Along with a privileged group of Northerners I was treated to the delights of the Elanee Ensemble on the afternoon of Sunday March 18th at the Hamilton residence in North Lilydale. If you’ve never encountered them, the Elanee Ensemble consists of Jo St Leon (viola) and Stewart Thompson (double bass).
While this seems like an unlikely pairing of instruments, in the hands of these fine players the combination works remarkably well. The fluidly mellifluous tone of Jo St Leon’s viola (the often-overlooked member of the string family), coupled with the physical, almost gymnastic playing of Stewart on the double bass is simply electrifying.
The concert opened with works by Marin Marais, Beethoven and then a real treat when the duo was joined by young Melbourne pianist and composer, Benjamin Martin for the Northern premiere of his work “Carousel” for viola, double bass and piano. Ben also played a piece by Chopin before the Elanee duo took the floor once more to finish their concert with a Barriere sonata and some Tim Jones arrangements of well loved Hungarian Dances.
All in all, it was a wonderful, varied and spell-binding concert in a fabulous setting and to top it off, it was followed by a sumptuous Tasmanian country afternoon tea!
For me, the highlight was to witness the almost symbiotic relationship Stewart Thompson has with his double bass, from which he elicits the most amazing sonorities from the deepest rumbles to surprising soprano harmonics on the upper strings.
I loved hearing it and I also loved watching it. There is a remarkable rapport between these two fine musicians—they truly are one of Tasmania’s best kept secrets. If you want to find out where to catch their playing go to their website at: