June Diary

Friday June 3

Sydney Symphony Orchestra Brass Ensemble, Australian National Academy of Music, 7 pm

Most of the northern orchestra’s corps will appear on this program which is being toured across the country – well, the lower east coast.   From the publicity material, it looks like four trumpets, four horns, three trombones and a tuba are involved, which makes a comfortable number.   Leading the group, guest conductor James Somerville is the principal horn in the Boston Symphony and naturally a bit of the Republic’s music gets an airing, climaxing in the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story arranged by Eric Crees, principal trombone at the Covent Garden Opera House (Royal) and erstwhile co-principal of the London Symphony Orchestra.  The fertile Morten Lauridsen is represented by his most famous choral work, O magnum mysterium, complemented by Gabrieli’s setting of the text as well as a Magnificat from the Venetian master.   British veteran Mark-Anthony Turnage appears with a brass specific work, Out of Black Dust, and the ne plus ultra of film composers, John Williams, waves the Stars and Stripes with his 2014 Music for Brass which may present some logistical problems as it calls for 9 trumpets, 5 horns, 5 trombones, 2 bass trombones, 3 tubas, timpani and extra percussion.


Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall, 8 pm

Diego Matheuz, who put in a stint here over the past three years as Principal Guest Conductor of the MSO, returns to lead this all-Russian night, beginning with Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain in its original form, apparently, before Rimsky-Korsakov got his hands on it.   Joyce Tang will be soloist in the exemplar of a Romantic piano concerto  –  No. 2 in C minor by Rachmaninov   –   and Matheuz will take the MSO through excerpts from the great ballet score that ends the night.   The entertainment proceeds in neat chronological sequence – Tsarist, pre-Revolutionary, Communist – and gives a lop-sided portrait of Slavic musical genius.   Tang will doubtless enjoy much success with the concerto, although, given its melodic riches and spectacular-looking virtuosity, so would any pianist.

The program will be repeated on Saturday May 4 ( 8 pm) and Monday May 6 (6:30 pm).


Monday June 6

Alexander Gavrylyuk, Great Performers, Melbourne Recital Centre, 7:30 pm

Always a pleasure to have this USSR-born, Sydney resident pianist back here.   In this instance, Gavrylyuk forms part of the MRC’s Great Performers series and has assembled a fine miscellany, starting with Schubert in A, the three-movement gem that radiates summery good humour at every turn.   A bracket of Chopin contains the F minor Fantaisie challenge (leisurely or Lisztomanic?), the Nocturne in C minor from the Op. 38 set with the clangorous central chorale, and the mighty A flat Polonaise of 1842.  Then Gavrylyuk hones in on his birth country with Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 3, the shortest of the nine.  After this come some of Rachmaninov’s earlier set of Etudes-tableaux, and then that finger-twisting barnstormer, Balakirev’s Islamey – which is something of a Gavrylyuk specialty.


Tuesday June 7

Enso String Quartet, Musica Viva, Melbourne Recital Centre, 7 pm

Both programs that this US ensemble brings to us feature a new work by Melbourne composer Brenton Broadstock, part of the Musica Viva ongoing commitment to furthering the cause of contemporary Australian work which has led to some fine creations as well as some dross.   Another program constant is Beethoven’s Harp in E flat.  For this night, the group plays to one of its strengths with the middle Ginastera quartet, the Ensos having recorded all three to sustained acclaim.   And, keeping to the Latin ambience, the group will perform Turina’s 10-minute Serenata from 1943.

For the second program on Saturday June 18, the performers will exchange Turina and Ginastera for a Renaissance medley arranged by the quartet’s first violin, Maureen Nelson, and conclude with the familiar pages of Ravel in F.


Thursday June 9th

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Recital Centre, 8 pm

Concertmaster Eoin Andersen  puts himself front and centre of this night by directing and playing the solo for Mendelssohn’s evergreen concerto, the one everybody knows in E minor rather than the D minor score from the composer’s youth discovered by Menuhin mid-20th century.   Less familiar but still a concert hall staple, Strauss’s tone-poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks appears in new chamber orchestra garb, specially prepared by Brett Dean.   More Strauss opens the night with the Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, a teenager’s work of rich timbres and traditionalist-pleasing melodic orthodoxy.   To cap the occasion with a dash of sophistication counterbalancing Strauss’s lumpy rapscallion, Andersen leads Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, that quirky arrangement of (alleged) Pergolesi pieces that signifies the composer’s movement into neo-classicism.

The program is repeated on Friday June 10 at 8 pm in the Robert Blackwood Hall, then back to the MRC for a final account on Saturday June 11 at 6:30 pm.


Tuesday June 14

Bach’s Circle, Latitude 37, Melbourne Recital Centre, 6 pm

Back once more in the Local Heroes league, this period music trio – violin Julia Fredersdorff, gamba Laura Vaughan, harpsichord Donald Nicholson – hits the Baroque with confident panache, this time round presenting Bach’s keyboard G Major Toccata with its jolly fugue-gigue finale, and the Violin Sonata in E minor.   As for the circle, a Telemann trio sonata definitely fills the bill, as does a sonata from Buxtehude.   The public Baroque comes with a Handel aria, Col partir la bella Clori from the canata Ah! che pur troppo e vero, presumably arranged for one of the string players, and a lesser-known light of the era will emerge in the Trio Sonata No. 4 by Philipp Heinrich Erlebach; one of the few surviving works of this Bach contemporary; his impressively full output was largely destroyed by fire 20 years after the composer’s death.   Still, we should enjoy what’s left and the Latitudes are well positioned to help us.


Wednesday June 15

Flames Within, The Consort of Melbourne, Melbourne Recital Centre, 6 pm

Addressing the pyromaniac in all of us, this fine vocal ensemble hosts guest Hannah Lane and her Baroque triple harp.   Tonight, the Consort goes for fires, both spiritual and physical, heading for the former definitely (one hopes) with a bit of Hildegard von Bingen, and possibly continuing in that elevated strain with a Marenzio madrigal alongside a Monteverdi or two, although you can’t be sure with either of those two.   Definitely, matters will take a turn for the erotic with the arrival of Gesualdo, our favourite homicidal ultra-Mannerist Prince of Venosa, and should then lighten up through the advent of that polite ardour to be found in Morley’s Fire, fire.   On the home front, the singers will work through Elliott Gyger’s 12-year-old Fire in the heavens setting of verses by Christopher Brennan.   Morton Lauridsen’s Five madrigals represent the USA, although the only relevant works I can find in the composer’s copious output are the Six Firesongs, madrigals setting Italian texts.    And that tragic figure who did not survive the Nazi era, Hugo Distler, is represented by his six-part setting of Morike’s Der Feuerreiter.


Musical Offering, Selby & Friends, Deakin Edge Federation Square, 7:30 pm

Kathryn Selby comes back for the third in her subscription series recitals for this year. Once again, she has cellist Timo-Veikko Valve from the Australian Chamber Orchestra as a collaborator/friend, and young Canadian Nikki Chooi is the ensemble’s violinist.   Both friends enjoy a solo spot – Valve with the Brahms Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Chooi in the Schumann Sonata No. 1 in A minor – before all three musicians work through that glory of the piano trio repertoire, Schubert in B flat: 40 minutes of sustained jubilation.   As a taster, the musicians are playing Julian Yu’s 1999 Prelude and not-a-fugue, the composer’s tribute to Bach on the 250th anniversary of the master’s death; the pseudo-fugue uses the B-A-C-H motif not so much as a subject but as a cantus firmus.   It is hard to over-recommend these events; Selby and her associates never fail to bring an intellectual mastery and interpretative brilliance to their work and this year’s events have been superb accomplishments so far.


Thursday June 16

Rachmaninov’s Paganini, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall, 8 pm

One of the concerts of the year, this program welcomes back Sir Andrew Davis for another tour of duty as the MSO’s chief panjandrum.   The curtain-raiser is early Haydn, the Symphony No. 6, Le matin, the first written for the Esterhazy court and one that involves more than its fair share of solo spots for the executants.   Solo pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet delighted or outraged audiences with an idiosyncratic Mozart G Major Concerto K. 453 last August under Davis; he’s back with the sparkling Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini by Rachmaninov in which the plainchant Dies irae has rarely been put to better use.   To end comes a real rarity  –  the Ives Symphony No. 4 which isn’t that long but involves a large orchestra, three or four pianos with two of them tuned a quarter-tone apart, a mixed chorus for the outer movements, a massive percussion section, organ (always a problem these days in Hamer Hall) and usually an additional conductor for (at least) the second movement’s metrical complexities – which is what this work has in spades.   For those of us who have been carrying an Ives torch for decades, this is an important occasion, especially because, for most of us true believers, this may be the first time we get to hear the work live in its revised form.

The program will be repeated on Friday June 17 at 8 pm.


Saturday June 18

Bach: Spirit & Spectacle, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, Peninsula Community Theatre, Mornington, 7:30 pm

Yet another Bach night, you say.   Yes, it is, but there’s quite a bit on this program that would be unfamiliar to your run-of-the-mill concert-goer.   The MCO’s artistic director, William Hennessy, takes back the reins for the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and the Contrapunctus V from The Art Of Fugue, continuing the journey started by the Australian Chamber Orchestra at its last subscription concerts; in this exercise, the composer torques his subject into various situations simultaneously.   Later, Anne-Marie Johnson takes the solo line in the D minor Violin Concerto, which is a version of the well-known keyboard concerto in the same key.   Adding to the arcana, soprano Sara Macliver sings the B minor Mass’s Laudamus te, the slow-moving aria with flute obbligato Bete aber auch dabei from the cantata Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, and another cantata aria (this one with obbligato violin), Vergnugen und Lust from Gott ist unsre Zuversicht.   Bach in chocolate-rich transmuted form appears in Stokowski’s transcription of the elegiac chorale melody Mein Jesu, was fur Seelenweh.  And, for a touch of the modern-day, the MCO and Macliver air Calvin Bowman’s Die linien des lebens, seven brief settings of verses by Holderlin.   Out of left-field, on the bill for the Mornington night, we are scheduled to start with Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata; very welcome, of course, but who’s playing this cello/viola-sonata-by-another-name remains a mystery.

In the city, this program will be performed on Sunday June 19 at 2:30 pm in the Deakin Edge, Federation Square, and at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Friday June 24 at 7:30 pm.


Sunday June 19

Frei aber einsam, Trio Anima Mundi, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, East Melbourne, 3 pm

This ensemble – violin Rochelle Ughetti, cello Noella Yan, piano Kenji Fujimura – has moved from its previous performing space in the Melbourne Recital Centre to East Melbourne where it is now presenting its usual subscription series of three recitals.   Opening the sequence, these musicians perform one work by each of the composers who collaborated in the F-A-E- Sonata, a tribute to the violinist Joachim whose life-motto gives this afternoon its title.   Schumann, the project’s originator, is represented by his 6 Studien in kanonischer Form, originally written for piano with an attached pedal board but more commonly heard on organ; here it appears in a transcription by Theodor Kirchner for piano trio.    Brahms’ last work in the form, Op. 101 in C minor, is the most familiar work on offer, while the third collaborator, Albert Dietrich, is represented by the first of his two attempts, also in C minor.


Songs Without Words, Team of Pianists, Rippon Lea, 6:30 pm

A mixed bag, this night has two guest artists: Sydney Symphony Orchestra principal second violin Marina Marsden and her SSO colleague and viola-playing sibling, Justine. Together with one of the Team’s senior members, Robert Chamberlain, they will play arrangements for their various combinations of pieces from Mendelssohn’s seemingly endless Lieder ohne Worte.    The sisters collaborate in Mozart’s K. 423 Duo, all three play Hans Koessler’s four-movement Trio-Suite.   Later, the inescapable Piazzolla appears in Oblivion, Eduard Herrmann’s arrangement of Three Russian Songs by Glinka give a refined Slavic polish to proceedings, and the Danish composer Jacob Gade’s catchy Jealousy Tango stands as a sort of programmed encore.   All over the place, this is an old-fashioned all-in bag of mixed sweets which asks you to just sit back and relish the sugar and schmaltz.


Friday June 24

Gabriel Faure, Australian National Academy of Music, 7 pm

Pianist Roy Howat is visiting ANAM and, as an expert on French piano music, particularly Debussy and Faure, what better way to use his time here than in nurturing his charges in the techniques and insights needed to give informed interpretations of the latter?   This recital will probably follow the same path as that of the recent Paavali Jumppanen appearances at ANAM: the teacher/performer will participate in some works, leaving the others for his now-up-to-speed juniors.   The program includes the Elegie for cello and piano, the Fantasie for flute and piano, the late Piano Trio in D minor, the second of the piano quartets, and some miniatures that I assume will be delineated by the visitor.   By night’s end, we should know a good deal more about the composer’s range (outside the Requiem, Pavane, and Pelleas et Melisande music) than we did at the start – and no songs! The real interest of events like this one lies more in watching the ANAM musicians finding their interpretative feet, although there is also the added benefit of hearing a master interpreter of this epoch in his element.


Saturday June 25

Gluzman Plays Brahms, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall, 2 pm

Sir Andrew – still here – directs the MSO in excerpts from Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet symphony; one day, someone will bite the bullet and perform the whole thing – warts, beauty spots and all.    Meanwhile, we’ll always have the Queen Mab scherzo, the Love Scene, and possibly Romeo seul.    The MSO Chorale is not involved, so the work’s last scene will not be given.   Helas.  The concert begins with the world premiere of Hollow Kings by Australian composer James Ledger.   It concerns four Shakespearean figures: Lear, Macbeth, Richard III and Henry VIII and ties in with the Berlioz: both have been mounted to amplify the 400th anniversary celebrations of the dramatist’s death.   Not connected with the Swan of Avon in any way except in its breadth, the Brahms Violin Concerto will be performed on his distinguished-heritage Stradivarius by Ukrainian-born Vadim Gluzman, here in Melbourne for his first visit, I believe.

The program will be performed at Geelong’s Costa Hall on Friday June 24 at 8 pm, and again in Hamer Hall on Monday June 27 at 6:30 pm


Monday June 27

Buonamente, Continuo Collective, Melbourne Recital Centre, 6 pm

Another Local Heroes recital, this one features the mainstays of the ensemble, Samantha Cohen on theorbo/guitar and Geoffrey Morris playing the chitarra attiorbata or theorboed guitar which has 16 strings – no, I’d never heard of it, either.   Helpers in the work are violinists Rachael Beesley and Emma Williams with Laura Vaughan on lirone/viola da gamba.   The aim is to put the spotlight on a Baroque still water, Giovanni Buonamente, many of whose compositions are lost.   What little I’ve seen has a sparkle and flair, although short-winded; expect plenty of repeats.   The Continuo will focus on works involving two violins and continuo – trio sonatas, in short.


Tuesday June 28

Midori – A Night in Vienna, Great Performers, Melbourne Recital Centre, 7:30 pm

The Japanese-born American violin star is taking her Vienna seriously; not much sentimentality or glutinous Sachertorte on this program.   In partnership with pianist Ozgur Aydin, she performs Schoenberg’s Phantasy, which will stretch the ears of the unwary.   The composer was certainly born in Vienna but wrote this last of his instrumental works in Los Angeles during 1949.   Also celebrating the Viennese spirit is the Brahms Sonata in G, first and most summery of the three.  The association with Austria’s capital is stronger in this context as the composer spent a large part of his life there.   A Mozart violin sonata (not identified at the time of writing) could not be more appropriate, although the cynics among us cannot forget the city’s treatment of this musical colossus.   Ditto Schubert, whose great Fantasie in C fills out a hefty night’s work. As an ice-breaker, I presume, Aydin will play Liszt’s nine Soirees de Vienne, Valses-caprices d’apres Schubert which take Schubert themes and transform them with skill and a surprising lack of chandelier-rattling flamboyance.


Thursday June 30

Mahler 6, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall, 8 pm.

Sir Andrew Davis rolls on his Mahler series, here coming to the centre of the generally accepted canon.   As a prelude, American pianist Jonathan Biss is soloist in Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C, forever associated with the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan which over-utilised this work’s central Andante.   Biss performed Mozart three years ago, again with the MSO under Johannes Fritzsch: a top-rank reading of the rarely-performed Concerto No. 22 in E flat.   Delightful as all this reminiscence may be, the night’s purpose is the large Mahler work, which remains a problem or twenty for every interpreter.   Mahler re-ordered the movements’ sequence; various authorities put them back the way they were.   The instrumentation is malleable, with some indications asking for more than the set number of the original prescription.   And are there three or two big hammer-strokes in the finale?    All of which is interesting but has little bearing on the work’s superb vigour and developmental surprises.   Rarely performed, the Sixth is profoundly dark, despite some ardent melodic content and complete disruptions of tension, like the use of cowbells.    The conclusion is an emotional gloaming, with a dark night inevitable.