June Diary

Thursday June 1


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Solo horn of the Berlin Philharmonic for the last 24 years or so, Stefan Dohr plays and directs this event, his second appearance for ANAM and a good deal  more mainstream than the first.  He and his local charges open with the Mozart C minor Serenade No. 12, a wind octet for pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns.  They will end their endeavours with Dvorak’s Wind Serenade, for the same instruments plus a third horn, as well as an ad lib contrabassoon, and extra parts for cello and double bass, presumably in case the woodwind bass isn’t available.  In between come Nielsen’s Serenata in vano (clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and double bass) for semi-comic relief, and Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for your normal wind quintet, an early work from 1953.  If you presume that Dohr has a strong work ethic, he’s going to be a busy boy to cope with this lot.


Monday June 5


Australian String Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Settled into position and playing with excellent flair, this ensemble centres its night on the big Schubert in G, D. 887.   At close to an hour in length and managing to be both profuse and diffuse, the work tests any group bold enough to attempt it.  As preludes, we hear a guitar quintet about quarter-of-an-hour in length by Ralph Towner that gives the night its title and refers to the American jazz composer’s reaction to the sight of spawning salmon in his country’s north-west.   Another guitar quintet by Iain Grandage enjoys the subtitle Black Dogs which refers to that well-known Churchillian state of depression and dejection. Another 15-minute piece, it can take on a slightly theatrical aspect by having the violinists start playing at either side of the stage, gradually advancing on the central performer; whether this carries on throughout all three movements will be revealed on the night but it sounds like an organizational nightmare.  The guitarist in both quintets will be the estimable Slava Grigoryan.


Thursday June 8


The Melbourne Musicians

St. John’s Southgate at 7 pm

Not a regular program from Frank Pam and his string chamber orchestra, this night features an Austrian piano trio which I’ve not heard before, although the ensemble has been in existence at least since 2013 when they recorded the trios of Mendelssohn.  Its members are violin Livia Sellin, cello Philipp Comploi, and piano Chengcheng Zhao.  The program for Southgate will begin with Haydn in C Major Hob. XV 27 (presumably the same one they will be playing at St. Ambrose Hall, Woodend over the following weekend). The other major work is the mighty Schubert in E flat, a treasure-house of invention.  In between comes Give Me Phoenix Wings to Fly by the Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy, with whom this ensemble has established a firm relationship as, three years ago, they commissioned and premiered her third piano trio,  Search My Heart.  If you happen to be in Woodend for that town’s festival, you can hear the Albans playing Suk’s Op. 23 Elegy from 1902, Smetana in G minor, as well as the Haydn mentioned above.


Friday June 9


National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

During its residency at ANAM, the famous German group which pioneers and sustains the contemporary is represented tonight by flute Dietmar Wiesner, horn Saar Berger, violin Jagdish Mistry, and pianist Hermann Kretzschmar (shades of Smiley’s People).  In league with some lucky ANAM musicians, these visitors are mounting a program that is demandingly disparate in nature and bound to flood the mind with information; whether much will be retained is another question.  To start comes POLLOK by one of the group’s founders, Brisbane-born Cathy Milliken, for flute, clarinet, string quintet, percussion and piano.  Then we hear Jorg Widmann’s Etude II for solo violin, followed by Kretzschmar’s own Eskalation, about which I can find nothing; the composer is a clarinettist and conductor, so this work could be for any force imaginable.   Heiner Goebbels is represented by a Toccata for Teapot and Piccolo; Warm-up by Vito Suraj for horn and two percussionists testifies to the composer’s love for tennis, although there’s little time for stretching during this 20-minute burst.   During these days of fraught political activity, Isang Yun’s Octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn and string quintet, written in 1978, brings to mind the composer’s two-year imprisonment by South Korea –  an over-the-top example of nationalism gone wrong.   John Cage’s Variations I allows anything – any number of players on any instruments – but then so do the composer’s other Variations.  The score is a chance construct and so everything is a surprise . . . to everybody.   Last is Enno Poppe’s Geloeschte Lieder for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano; let’s hope it doesn’t take its own title too literally.  Almost 20 years old and, at 20 minutes, this will be one of the more substantial works on this full program.


Tuesday June 13

Pacifica Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

I believe this group from Bloomington, Indiana has toured for Musica Viva before; there’s some mention of their playing all the Mendelssohn quartets in a visit here nearly a decade ago; presumably, all seven of them (the Mendelssohn, I mean).  Tonight, the group plays the first of two programs:  Haydn in G, Op. 76 No. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Beethoven homage, the A minor Quartet No. 2 are the book-ends.  In between, the Pacificas resuscitate Nigel Westlake’s String Quartet No. 2, which was commissioned for the Goldner String Quartet to perform by its dedicatee, Musica Viva eminence Kenneth W. Tribe, back in 2005.

In their second appearance on Saturday June 17, the quartet plays the Westlake, Beethoven’s last in F Major Op. 135, and Shostakovich No. 3, the fruit of this group’s extended study of the Russian writer in recording, between 2011 and 2013, all his quartets.


Thursday June 15


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

As well as Wiesner, Berger, Mistry and Kretzschmar from the ANAM concert of six days previous, the Ensemble Modern is also represented tonight by conductor Johannes Debus. Frank Zappa – one of the few interesting and really creative musicians to come out of rock – wrote The Yellow Shark for the Ensemble in 1992; well, compiled it with them is more like it.  The fruits of the collaboration came in a recorded concert where the Ensemble, partly under Zappa’s direction, played 19 of his pieces as their contribution to a festival in Frankfurt, just a month before the composer’s death.   The CD lasts about 70 minutes.   As a filler, the program also features Zappa’s The Adventures of Greggery Peccary, which the ensemble has recorded – a fantastic (literally) tale which lasts about 25 minutes, as the Moderns play it.


Thursday June 15


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Sir Andrew Davis is on hand this month to artistically direct the MSO and its Chorus through this great oratorio.   His three soloists are Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg, and two British imports – tenor Andrew Staples and bass Neal Davies.   Instead of biting the bullet, the organizers have decided to have an interval, rather than running right through; which means that we sit through Parts 1 and 2 for 75 minutes, pause, then have to come back for the remaining half hour in the Garden of Eden.  But it doesn’t matter: performances of this monument are few and far between – most of those I’ve attended seemed to be living up to God’s operational time-span.

This program will be repeated in Costa Hall, Geelong on Friday June 16 at 7:30 pm, and again in Hamer Hall on Saturday June 17 at 2 pm.


Sunday June 18


Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 2:30 pm

Rebecca Chan has curated and will direct this afternoon’s work, which is an ambitious medley.  The requisite singer is tenor Andrew Goodwin who will be vaulting between some strange orchestral interludes.   Chan begins with a string orchestra arrangement of the Tristan Prelude, which will put us on our toes as we imaginatively supply those wind chords that give the piece so much of its initial tension.  Goodwin opens his innings with two Chan arrangements: Strauss’s Die Nacht, then one of Schoenberg’s early 1897 songs, Waldesnacht.  As we’ve got him here, we might as well hear more – so the MCO strings will follow the song with that lush fruit of the composer’s late-tonal loins, Verklarte Nacht.   Still in arrangement mode, I hope,  we hear the Prestissimo from Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4, which should be worth the price of admission in itself.   For another piece of comic relief, Chan will lead the players in her own arrangement of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream music.  A new work by young Australian Lachlan Skipworth precedes a welter of Schubert for Goodwin: Nacht und Traume, Gute Nacht, Nachtstuck and, after these introspective, if not gloomy, nocturnes, one of the great races in music: Der Erlkonig.

This program will be repeated on Thursday June 22 in the Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm.


Sunday June 18


Team of Pianists

Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

Mid-way through its season, the Team is mounting a fine recital that boasts pianist Rohan Murray and guest cellist Svetlana Bogosavljevic.   For the most part, the duo’s program is mainstream: Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata in A minor that is always heard in this instrumental format (I, for one, have never even seen an arpeggione in action), followed by the Shostakovich D minor Cello Sonata of 1934.  For local colour, we hear Elena Kats-Chernin’s Blue Silence, a work that exists in many formats, so it could be heard here as a duo or as a piano solo.   The piece was written for an exhibition devoted to artists with schizophrenia but the actual emotional content suggests more melancholy than any sort of mental disturbance – or perhaps I’ve got no insight to this work; wouldn’t be the first time.   All the Team’s events are enjoyable, and this stately house’s ballroom is as fine a recital space as any in the city.


Tuesday June 20


Flinders Quartet

Hawthorn Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

No strangers to working outside the CBD, this ensemble is appearing at the lavishly endowed former town hall where Brett Kelly and his Academy of Melbourne used to perform.   With guest Valve, principal cellist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the ensemble heads for the empyrean with the Schubert C Major Quintet, the ne plus ultra of chamber music.   As well, they give a foretaste of Schubert’s instrumental format by playing a Boccherini quintet in G Major, but then the issue is clouded by the attached sobriquet – Fandango  –  which, as far as I can tell, applies to one of the composer’s guitar quintets.   But then I have a vague memory of the Flinders people playing such a work, complete with castanets, at Montsalvat.   Anyway, the program begins with Sculthorpe’s Quartet No. 18, commissioned for performance by both the Tokyo String Quartet and the Flinders in 2010.


Thursday June 22


Victorian Opera

Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne at 7:30 pm

I can vaguely recall a production of this Janacek hymn to pantheism from the national company some time back in the 1970s at the Princess Theatre.  Even earlier, I remember a radiant recording of the opera from Sadler’s Wells starring June Bronhill and conducted by Colin Davis, being broadcast in the early 1960s and the Australian soprano’s voice made a remarkable impression.   In this version, directed by Stuart Maunder, the title role is to be taken by Opera Australia soprano Celeste Lazarenko; Antoinette Halloran has the furry trousers role of the Fox; Barry Ryan sings the part of the Forester, Dimity Shepherd is his wife and Brenton Spiteri the Schoolmaster.   Jack Symonds conducts a chamber orchestration of the original rhapsodic score; I suppose you couldn’t expect to fit the original forces into the Playhouse pit.  A shame, but here’s hoping the magic persists.

The production will be repeated at 7:30 pm on Saturday June 24, Tuesday June 27 and Thursday June 29, and at 1 pm on Saturday July 1.


Friday June 23


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Nothing new here, you’d expect.  Sir Andrew Davis will conduct Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6; fine, if ordinary programming.   But the night begins with a rarity: Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, a lengthy (45 minutes) tone-poem comprising introduction, two themes, ten variations and finale.  The hero is represented by a cello – here, Daniel Muller-Schott – while his squire, Sancho Panza, enjoys the services of Christopher Moore’s viola, as well as tuba (Tim Buzbee?) and bass clarinet (Jonathan Craven?).  Somewhere between Strauss and Beethoven comes a melding of Brett Dean and Beethoven: Adagio molto e mesto, an arrangement for flute, clarinet and strings of the slow movement from the Rasumovsky String Quartet No. 1 and which is usually paired with the Australian composer’s Testament, referring to the German master’s heartfelt Heiligenstadt letter to his brothers.

The program will be repeated on Saturday June 24 at 8 pm and on Monday June 26 at 6:30 pm


Sunday June 25


Trio Anima Mundi

Holy Trinity Anglican Church, East Melbourne at 3 pm

You’d have to take this title on trust because I reckon that most of us have heard none of the music that the trio is presenting.   The promise of scintillation in chamber music is a big call at any time, let alone from the ultra-cool Scandinavian musical world.  This afternoon starts with a bit of Grieg, a 10-minute Andante con moto in C minor from an unfinished piano trio which is sombre and Brahmsian for most of its length.  From Norway to Sweden with Dag Wiren’s early Piano Trio No. 1 in four movements – Allegro, Adagio, Fughetta, Alla passacaglia – compressed into a quarter of an hour.   To end, across to Copenhagen for Emil Hartmann’s Piano Trio of 1867 which fools you by starting in the minor before launching into its B flat Major home key and which enjoys a scherzo livelier than most from its heavy-handed time.   But is it scintillating?  Could be: these players – violin Rochelle Ughetti, cello Noella Yan, piano Kenji Fujimura –  are more than capable enough of finding its sparkle.


Monday June 26


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

The orchestra cuts itself down to real chamber proportions for a night with pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout.  The centrepiece will be Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major, here given in its a quattro setting with string quartet accompaniment only.  On either side lie two Schumann works: the last of his three string quartets, that in A Major, and the exuberant Piano Quintet in E flat Major which is a delight for the keyboard player if not that exciting for his escorting string colleagues whose parts have a good deal of padding.  Richard Tognetti will be in the first violin chair but so far there are no details on his companions  –  Timo-Veikko Valve on cello?  Satu Vanska or Helena Rathbone in second-violin spot?  Anybody at all up for the viola line?   Bezuidenhout has been involved for about  nine years in recording Mozart’s complete keyboard music and he recorded tonight’s concerto last year with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra; you can expect a solidly framed, idiosyncratic interpretation.


Thursday June 29

Behzod Abduraimov

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Appearing in the Recital Centre’s Great Performers series, the Uzbek pianist is building on his success here in 2012 which I recall as being brilliantly technical if not endowed with insight.   This time, he plays Bach rather than the Scarlatti he essayed in 2012.  But it’s the Busoni transcription of the D minor Toccata and Fugue; cascades and flurries so early in the night?  The Liszt B minor Sonata is a solid test of interpretation, though, and Abduraimov follows this with the same composer’s Valse-Caprice No. 6 from the nine Soirees de Vienne paraphrases of Schubert; the direction Allegro con strepito gives this particular game away. For a contrast, we hear Schubert en clair – the restrained, meditative Moment musical No. 2 in A flat.  Then, it’s Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 6 in A: acerbic but dour, despite the brisk writing; like the Liszt sonata, it asks for more than a smash-and-grab approach.


Thursday June 29


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Coming up to the last two in his complete Mahler symphonies review, Sir Andrew Davis is preparing us for the deluge with this extraordinary song-cycle that lies between those final leviathans; indeed, the composer thought of Das Lied as a symphony.  He wanted a tenor and an alto as soloists: these readings have veteran Australian Stuart Skelton for Das Trinklied von Jammer der Erde, Von der Jugend, and Der Trunkene im Fruhling while British mezzo Catherine Wynn-Rogers will sing Der Einsame im Herbst, Von der Schonheit, and the heart-breaking Der Abschied.   As for the MSO, it will be in fuller form than usual, even if a good deal of the work has a chamber-like texture.   Preceding this, we will hear Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony No. 8 in B minor, possibly to leaven the emotional depths depicted in the pages of Mahler’s concluding song.

This program will be repeated in Costa Hall, Geelong on Friday June 30 at 7:30 pm, and again in Hamer Hall on Saturday July 1 at 2 pm.