July Diary

Saturday July 2

Schubert, Schumann & Mendelssohn, Australian National Academy of Music at 7 pm

It wouldn’t be Mendelssohn without the  A Midsummer Night’s Dream music.  Well, yes, it would but, if you want to hear what a young genius is capable of, it’s hard to go past the overture to that delectable set of musical illustrations which set the scene for this play with impeccable brilliance.  This concert from the ANAM personnel under Howard Penny promises excerpts.   The ANAM brass are presenting arrangements of Schubert male choruses; there are over a hundred to pick from but we could be lucky and score the Gesang der Geister uber den Wassern, still fresh in the memory from a recent MSO Proms night. Then the musicians take on Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony No. 3, generally decried for its awkwardnesses but always welcome for its warm-spirited geniality, if not quite enough to persuade you to take on a river cruise.


Sunday July 3

Sollima, Satu & Max: Sequenza Italiana, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

The ACO welcomes back their guest maverick cello guest from 2014, Giovanni Sollima.  As the title makes clear (eventually), it’s going to be an all-Italian affair, beginning with Monteverdi and concluding with – bless my soul! – a piece by Sollima himself.   Satu Vanska will be leader in Richard Tognetti’s absence and the ensemble’s principal double bass, Maxime Bibeau, will feature in Berio’s Sequenza (we also get to hear the ones for violin and viola) and Giacinto Sclesi’s C’est bien la nuit, one of the composer’s two pieces for double bass from 1972.   Vanska will vault through Paganini’s Introduction and Variations on Rossini’s Dal tuo stellate soglio prayer from Moses in Egypt.  Sollima himself directs and fronts Leo’s D minor Concerto No. 3, his father Eliodoro Sollima’s arrangement of Rossini’s Une larme variationsone of those endless Old Age Sins  –  and his own composition, Fecit Neap 17 . . .   Well, at least the Italian theme is consistent; the only question is: who is going to play that Berio viola Sequenza?

This program will be repeated on Monday July 5 at 8 pm.


Monday July 4

Tempesta, Australian String Quartet, Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

This now-settled (let’s hope) group brings out its chest of Guadagninis for the middle one of three subscription series recitals here.  The musicians begin with that evergreen of the atonal repertoire, Webern’s Five Movements for String Quartet, written before the composer had perfected his compressed craft to its ultimate point.  Following this, Haydn in C Major from the Opus 20 set, the one with the finale fugue on four subjects.   Mendelssohn in F minor, his last major work, concludes the night in sombre vein while the program takes its title from the two-year-old String Quartet No. 1 by Joe Chindamo which I think is yet to enjoy its Melbourne premiere; it’s in good company here.


Thursday July 7

Fuoco, Ensemble Liaison & Nemanja Radulovic, Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

For the third time, the French/Serbian violinist joins up with this fine ensemble for a night packed with incident.  The guest joins with Liaison members Svetlana Bogosavljevic (cello) and Timothy Young (piano) for Rachmaninov’s Trio elegaique, the one-movement work not written in memory of Tchaikovsky.   Furthering the occasion’s Slavic tenor, the same musicians will perform Shostakovich’s E minor Trio, often an intensely moving experience if the executants can shape the work intelligently, not overdoing the passion or the dour whimsy.   Radulovic has a virtuoso turn with Ravel’s Tzigane, the composer’s sophisticated take on Gypsy flourishes, and that old chestnut, the Handel/Halvorsen Passacaglia duo, emerges like a programmed encore, although what remains unclear is who will provide the viola line.


Friday July 15

Cirque de la Symphonie, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall at 7 pm

This night hosts a company which has the lot – aerial artists, jugglers, contortionists, strongmen, dancers, acrobats – and it will mount its turns in front of the MSO under Benjamin Northey.   The musical content ranges from strong circus links (sort of) to pieces with no trace of the sawdust rings about them, you’d think.   Dvorak’s Carnival Overture is razzle-dazzle enough in its outer pages but what to do in that languorous middle nocturne?   Both the Carmen Suites from Bizet’s opera have a certain amount of bustle in them, but quite a few placid stretches as well.  Smetana’s Dance of the Comedians fits the bill; many excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake also have potential.  But Sibelius’ Finlandia?  Could suit the strongmen, I suppose.  From experiencing the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s collaboration with Circa last year, I think it’s obvious that the music will be cast into second-row status, anyway.

The program is repeated in Hamer Hall on Saturday July 16 at 7 pm.


Saturday July 16

L’air parfume, La Compania, Deakin Edge Federation Square at 6 pm

With guest soprano Jacqueline Porter, this fine period music ensemble ventures into the cultural life of France under Louis XIII, showcasing that court’s musical entertainment. The Palais du Louvre was a prolific site for music; Louis himself was a lutenist and wrote music – for at least one ballet.   But the composers active in his time are mainly unknown these days, their efforts dwarfed by the following giant figures of Lully, Couperin and Rameau.    Against these, the names of Louis Constantin, Pierre Guedron, Antoine Boesset, Jean de Cambefort and Etienne Moulinie ring few bells.   But making the acquaintance of neglected music is part of the experience that La Compania offers; in this case, breathing new life into the precious and ornate atmosphere of the period’s flamboyant aristocratic world as well as unveiling the ornate and richly-scented fabric of the court’s music-making.


Sunday July 17

Mid-Winter Brilliance – Beethoven and Mozart, The Melbourne Musicians, Methodist Ladies’ College at 3 pm

As well as essaying some brilliant music, the Musicians are having a mid-winter change of venue, moving east of their usual Southgate home to MLC’s Kew campus.  Whether to the Flockhart Hall or the Tatoulis Auditorium, I’m not sure; the latter is a new and hitherto unknown space in my experience.   The afternoon’s Beethoven element comprises two works: the F Major Romance with soloist Mi Yang negotiating its ornate melodies and wide leaps, and the Piano Concerto No. 4, Argentina-born Canberra resident Marcela Fiorillo taking up that benign work’s subtle challenges.   As for Mozart, Mi Yang fronts the Violin Concerto No. 4, and Rosemary Ball will sing two soprano arias from The Marriage of Figaro; she’s spoiled for choice with the Countess, Susanna and Cherubino responsible for some of the opera’s most famous segments.   Needless to say, for these Classical period works, the ensemble will be expanded beyond its normal string complement to include pairs of woodwinds, trumpets and horns as well as a timpanist.


Classic and French – or a lot of hot air in E flat!, Team of Pianists, Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

Brightening up these bitingly cold nights, the Team’s Darryl Coote welcomes us and four wind artists to a recital of Mozart, Beethoven and Poulenc.  The Classic is represented by Mozart’s Quintet for piano and winds in E flat, and Beethoven’s early work in the same key.  Three MSO artists participate in these amiable works: oboe Ann Blackburn, principal bassoon Jack Schiller and French horn Jenna Breen.  The essential ‘other’ is Alex Morris, newly appointed  bass clarinet with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.  As for the French component, both works were aired in mid-May at an ANAM Poulenc-celebrating evening featuring Paavali Jumppanen.   Breen and Coote are presenting the Elegy tribute of 1957, written in memory of Dennis Brain, followed by Blackburn, Schiller and Coote performing the youthful, brio-rich 1926 Trio.


Tuesday July 19

Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Under Musica Viva’s aegis, this famous choral group returns, still enjoying the direction of Stephen Layton who currently is celebrating his 11th year of incumbency as Trinity’s controller.  The two programs being toured nationally centre around Frank Martin’s Mass for unaccompanied double choir which has grown in accessibility over the past 20 years or so. Without an organ in the MRC, Layton has omitted Elgar’s Psalm 29 setting Give Unto the Lord and Howells’ Te Deum from the Melbourne line-up, substituting Pawel Lukaszewski’s Nunc dimittis and American choral expert Eric Whitacre’s popular interpretation of e e cummings’ i thank You God for most this amazing day verses.  The common elements include Byrd, Tallis and Purcell motets, some Baltic gestures with pieces by Rautavaara and Esenvalds, American writer Steven Stucky’s O sacrum convivium, a commission piece by the choir’s own Organ Scholar, Owain Park, as well as an Australian commission in Joe Twist’s Hymn of Ancient Lands.   It’s a pleasure to hear a solid, highly reputable Anglican choir at work, especially one that casts its repertoire net pretty wide, but the Murdoch Hall strikes me as a disquieting space to hear the Trinity singers; everything carries, certainly, but the choral mesh lacks resonance in these immediate-response surroundings.

The program will be repeated on Saturday July 23 at 7 pm.


Wednesday July 20

Sparks of Conflict, Quartz, Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

This ensemble – a string quartet, of course, comprising violins Kathryn Taylor and Rachael Beesley, viola Matt Laing and cello Zoe Wallace – is appearing as part of the Recital Centre’s Local Heroes series.   In an ambitious move, the group will play the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 9, five movements played without a pause; Carl Vine’s String Quartet No. 4, two movements played as one, commissioned to celebrate the composer’s 50th birthday in 2004; and Samuel Barber’s excellent setting of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach, here calling on the rich bass-baritone of Nicholas Dinopoulos.  Plenty of conflict in these scores although the most arresting sparks come in the Russian master’s extended essay.


Thursday July 21

Shakespeare Classics, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Enough with the Shakespeare quatercentenary observations, you say?  Be patient and treat it like the current Federal election, even if this last is as welcome an activity as passing stones: only five more months of sporadic celebrations to go.  The latest festive concert is conducted by youngish Briton Alexander Shelley who has gone a long way in a short time. He begins with – would you believe? – Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture. Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing Suite, five illustrative pieces, is distinguished for its lyrical Scene in the Garden.  The home country is represented by some of Walton’s music to Olivier’s film of Henry V: the Death of Falstaff and Touch Her Soft Lips and Part.  That arch-musical-illustrator Richard Strauss finishes off the night with his first tone-poem, Macbeth.   The soloist is German pianist Lars Vogt who takes us completely out of the night’s intellectual arena through Mozart’s last concerto, No. 27 in B flat;  music of this supreme quality is to be treasured in live performance but it rather undermines the night’s thematic intentions.

This program is repeated on Friday July 22 in Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall at 8 pm.


Monday July 25

Beethoven, Bach and Beyond, Lars Vogt, Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Having taken the weekend off after his two MSO spots,  the Mozart expert appears in the Murdoch Hall for the Recital Centre’s  Great Performers series,  The night promises to be short, the content exhausting – for him, if not for us as well.  Vogt begins with Bach’s Goldberg Variations – which is excellent recital fare.  I wonder if he’ll play all the repeats or will he follow the practice of many another interpreter and leave most of them out.  After interval, Vogt plays the last Beethoven sonata, No. 32 in C minor/Major, one of the composer’s greatest challenges to an interpreter’s level of insight and interpretative sensibility.  Given a combination like this, perhaps Vogt could think of nothing else to perform that wouldn’t sound either distracting or irrelevant.


Tuesday July 26

Melodies & Visions, Daniel de Borah plus One, Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

Another in the Centre’s Local Heroes string, this recital has pianist Daniel de Borah hosting Dale Barltrop, concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.  The recital’s title couldn’t be more apt as the first work will be Prokofiev’s Cinq melodies, originally vocalises for piano-accompanied soprano, the vocal line later transcribed for violin; followed by Prokofiev’s early Visions fugitives for piano solo.   No, not all 20 of them but selections from the set.  Finally, for a change, the performers will work through some Prokofiev: the Violin Sonata in F minor – the real one, since the very popular D Major work was a by-blow, transcribed at Oistrakh’s request from the eloquent Flute Sonata.  Full marks to de Borah for this program that gives a rapid but engaging tour of some less-performed pieces from the  Russian composer’s oeuvre.


Wednesday July 27

Lost Landscapes, Sutherland Trio, Melbourne Recital Centre at 6:30 pm

And still they come: another in the Local Heroes series.  Where would this city’s chamber music scene be without initiatives like this?  The Sutherland ensemble – violin Elizabeth Sellars, cello Molly Kadarauch, piano Caroline Almonte – begins and ends in orthodox style with Mozart’s second-last and puzzlingly simple piano trio in C, K. 548, and with Schumann’s substantial No. 3 in G minor.  Two novelties are framed by these familiar works. Russian-born American pianist/composer Lera Auerbach wrote 24 Preludes for cello/piano duet, then revamped No. 12 in G sharp minor (there’s an unusual key for you) as a postlude, which Kadarauch and Almonte will expound; the only recorded performance I’ve heard seems to have part of the piano slightly ‘prepared’.   And Sellars and Almonte will play West 23rd Street NY, the last of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s 2005  suite of four pieces that gives this recital its name;  reminiscences of significant places where the composer resided in his earlier years.


Friday July 29

Beethoven’s Fifth, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Benjamin Northey conducts the most famous symphony of all, Beethoven in C minor.  Is there anything new to be dragged from this always-invigorating score?   We’ll see, especially in the frantic, jubilant finale.  The night begins with Weber’s Der Freischutz Overture and Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 is fronted by Grace Clifford who won the 2014 Young Performer’s Award aged 16.   There you have it: a perfectly shaped, old-fashioned concert program of overture-concerto-symphony format and you could hardly ask for anything more comfortably familiar in its content.

And here’s one for the books.  This program has proven so popular that the MSO has organized a repeat of it the following night, Saturday July 30  –  again in the Town Hall and again at 7:30 pm.   When you’re on a good thing . . .