiser, 29. Juli 2013