September Diary

Friday September 1


Mimir 2

Melba Hall, University of Melbourne at 7:30 pm

The middle recital for the Mimir Festival –  that chamber music exercise sponsored by the Conservatorium of Music/Faculty of Music/College of the Arts, etc – features the main guests from the home organisation in Fort Worth, America: performers whom we have come to know and love over the past few years since the Con’s Head of Strings, Curt Thompson, brought the enterprise that he founded to our town.  Tonight’s offerings will include Thompson taking first violin in Vaughan Williams’ C minor Piano Quintet, alongside regular visitor violist Joan DerHovsepian and cellist Brant Taylor, who I think has been here before.  Rob Nairn, newly appointed to the Faculty of Music, will take the double bass line and well-known local Benjamin Martin, Thompson’s colleague in the Firebird Trio, will perform the keyboard part.   To begin, Stephen Rose and Jun Iwasaki take the violin parts in Wolf’s Italian Serenade, and the conclusion consists of Dvorak’s G Major String Quartet Op. 106 with Rose and Iwasaki swapping chairs.


Sunday September 3


Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 2:30 pm

With an ambitious, New Age-leaning title, this afternoon’s music has been curated by recorder queen Genevieve Lacey and takes in a lot of repertoire.  The MCO starts with a scrap from the fabulous double of Leonin and Perotin, a pairing that for generations of music students meant polyphony had finally arrived; it’s the Viderunt omnes organum and some doubles on the chant’s second part – none of it sung but arranged for the available forces by Lacey.  Then comes Cipriano de Rore’s four-voice madrigal Ancor che col partire; well, divisions (or diminutions, as the French put it so confusingly) on it by Bassano. British one-time wunderkind Thomas Ades is represented by the penultimate movement, O Albion, of his 1994 string quartet Arcadiana.  Vivaldi’s C minor Recorder Concerto brings Lacey to the spotlight, where she will be immediately eclipsed by the following Grosse Fuge by Beethoven.  Ross Edwards’ Tyalgum Mantras was originally written for shakuhachi, didjeridu and percussion; it’s probable that it will be heard here in another instrumental format.  Dunstable’s brief three-part motet Quam pulchra es comes in for the Lacey treatment, just before another recorder concerto, Sammartini in F.  To polish off the experience, William Hennessy leads his forces in  Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis.  Big program?  You’re not kidding and much of it has ‘eternal’ pretensions, except the two concertos which don’t present any metaphysical depths, as far as I can recall.

This program will be repeated at the Deakin Edge, Federation Square on Friday September 8 at 7:30 pm.


Sunday September 3


Australian Boys Choir

Fitzroy Town Hall at 3 pm

All the material to be presented in this event is Australian-made, including two premieres. Both the core boys choir and the senior Vocal Consort participate in Sydney-based writer Alice Chance’s Two Best Things, which is concerned with the choices that have to be made by those unfortunate enough to have to flee from bush fires: what do you take with you? The other first hearing will be for Before Time Was, a setting of words by local poet/psychotherapist/publisher/journalist Max Dunn; the music has been written by the choir’s director, Noel Ancell.  Other works come from veteran Eric Austin Phillips. Iain Grandage, Paul Stanhope and Joseph Twist.  It’s quite an adventurous undertaking and one that you can wait a long time to hear: all home-grown sounds from a choir of young people – and serious music, not populist pap.


Sunday September 3


Mimir 3

Melba Hall, University of Melbourne at 3 pm

For the final significant event in this year’s chamber music festival, the performing personnel remain the same for two of the three works programmed.  Jun Iwasaki and Curt Thompson are the violinists, Joan DerHovsepian violist and Brant Taylor the cello for Mozart’s Hoffmeister D Major Quartet K. 499, as well as the afternoon’s title work by St. Louis-born Kevin Puts.  Written in 2007 and premiered by the Miro Quartet, Credo is one of the composer’s more widely performed pieces although, as far as I can trace, this could well be its first airing in this city.   Ending the festival with burnished power will be the Brahms Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major with violinist Stephen Rose, Taylor on cello and Melbourne’s own Kristian Chong handling the gloriously satisfying piano part.  These ‘show’ or demonstration recitals are always remarkably fine examples of their type, underlining the solid foundations of musical practice in the United States and the pleasures to be uncovered by experts in all-too-familiar scores.


Saturday September 9


Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

There’s certainly Mozart in this exercise – the last horn concerto and a harmoniemusik from Il Seraglio – and you don’t have to look far for Haydn in the celebrated Cello Concerto No. 1.   But the friends are represented by one character: Christian Cannabich, who was definitely an acquaintance/friend of Mozart.  Soloist in the horn concerto is Bart Aerbeydt from Belgium and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra; he’ll have his work cut out for him in this most famous concerto of its type.  For the Haydn work, the soloist is the ABO’s principal, Jamie Hey who is also up against a very familiar score which has rattled many a top-notch interpreter.  Cannabich’s Sinfonia in E Flat is an unknown quantity; he wrote 75 in this form and, while I’ve heard one in this particular key, there’s no surety that he didn’t write more.  As for the harmoniemusik, you’d have to assume that this is Mozart’s own compilation for wind octet ( or is it quartet?) of material from his own opera, written to capitalise on a popular form of arrangements before some morality-lacking fly-by-night cashed in on it.

This program will be re-presented on Sunday September 10 at 5 pm.


Sunday September 10


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

Norwegian violinist/arranger/composer Henning Kraggerud is directing and taking the soloist role in this afternoon of three works by Norway’s most famous musical figure.  The concert begins with the first of the two Nordic Melodies, In Folk Style – a piece of some melancholy D minor-infused charm which shows that there’s not much you can do with a folk-song except play it over and over in different colours.  Into the mix comes Ross Edwards, whose Entwinings will enjoy its world premiere, contributing to the anticipated ‘arcadian feel’ of the ACO’s latest concert experience.  Kraggerud then fronts the Grieg Violin Concerto, which is the soloist’s own arrangement of the Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor; he has apparently given the same treatment to Grieg’s other two sonatas. Kraggerud then presents his own Topelius-Variations (From Topelius’ Time), which presumably refers to the 19th century Finnish author.  Last of all comes Richard Tognetti’s arrangement of the Grieg String Quartet which the ACO has recorded to plenty of press acclaim.

This program will be performed again on Monday September 11 at 7:30 pm.


Thursday September 14


Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at  6 pm

A single-work recital; not unheard-of, but increasingly rare,  Three of the MCO’s senior citizens –  violin William Hennessy, viola Stefanie Farrands, cello Michael Dahlenburg – are to collaborate with pianist Louisa Breen in the Brahms No. 2:  the most substantial and almost certainly the longest of the composer’s chamber works.  This event is billed in the MRC three-monthly handbook as lasting two hours; can’t see it myself, unless the ensemble are going to play it twice in the best Schoenberg/New Music tradition.  Or perhaps somebody is going to give a long exegesis on the composer.  Or possibly a time-consuming supper is being provided!


Friday September 15


Victorian Opera

Merlyn Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse at 7:30 pm

Based on the same legend as Der Freischutz, this work depicts another predictable Faustian pact with the Devil.  To a libretto by William S. Burroughs, everyone’s favourite senior Beat writer, and with music (and song lyrics, it would seem) by American folk-song expert Tom Waits, the story follows a familiar path, except there is no redemption at the end. The cast is headed by Kanen Breen as the hopeless marksman-clerk Wilhelm, Meow Meow as the Devil incarnate Pegleg, and Dimity Shepherd as Wilhelm’s beloved Katchen.   Paul Capsis either sings the role of Ensemble or is part of it.   Phoebe Briggs conducts, Matthew Lutton directs, and the staging comes from Zoe Atkinson.  Other cast members include Jacqui (Jacqueline?) Dark as Helen, Richard Piper as Bertram, Le Gateau/Chocolat as the Duke/Old Uncle, and Winston Hillyer as Robert.  A true voyage of discovery for those among us who have never seen the work, which is a co-production with the Malthouse Theatre.  Obviously, both companies believe there is a large audience for the piece because the season goes on for some weeks.

Later performances will take place on Saturday September 16 at 7:30 pm,  Monday September 18 at 6:30 pm, Tuesday September 19 at 6:30 pm, Thursday September 21 at 7:30 pm, Friday September 22 at 7:30 pm, Saturday September 23 at 3 pm and at 7:30 pm, Tuesday 26 September at 6:30 pm, Wednesday September 27 at 7:30 pm, Thursday September 28 at 7:30 pm, Friday September 29 at 7:30 pm, Saturday September 30 at 7:30 pm, Sunday October 1 at 5 pm, Tuesday October 3 at 6:30 pm, Wednesday October 4 at 7:30 pm, Thursday October 5 at 7:30 pm, Friday October 6 at 7:30 pm, Saturday October 7 at 3 pm and at 7:30 pm, Sunday October 8 at 5 pm.


Friday September 15


Australian National Academy of Music

St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 7:30 pm

Getting outside the confines of the South Melbourne Town Hall and ANAM’s offices, some brass and percussion musicians are mounting a one-night stand in the city’s Catholic cathedral.  One of this year’s visiting authorities at the Academy, trombonist Michael Mulcahy from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is directing this night’s music-making, which begins in splendid fashion with Giovanni Gabrieli’s  Sacrae symphoniae of 1597 and 1615; probably not the lot – 45 choral works and 16 purely instrumental ones – but those extracts chosen should resonate to fine effect in this building.  The centre-piece comes in Nielsen’s Symphony No. 3, the Sinfonia espansiva in an arrangement for organ (Calvin Bowman), brass and percussion.  Concluding in similar Nordic mode, the brass/percussion combination is re-applied to a version of Sibelius’ Finlandia call to arms.


Sunday September 17


Zelman Symphony

Hamer Hall at 2 pm

A long time between performances.  I seem to recall this work being performed many years ago in the Melbourne Town Hall by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, possibly under John Hopkins.  But, like Yevtushenko’s poetry which provides the texts, the symphony/cantata has been forgotten.  This year’s observation of the 75th anniversary of the Nazi massacre near Kiev has brought about this performance which will be conducted by Mark Shiell, with Adrian Tamburini entrusted with the bass soloist’s part.  A 200-voice male choir is promised.  Also to be played is Elena Kats-Chernin’s  Night and Now for flute and orchestra with Sally Walker playing the solo part, as she has for every performance since the piece’s 2015 premiere in Darwin.  Crossway for Orchestra by young Australian Harry Sdraulig prefaces the concert’s main works and apparently refers to  the events of World War Two as seen through a younger generation’s eyes, while Kats-Chernin’s work has to do with her upbringing in Tashkent.


Sunday September 17


Team of Pianists

Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

Darryl Coote represents the Team at this final recital for the year in the National Trust’s showpiece mansion.   His guests are that Everywhere Mezzo, Sally-Anne Russell, and tenor Robert Macfarlane.   In a real test of stamina, Russell will negotiate Elgar’s Sea Pictures without the soothing gift of the orchestral accompaniment; but then, the composer often performed his own piano version.  Also being well-exercised, Macfarlane has Schumann’s Dichterliebe in his care: 16 priceless Heine settings, well-suited to the expanded salon setting of Rippon Lea’s ballroom.  The singers combine later for some Schumann duets, and Coote gets the limelight to himself for Haydn’s every-popular F minor Variations.


Tuesday September 19

Nicolas Altstaedt & Aleksander Madzar

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

I can’t find any mention of these two musicians working together as regular partners.  Not that the lack of a steady artistic relationship should make much difference to professionals but their pairing for this tour seems something of an odd ad hoc arrangement.  In their Program I, they begin with the Debussy Cello Sonata, a cow of a work to balance correctly. Then come Nadia Boulanger’s Three Pieces for cello and piano from 1914, with Barber’s early Cello Sonata to follow.  Before embarking on Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata Op. 40 (from the composer’s 28th year), the duo plays a new work, as yet untitled, by Jakub Jankowski; the Adelaide composer referred to this piece as a ‘cello sonata’ in an interview during April this year, so I suppose that will be the fourth of its genre in this program that showcases a semi-cross-generational musical collaboration.

On Saturday September 23, Altstaedt and Madzar present their Program II which is identical to the first one except Britten’s Cello Sonata replaces that by Barber. and Brahms in F Major replaces the Shostakovich.


Thursday September 21


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Yes, they do: the whole second half is Ravel – the Piano Concerto in  G and La valse.  For the concerto, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet will be the light-fingered soloist while the choreographic poem is to be directed by Andre de Ridder. who has been seen in Sydney and Adelaide but not here, I believe.  He is, God help us, the ‘rock world’s conductor of choice’, which could mean that he’s so far above anybody else in that field that he shines, or it could signify that he can adapt himself to the elementary with few signs of slumming.  The night opens with Mozart’s optimistic Symphony No. 34 and that will be followed by a curiosity in Unsuk Chin’s Mannequin – Tableaux vivants.  A four-part work, it is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale The Sandman; Chin has used four sequences from the novel, three of which are familiar as text elements from Offenbach’s most famous opera. The South Korean composer’s score asks for a large orchestra, including a massive percussion battery and the piece is here receiving its Australian premiere – which is nice as it was premiered in England two years ago and the MSO was one of its commissioners.

This program will be played again at Geelong’s Costa Hall on Friday September 22 at 7:30 pm, and it returns to Hamer Hall at 2 pm on Saturday September 23.


Sunday September 24


Abbotsford Convent at 11 am

To the satisfaction of some of us, this one-day festival has been moved from its usual siting on Father’s Day – which means we won’t have to run home for the mandatory hours of family celebrations without a ghost of a chance (despite one’s best intentions) of coming back for some end-of-day recitals.  The action involves several regular contributors, as well as some unknown quantities.  But the name of the game is choice – a real one, not the fake sort that the Prime Minister promotes; as the hours pass by, you have the option of calling in on one of three or four simultaneous recitals.   The Arcadia Winds ensemble offer Barber’s Summer Music and Nielsen’s Wind Quintet on either side of Australian composer Lachlan Skipworth’s Echoes and Lines, a new piece currently being promoted by the Arcadians.  You can hear the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 2 with the same personnel as on Thursday September 14 above.  Stefan Cassomenos plays Liszt’s arrangement of the Beethoven A Major Symphony; Anna Goldsworthy serves up a grab bag of a Bach prelude-and-fugue double, some Schubert Impromptus, Prokofiev’s Five Sarcasms, and the Rigoletto Paraphrase by Liszt.  MITR’s organiser Chris Howlett takes up his cello and, accompanied by Rhodri Clarke, plays Rachmaninov’s Sonata and the lollipop Romance. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Sophie Rowell plays a Telemann fantasia, a Biber passacaglia and Julian Yu’s update on it.  Goldner Quartet member Julian Smiles presents Hindemith’s Sonata for solo cello, the second Bach suite, and Bloch’s Suite No. 1 for solo cello,  One of the MITR Young Performers for this year, Caleb Wong from ANAM, is to play the Bach E flat Cello Suite and Kodaly’s Solo Cello Suite.  The other, Jackie Wong, will also play Bach – the Sonata in G minor BWV 1001 –  and Prokofiev’s Sonata for Solo Violin.


Saturday September 30


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

A notable American percussionist who teaches at the University of California, San Diego, Schick is conducting masterclasses, observing the centenary of the birth of US great Lou Harrison, and generally making ANAM more aware of its inner rhythms.  This night’s menu features four US composers, so I don’t know where the night’s titular set-of-three reference applies.  Ives frames the occasion, which opens with the inspired clangour of From the Steeples and the Mountains and concludes with the almost-not-there The Unanswered Question.  Varese is also heard twice: first, in Offrandes which asks for a small orchestra as well as percussion and a soprano; then, the great Deserts, probably in the non-tape, shorter version.  At the heart of the program sits Harrison’s Concerto for violin with percussion orchestra which took some 18/19 years to complete and is rarely heard because of the eclectic variety of instruments required to accompany the athletic soloist – who is, at the time of writing, unidentified.  For good measure, Schick has thrown in Red Arc/Blue Veil by  John Luther Adams – a work for piano, mallet percussion and processed sounds. Put simply, this is one of ANAM’s most ambitious programs for the year, packed with demanding matter and a solid test of the participating musicians’ talents.


Saturday September 30


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

One of those works that flashes out new facets every time you hear it, Debussy’s three-movement marine panorama is a joy from start to finish.  Dutch conductor Otto Tausk has conducted in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, but not here, I think.  The 47-year-old is enjoying a remarkably active career and is currently in the process of taking over the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from Bramwell Tovey.  By way of a leap into the ocean, Tausk conducts Stravinsky’s Scherzo fantasque, an early work that attracted the attention of Diaghilev (and we know where that led) and was influenced in part by Debussy.  Then, the concert makes one of those extraordinary changes of pace that rarely feature these days on MSO programs.  Israeli-Palestinian pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar takes on the Brahms D minor Concerto to swing us away from ephemeral billows and spume and plunge us into the nitty-gritty of solid, hard-achieved (for the composer) certainty of purpose in a mighty musical monolith.

This program will be repeated on Monday October 2 at 6:30 pm.