November Diary

Wednesday November 2


Speak Percussion

Arts House North Melbourne at 7:30 pm

This is promoted as a 45-minute exercise – which I’ll believe when it ends on time. Percussionist Matthias Schack-Arnott has created a new variable speed rotating instrument with engineer Richard Allen.  The construct has been complemented on this night with a rotational lighting system and multi-channel audio; in other words, it will bathe you in a super-sensory experience.   Assisted by Speak Percussion’s Eugene Ughetti, Schack-Arnott will perform his Anicca, a word that denotes impermanence with references to both Hinduism and Buddhism, both sources of inspiration, if not theological/experiential crutches, for many Western artists.  I’m hoping for something a touch more coherent than Ensemble Offspring’s offering during the Melbourne Festival which also promised a journey towards the immanent.


Wednesday November 2


Melbourne Opera

Athenaeum Theatre at 7:30 pm

This is being advertised as the first professional presentation of this oddity in Melbourne, if not the country.   I must admit to having been primarily attracted by the opportunity to watch Richard Divall at work in the pit once more, but I understand that his appearances have been cancelled because of illness and Melbourne Opera regular Greg Hocking will conduct.   Elena Xanthoudakis is singing the title role, Sally-Anne Russell the part of Jane Seymour, Eddie Muliaumaseali’i takes on Henry VIII, Boyd Owen plays Henry Percy, Dimity Shepherd will sing Mark Smeaton, and Phillip Calcagno appears as George Boleyn.

At least, I think that’s the way the singers will be arranged; I’ve got the names but the matching roles are unspecified, so these allocations are guesswork.  This opera is a closed book to me, as I’ve not heard one skerrick of Donizetti’s score.  A lot of homework, then, between now and November 9.

Further performances are on Saturday November 5 and Wednesday November 9 at 7:30 pm, and at Monash University on Saturday November 12, possibly at 7:30 pm.


Thursday November 3


Xuefei Yang

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7: 30 pm

Last in this year’s Great Performers series for the Recital Centre, Xuefei Yang is a guitarist who is best known here for her performance of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra two years ago.   Here she plays solo, of course, beginning with a Bach lute suite, her own arrangements of some Granados and a Chinese traditional song, as well as a Ross Edwards premiere – Melbourne Arioso.  Then she moves to South American names, all Brazilian and most (all?) of them would be known to guitar aficionados and fans of the Grigoryan brothers.   The lead-in is easy enough with three pieces from Villa Lobos’ Suite populaire brasilienne; then it’s over to teacher/performer Dilermando Reis, the bossa nova master Antonio Carlos Jobim, his one-time collaborator Luiz Bonfa, and Anibal Augusto Sardinha  –  the last three composers’ pieces all in arrangements.   We’ve seen many Chinese-born pianists and violinists, and also masters of the country’s own instruments performing in Tan Dun’s concerts with the MSO.   But Beijing-born classical guitarists are rare creatures in this city, let alone in this pianist-heavy series.


Thursday November 3


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

There’s no denying the MSO’s enthusiasm for these screen-the-film-and-play-the-soundtrack events; judging by the information coming out now, there’ll be lots more of the same in 2017.   Meanwhile, Harrison Ford commits his first Dr. Jones adventure tonight – probably the best of the four, from its scene-setting rolling stone opening sequence complete with Amazonian natives’ blow-darts to the apocalyptic finale  where the baddies feel the full wrath of a vengeful-in-disturbance Old Testament divinity complete with howling angels.   We all recall the jaunty main title theme without much prompting; as for the rest of John Williams’ score, I’m sure that everything will slot into its half-remembered place.  No idea who is conducting but will it matter?   The administration keeps on adding extra shows as the original sessions fill up.

The program is repeated on Friday November 4 at 8 pm and on Saturday November 5 at 2 pm and 8 pm.


Saturday November 5


Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

A mandolin player from Israel, Avital appeared with the ABO two years ago to a warm response.  Tonight he is soloist in Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto RV 425 and Paisiello’s Concerto in E flat.   But there’s more  –  possibly.   Also on the program are three other Vivaldis: the Concerto for Strings RV 110, a three-movement overture;  the A Minor Concerto RV 356 which is for violin solo; and Summer from The Four Seasons, which also needs a violin soloist.   You’d have to assume that Avital will fill in, wouldn’t you? Giovanni Valentini’s Concerto Grosso in A minor is complemented by a piece for mandolin and string quartet, written for Avital by American composer David Bruce.   Cymbeline has nothing to do with Shakespeare, it seems, but is closely connected to Celtic sun myths. The piece has had a fair few performances in America, Germany, Canada and Israel; sadly the composer’s website shows he’s unaware of these upcoming ABO airings.

This program is repeated on Sunday November 6 at 5 pm


Sunday November 6

The Tallis Scholars

Hamer Hall at 6:30 pm

This well-known vocal group is appearing under Arts Centre sponsorship, in association with Orchestral Manoeuvres and Maxima Artists, companies about which I’m completely ignorant.   Whatever the background, this group is here for a one-early-evening-stand, conducted by founder Peter Phillips.   The program begins with the eight-voice motet by Peter Phillips, Cecilia virgo, which is followed by two Tallis works and the eight-part Lamentations by Flemish 16th century writer, Dominique Phinot.   Then the rot sets in with some Arvo Part, his genealogical Which was the son of . . .    After interval, the contemporary takes continue with American youngish gun Nico Muhly’s Recordare, Domine, and Tavener’s As one who has slept.   Phillips and his singers (how many? The core of ten? Or more, to fill this large air-space?) return to the Renaissance with pieces by Clemens, Crecquillon and Byrd.   None of this is familiar to most of us, apart from the Tallis Lamentations 1; but there’d be plenty who would be delighted to hear this ensemble sing anything.


Tuesday November 8


Selby & Friends

Deakin Edge at 7:30 pm

Finishing up for the year, Kathryn Selby hosts cellist Julian Smiles of the Goldner Quartet, Australia Ensemble and Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and violinist Daniel Dodds of the Festival Strings Lucerne.   The ‘big’ work will be the Brahms Piano Trio in B Major, that rolling heart-quickener.    Also, the musicians play Schubert’s Sonatensatz, the adolescent composer’s only prefiguring of the two great piano trios of 1827.   Tristia, the piano trio arrangement of La Vallee d’Obermann by Liszt, gets a rare outing and the stocking-suggestive title refers to Gerard Brophy’s 2000 Sheer Nylon Dances, a work that has been performed in various instrumental combinations but here appears in its violin/cello/fetishised piano format where window stoppers are inserted between the strings in a lukewarm imitation of Cage’s prepared keyboard  of 70 years ago.


Thursday November 10


Syzygy Ensemble

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

Penderecki’s Clarinet Quartet of 1993 is followed by Mexican composer Gabriel Ortiz’s The Two-Headed Eagle,  American Richard Toensing’s Ciacona and Roger Smalley’s Poles Apart, all of which ask for the same basic quintet.of flute, clarinet and piano trio.   It’s never easy to work out who will be playing because the Syzygy personnel swap around; so you can’t tell what the level of performance is likely to be.   Still, this is a well-spread program geographically, although the compositional time-span involved is pretty tight.  It’s a contemporary music ensemble so you have to take a fair bit on trust.


Friday November 11


Australian National Academy of Music Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

The ANAM Orchestra will be directed by Ilyich Rivas,  a Venezuelan 23-year-old who seems to be going places after a brief American apprenticeship and some impressive appearances in Britain.   He is taking his equally young charges through Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite  –  as a demonstration of the Academy’s depth of instrumental colour, you’d suppose.   The organization’s long-time resident pianist, Timothy Young, is soloist in the Ginastera Concerto No. 1, which is quite a workout for all concerned but a work that involves you by its sheer force of personality.   The big finale is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor; although the ANAM players often succumb to the temptation to over-indulge in such a big and impassioned score; there’s always the chance that Rivas will be able to rein them in.


Friday November 11


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Have you ever heard a performance of this concerto that hasn’t satisfied?   Well, yes, you probably have, but let’s hope this one turns out to be acceptable.   Soloist is Alban Gerhardt, whom I’ve not heard before; he plays a 1710 Goffriller, so there’s a good chance we’ll hear all the notes.   American conductor Andrew Litton reappears after a long gap to lead the MSO in Reznicek’s Donna Diana Overture, a bon-bon that needs a light touch, and the Prokofiev Symphony No. 6 which requires the opposite: a wrenching threnody, for the most part, and a fierce commentary on the suffering inherent in the human condition, evoked in the composer by the aftermath of World War 2, although it stands as a valid commentary on today’s bloody Middle East conflict.

This program is repeated on Monday November 14 at 6:30 pm.


Saturday November 12


La Compania

Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 6 pm

With this Dantesque title, the early music band concludes its subscription series.  The proffered goods come from Italian composers ‘at the turn of the seventeenth century’; rather confusing to my limited intelligence because this could mean the turn into the 1600s or music on the cusp of the 1690s-1710s.   But it’s going to be the former, as the advertising material also refers to Monteverdi.  So, as well as that towering father-figure, we could be in for a night of Grandi, Priuli and Donati as well.  It will be an intriguing program mainly because I know very few instrumental works by Monteverdi; La Compania will doubtless have a vocalist guest or two – which can present an audibility problem when the cornetto and sackbuts with a rampant shawm or two are in full cry.


Saturday November 12


Wilma & Friends

Scotch College at 7:30 pm

Having set up base in Scotch College’s Ian Roach Hall, former concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Wilma Smith has followed the path pioneered by Kathryn Selby (& Friends) by inviting guests for her series of recitals to collaborate in chamber music-making.   In July, along with other local musicians, she hosted David Griffiths to centre the Mozart and Brahms Clarinet Quintets.  Tonight, it’s the turn of Scotch old boy cellist Yelian He and pianist Yasmin Rowe to partner Smith’s violin in some unarguable gems: Mendelssohn in C minor with its grand Vor deinen Thron-quoting finale, the formidable Brahms No. 1 (four days after Selby and her guests play it at the Deakin Edge), and Haydn in C Hob XV: 27 with one of the composer’s most infectious Presto finales.   I’ve heard only one recital in this space – a choral one from the Concordis group – but it’s ideal for music of this genre with a roomy operating space and plenty of wood casing.


Sunday November 13


The Melbourne Musicians

St. John’s Southgate at 3 pm

Frank Pam and his string chamber orchestra will again be supplemented for this program with wind, mainly because the afternoon ends with Haydn’s Farewell Symphony No. 45 which asks for pairs of oboes and horns as well as a bassoon.   Flutes, clarinets and harps are needed for a full realization of the scheduled Meditation from Massenet’s opera Thais, the only work on the program I can see that will exercise the Musicians’ soloist, violinist Ksenia Belenko.   For the Viennese content, Pam and his musicians will perform waltzes and polkas by three of the Strauss family and one of the Marches militaires by Schubert. Alongside this European content sits a 1995 piece by George Dreyfus, Love your animal, a six-minute ballad for pairs of flutes and horns with strings.


Tuesday November 15

Trio Dali

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Appearing again for Musica Viva, the Dali group finish their year’s work in this country. They follow their host organization’s model by performing an Australian work; in this case, it’s Roger Smalley’s Piano Trio of 1991, a piece composed as an obligatory hurdle for competitors in that year’s Melbourne International Chamber Competition.  In two parts with a pair of linked movements in each, it is based on a Chopin mazurka; here’s hoping that this time I can work out which one of the 59 it is.   The group also plays on this night Beethoven’s happy-tempered Op. 1 No. 1 and the 26-year-old Chausson’s  Op. 3 which, despite its many advocates, you rarely hear live.

The Dalis present their second program – Smalley again, Mendelssohn No. 2 in C minor (three days after Wilma & Friends play it at Scotch College), Schubert in B flat –  on Saturday November 19 at 7 pm.


Friday November 18


Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm

The 40-plus sketches in question are by the youthful Mozart; small pieces for the most part, but original, if corrected by his watchful father.  There are a lot of them and several have been arranged in mini-suites, which is probably the case here where William Hennessy and his devoted ensemble will perform a sonata movement in G minor, a B flat Andante, a Rondo in C and Sicilianos in D minor – all originally written for piano, on this occasion arranged for string orchestra.   The afternoon’s guest is violinist Grace Clifford, last heard with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Bruch’s G minor Concerto at an end-of-July pair of Prom concerts.  Today, she performs Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending rhapsody and the ever-welcome (George Bernard Shaw thought so) Mendelssohn E minor Concerto.    Furthering the English connection is Mendelssohn’s overture The Hebrides (close enough, I guess); Warlock’s Capriol Suite (sad Peter/Philip was born and died in the capital); yet another string orchestra arrangement, this one of Byrd’s Sing joyfully six-voice anthem; and the second movement World-War-Two-prefiguring  Threnody from John Ireland’s Concertino Pastorale.

The program will be repeated in the Melbourne Recital Centre on Sunday November 20 at 2:30 pm.


Sunday November 20


Trio Anima Mundi

Holy Trinity Anglican Church, East Melbourne at 3 pm

It’s an old line but a good one that the Germans of the 19th century applied to England – mainly out of chauvinistic superiority (and God knows they had a lot to feel top-doggish about) but equally applicable to several other countries at the time.   In any case, the Anima Mundis are out to scupper this libel with Malcolm Arnold’s 1956 Piano Trio Op. 54; you also have probably never heard it but the composer’s reputation for professional skill gives grounds for a welcoming anticipation.   As well, patrons will be treated to James Friskin’s Phantasie in E minor which shows by its title its relation to the Cobbett Phantasy Competiition (in which Friskin, a Scot who migrated to America, was one of the prize winners), and a piano trio from 1921 by Rebecca Clarke, Friskin’s under-rated wife.  As a side-path from this British emphasis, the recital will also feature the first performance of the winning entry in the Anima Mundi Trio’s chamber music competition for this year.


Monday November 21


Latitude 37

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm.

The Latitudinarians host Melissa Farrow who will bring her flute to the mix in J.S. Bach’s Trio Sonata BWV 1038, to set the standard for what comes after   –  which looks like a family reunion with appropriate works by Carl Philipp Emanuel, Johann Christoph Friedrich and Wilhelm Friedemann – the three Big Boys.   Carl is represented by a violin sonata and a gamba sonata with fortepiano; J.C. F. gives us a trio sonata with the same scoring as his father’s, as does Wilhelm.   You’d expect to hear how his sons improved on their father’s effort in the chamber music field; perhaps they did, especially in lyrical loquacity if not in linear construction and that inescapable sense of inevitability.   A valuable lesson here in inter-generational influences – or not.


Sunday November 27


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

Violinist Lorenza Borrani, leader of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, is guest director for this penultimate ACO concert for the year.   She has charge of yet another string quartet arrangement for string orchestra: Beethoven’s Op. 131 in C sharp minor with its unusual seven movement structure.   Borrani also heads Schubert’s 5 Minuets and 6 Trios, part of the D. 89/90 compendium from the composer’s 16th year.    And she takes the solo in Schnittke’s Sonata for violin and chamber orchestra, which I understand to be a 1968 arrangement of the Violin Sonata No. 1, although it might just as easily be the 1987 arrangement of the composer’s Violin Sonata No. 2.   Will it matter?  Probably to Schnittke enthusiasts; as for the rest of us, . . .

This program is repeated on Monday November 28 at 7:30 pm.


Sunday November 27


Team of Pianists

Glenfern, East St. Kilda at 3 pm

Rather doubtful how comfortable this setting is for a horn player.   The front room of the Glenfern mansion is a sterling place to hear solo pianists but Roman Pomonariov’s horn in full cry might be another thing.   With violinist Elizabeth Sellars and the Team’s Rohan Murray, he will perform the wonderfully weltering Horn Trio by Brahms; then couples it with Lennox Berkeley’s Op. 44 Trio from the 1950s, written for Dennis Brain.  The English composer rarely gets a hearing today, which is a pity as some works in his catalogue are well worth reviving.   For all that, this trio is one of Berkeley’s scores that has survived in the horn trio’s admittedly limited repertoire and Team patrons will certainly hear every note of this reading.