Phoenix Central Park, February 17


At one point it ceased to be three pianos, and sounded more like a mighty choir or a vast orchestra of harps. If you closed your eyes the galaxies of notes seemed infinite, generating a formidable density of sound, while still being shot through with light and air. Perhaps the most extraordinary effect came when all three pianists were playing rippling arpeggios, and as the tumbling notes collided, they generated a sonic equivalent of strobing light.

Adrian Lim-Klumpes Chris Abrahams and Novak Manojlovic. All photos: Jordan Munns.

Is Phoenix Central Park the only venue on earth that could have staged this concert? Certainly I can think of nowhere else in Sydney that just happens to own a contemporary Fazioli concert grand, an 1853 Erard fortepiano (the prototype for the modern grand) and a Bluthner baby grand restyled into a striking work of art by Poul Henningsen in 1931. But of course the instruments are merely furniture without players, and these were three of our finest improvisers: Chris Abrahams (of The Necks) on the Fazioli, Adrian Lim-Klumpes on the Erard and Novak Manojlovic on the Henningsen.

Amid the venue’s stunning acoustics (and architecture), the pianos were as distinctive as three characters in a play. The Henningsen (played by Manojlovic on the balcony level, one floor above the others) was rounded and pretty, the little Erard surprisingly bright and the Fazioli opulent, with bass frequencies beyond the others’ dreams.

The 50-minute improvisation began with three overlapping solos: Manojlovic moving from impressionism towards higher drama, before Lim-Klumpes made the Erard glow, and then when Abrahams took over, he established himself as the most understated of the trio, while painting twinkling treble figures against the Fazioli’s lush bass.

Some 20 minutes in they began playing together, creating a three-dimensional triangle of sound, occasionally with each player concentrating on different registers, but more often with them converging in great waves of sound. Perhaps they could have been more daring harmonically, but such thoughts dissolved in the exquisite denouement, which was sparse, soft and conversationally egalitarian.