January Diary

It’s a tale of two festivals, January.   I can’t find much else happening apart from the Peninsula Summer Music and Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festivals  –  veterans of previous years with varying standards of satisfaction and performance.  This year, fortunately, their timing barely overlaps although there is a bit of program carry-over from the peninsula to the country.


Monday January 2


Ensemble 624

Hurley Vineyard, Balnarring at 6 pm

This starts off the festival’s serious content in the Mornington Peninsula chain of small-scale events; well, that descriptor applies to just about the entire 11 days.   The hosts for this occasion – Ensemble 642 – here constitute Hannah Lane playing harps, and Nicholas Pollock on theorbo, lutes and guitar, with guest soprano Karen Fitz-Gibbon.  This trio combines to sing the lyrics of Barbara Strozzi, the iconic Baroque female composer and sonorous equivalent of Artemisia Gentileschi.   We’re promised arias and dances, which broaden the field as Strozzi wrote only vocal music.


Wednesday January 4


Acacia Quartet

Lindenderry, Red Hill at 5 pm

The only Acacias I’ve come across (I think) were a wind quintet some weeks ago. Here is a string quartet from Sydney which has performed previously at the Peninsula festival.  This time around, the group performs Beethoven’s Harp in E flat and the first of Haydn’s two Lobkowitz Op. 77 compositions, the one in G Major – written for the nobleman who would become one of Beethoven’s long-suffering patrons and who actually commissioned his Harp work.  They don’t come much nobler.


Thursday January 5


Acacia Quartet

Port Phillip Estate, Red Hill South at 6 pm

The Acacias are playing two works by Philip Glass – the 10-minute Quartet No. 2, Company (originally written for a dramatisation of Beckett’s novella),  and (double the length) the Quartet No. 7 which was composed for use by the Nederlands Dans Theater.  As well, we are promised music by Gershwin (Lullaby, you’d assume) and something from Nick Wales – presumably Harbour Light which, with the Glass No. 2 and  Gershwin’s bagatelle, featured in the Acacia’s Opera House recital last month.


Friday January 6


Elgee Park Gallery, Dromana at 5 pm

Assuming these are the 25 Songs of Op. 108, the number that can be programmed is plentiful; only five have to be omitted for practical reasons.  The original asks for solo voice, mixed chorus, violin. cello and piano.  The instruments are fine: Rachael Beesley at the top, Erin Helyard on keyboard, Natasha Kraemer spinning the bass line.  The one singer is British soprano/director Sophie Daneman.  So Nos. 1, 9, 13, 19 and 22 miss the bill as they involve two, three or four voices.  Some of the tunes are very familiar but the interest for me lies in the settings.


Saturday January 7


Kevin Suherman

Church of St. John the Evangelist, Flinders at 11 am

Recently, this young pianist won the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Great Romantics Competition, and here he is going to re-visit some of his repertoire.  The definites are Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 – very voluble works for this small church.   Added to this,  there will be some unidentified Mendelssohn to round out the package.


Saturday January 7


David Greco and Erin Helyard

Church of St. John the Evangelist at 3 pm

The Australian baritone, back after spending 7 or 8 years in Europe, here collaborates with Helyard in Death and the Maiden, Im Fruhling and The Wanderer  .  .  .  among other lieder, you’d suppose.  The pair is presenting the program as something of a musicological exercise, employing performance tropes of the period – whatever they may be –  Helyard working through his accompaniments on a Graf piano.


Saturday January 7


Church of St. John the Evangelist, Flinders at 7 pm

We’ve got When I am laid from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, part of the same composer’s The Faerie Queen, Handel’s Lascia la spina from The Triumph of Time and Truth oratorio,a bit of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and some Vivaldi.  The performers are David Greco, mezzo Sally-Anne Russell, Ensemble 624 (see Monday January 2), and a Baroque string quartet headed by festival director/violinist Julie Fredersdorff, Lizzy Walsh playing second violin, Laura Vaughan on gamba and lirone, Natalie Kraemer again bringing up the cello rear.  The performance is to take place on the church lawn – not my favourite site but the organisers obviously feel that the open air caters best to their patrons’ passion for the unbuttoned.


Sunday January 8


Lisa Stewart and Stefan Cassomenos

Church of St. John the Evangelist at 11 am

A violin/piano recital of three sonatas: Debussy in G minor, Ravel No. 2 in G Major and Messiaen’s early Theme and Variations – all of them written within a 15-year time bracket. Stewart, first desk in the Acacia Quartet, has been a regular collaborator with orchestras across the country.  Cassomenos has a name for taking up every challenge, although there’s not much here that raises the perspiration level.


Sunday January 8


David Greco & Latitude 37

Church of St. John the Evangelist at 5 pm

The event takes its impetus from Nicolaus Bruhns’ setting of Psalm 130 – gloomy and ornate simultaneously.  Other works include Biber’s Nisi Dominus and other pieces by Buxtehude, Muffat and the organist predecessor of Bach, Franz Tunder.  The usual Latitude 37 members – Julie Fredersdorff, Laura Vaughan, Donald Nicholson – are assisted by Ensemble 642’s Hannah Lane on triple harp.    Nicholson abandons his usual harpsichord for the St. John’s organ.


Wednesday January 11


Hoang Pham Trio

Moorooduc Estate, Moorooduc at 5 pm

The well-known Melbourne pianist has acquired a violinist (Katherine Lukey)  and cellist (Paul Ghica) to form an ensemble that is presenting a chaste enough program.  Obviously, they begin with the delectable Schubert miniature of the program’s title, then proceed to the evening’s meat in Dvorak Op. 65 in F minor.   Both Lukey and Ghica have been heard recently in the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra; how they will combine with Pham is anyone’s guess, but hope springs eternal.

The program will be repeated at 7 pm.


Thursday January 12


Morning Star Estate, Mount Eliza at 7:30 pm

The draw-card here is Genevieve Lacey, bringing her recorders to bear on a program of Telemann, Bach and Handel.  She is joined by violinist Lars Ulrik Mortenson, artistic director of Concerto Copenhagen, and bassoonist Jane Gower of the same Danish ensemble,  the Academy of Ancient Music and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. With this rich expertise, here is one of the festival’s red-letter elements.


Friday January 13


Church of St. John the Evangelist, Flinders at 7:30 pm

Handel’s opera-of-sorts, in its generally practised form, has four main roles, as well as a chorus.  Sophie Daneman, who is singing some of Beethoven’s Scottish Songs on  Friday January 6, sang a solo role in the recording made of this work by Les Arts Florissants; she is stage director and singing coach for this open-air church lawn mounting of the work.  Donald Nicholson, the keyboard in Latitude 37, will be directing the music, which is supplied by the Festival Academy singers and instrumentalists who will have worked with assorted Baroque music experts in preparing this pastoral entertainment – hard to define as fish or fowl or good red oratorio.

This program is repeated on Saturday January 14 at 7:30 pm.


Friday January 13


Choir of Newman College

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat at 7:30 pm

Newman College’s musical eminence, Gary Ekkel, is taking his singers and a baroque orchestra through a concert spirituel as it would have been done in the Tuileries about 1750. The night’s title has me perplexed, though; from my meagre research sources, I can’t see Rameau’s name featuring strongly among the composers performed at these concerts, originally held in Holy Week because every other entertainment venue was closed.  Still, it’s a homage and God knows his successors had a lot to thank the great man for.


Saturday January 14


Giampaolo do Rosa

St. John’s Anglican Church, Creswick at 10 am

This musician from Rome, well-travelled through Italy and the Iberian peninsula, is playing Bach and Faure on the Creswick church’s Fincham and Hobday instrument of 1889.  The Bach could be anything but the Faure is a mystery; the only organ work I could find is an Ave Maria involving two sopranos.  Could be an arranged nocturne, barcarolle, or song.

The program will be repeated at 12 noon.


Saturday January 14


Slava and Leonard Grigoryan

Neil St. Uniting Church, Ballarat

The brothers are always worth hearing but there are no details available concerning their program.  Without any substantiation beyond a hunch, I think they could re-present their October program from the Melbourne Recital Centre which promoted a new CD.  This comprised arrangements by Grigoryan pere, Edward, of music by Elgar, Dvorak, Faure, Rachmaninov and Falla.  But then, this could all be nonsense and the brothers might be set to play anything from their expansive repertoire.


Saturday January 14


Genevieve Lacey, Jane Gower, Lars Ulrik Mortenson

Mary’s Mount Centre, Ballarat at 8 pm

See Thursday January 12 above.


Sunday January 15


Mary’s Mount Centre, Ballarat at 3 pm

See Friday January 13 above.


Sunday January 15


Anthony Halliday, Joel Brennan, Mark Fitzpatrick, Yoram Levy

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat at 8 pm

The definite program elements are Britten’s 3-minute  Fanfare for St. Edmondsbury that doesn’t use Halliday’s organ, and a Telemann concerto for three trumpets.  For the rest, we are promised an acoustic exploration as the brass players move to different places in the cathedral.


Monday January 16


Rhys Boak and Bruno Siketa

St. John’s Anglican Church, Dunolly at 10 am.

Am assuming this will feature music played on the CD from Move Records that features these artists in collaboration.  See a review above – August 9 – headed What’s your fancy?

This program will be played again at 12 noon.


Monday January 16


Rhys Boak

St Michael and All Angels, Talbot at 8 pm

A real curiosity.  The organ in this church has only been restored in 2016.  It’s the earliest still-functioning Fincham in Victoria; originally from Warnambool, later Hughesdale, it reached Talbot in 2007.  As for Boak’s program, it will be calculated to show the instrument to advantage: one manual with 8 stops, pedal bourdon and coupler.


Tuesday January 17


Giampaolo di Rosa

St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Ballarat at 10 am

The overseas guest is set to work on the 1864 Walker organ.  He promises Bach’s Fantasia super: Komm, Heiliger Geist and the Schumann Fantasie on BACH, which I don’t think exists.   He might be playing the 6 Fugues on B-A-C-H; that would be a great move and very substantial: they last over half an hour.  Further, this church’s organ is one of Ballarat’s finest.


Tuesday January 17


Latitude 37

Ballarat Mining Exchange at 8 pm

The Peninsula Summer Music Festival’s artistic director/violinist, Julie Fredersdorff, and her ensemble partners  –  gamba Laura Vaughan and harpsichord Donald Nicholson  –  will perform Baroque trios by the great paterfamilias, Buxtehude, and their contemporaries. You’re assured of spiky, clean-voiced playing; these musicians have been working at their craft for quite a while now and I can’t think of another ensemble that comes near them in this area.


Wednesday January 18


Giampaolo di Rosa

Former Wesley Methodist Church, Clunes at 11 am

All twelve of them?  Probably not.  Di Rosa plays with the Festival’s chamber orchestra, which appears at this event only.  The organ is another one that has roamed: Prahran, Daylesford and an interim stint in Bendigo before coming back to its Clunes home.  A small organ with one manual, pedals and 7 stops.  Which should be just right for these plain-speaking works.


Wednesday January 18


Giampaolo di Rosa and the Little Brass Band of Ballarat

St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Clunes at 2:30 pm

The program heading proposes Handel, Bach and Pachelbel – yes, the Canon in D, beloved of prospective brides.  Also in an afternoon of pops, we get Handel’s Water Music – but probably not all three suites – and Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring chorale movement.  For a mystery, the afternoon contains a concerto for brass quintet by Handel.  I know of a concerto for brass quartet, an arrangement by Gerard Schwarz of the Concerto Grosso in F, Op. 6 No.9.   Maybe that’s it; maybe there is another work altogether.


Wednesday January 18

Duo Chamber Melange

Wendouree Centre for Performing Art at 8 pm.

Violinist Ivana Tomaskova and pianist Tamara Smolyar are playing Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 1, Beethoven’s Eroica Sonata (which seemingly refers to the Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor) and a work by Rumanian composer, Mihail Andricu.  These musicians have been working together for over a decade and their approach is solid, based on sound European scholarship and technique.


Thursday January 19


Larissa Cairns and Christopher Trikilis

Carngham Uniting Church, Snake Valley at 10 am

Cairns I last heard of in Anthony Way’s choir for St. Francis’ Church in Lonsdale St.  Trikilis is spreading himself between music director functions at St. Patrick’s, Mentone, teaching at St. Kevin’s College, Toorak and tutoring for the Corpus Christi Seminary, Carlton.  The small Fincham instrument in this church doesn’t offer much timbral variety so this morning’s program will test Trikilis’ inventiveness.

The program will be repeated at 12 noon.


Thursday January 19


Giampaolo di Rosa

Ballarat Central Uniting Church at 8 pm

A well-exercised guest, di Rosa is playing Liszt  –  don’t know what but we can only hope for the Ad nos, ad salutarem undam Fantasia and Fugue – and an improvisation, at which occupation he has a considerable reputation.  This is his last – and fifth – Festival appearance.


Friday January 20


Jacqueline Ogeil

Loreto Chapel, Ballarat at 12 noon.

The Woodend Festival director presents some – one expects – of the Italian composer’s 30 sonatas published as exercises.  As the works were written for a Cristofori piano, Ogeil is upping the musicological ante by performing on a copy of that instrument.  You can expect highly authoritative interpretations, Ogeil’s experience with this composer going back many years.


Saturday January 21


Frank de Rosso and Brighid Mantelli

St. Alipius’ Church, Ballarat East at 11 am

Prior to presenting this program in Queenscliff, Mantelli and de Rosso – two Geelong-district musicians – are giving it an airing here.  There is no indication of what is being played, but the flute/organ repertoire is pretty slim, I think.  So, either lots of arrangements or a welter of freshly written compositions.


Saturday January 21


Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat at 3 pm

For my generation – and probably a few after that – Tony Fenelon is Mr. Theatre Organ Australia, the master of all those Wurlitzer special effects and a ceaseless pedal line.  On this occasion, he is including accompaniments to some short silent classics, which may be screened simultaneously with their scores.  A chance for many of us to hear this instrument which I, for one, didn’t even know existed.


Saturday January 21


Hoang Pham, piano, and Massimo Scattolin, guitar

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat at 8 pm

This event sees the launch of the Melbourne Orchestra, under the direction of Mark Shiell, conductor of the Zelman and Ballarat Orchestras as well as the Macquarie Philharmonia. Pham is soloist in the Chopin Concerto No. 1 in E minor; admittedly, the orchestra is not over-stressed by the work but Pham will be tested throughout this spotlighting score. Scattolin, a regular at this festival, fronts Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, the guitar concerto.


Sunday January 22


e21, Unholy Rackett, Melbourne Baroque Orchestra

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat at 8 pm

Stephen Grant takes his e21 ensemble and a combination of instrumentalists through works by Schutz, Gabrieli and Monteverdi.  The night’s title is suggestive enough, if a tad ungrammatical; without any details, you’d have to guess that the music will illustrate spiritual and theological opposites.