November Diary

Wednesday November 1


Selby & Friends

Tatoulis Auditorium, Methodist Ladies College at  7:30 pm

Last Melbourne appearance for the year from Kathy Selby and her kaleidoscope of cobbers and she has moved operations from Deakin Edge in Federation Square to MLC.  Suits me: it’s a five-minute walk away.  I wonder how many of the group’s loyal followers will be trekking out to Hawthorn/Kew; here’s hoping there’s no fall-off, but an increase.  For this inaugural Tatoulis Auditorium recital, it’s piano quartets all the way: Turina’s solitary effort in A minor, the G minor first of Mozart’s two, and the E flat second of Dvorak’s brace.  Guests tonight are all Sydney Symphony Orchestra members: violinist Andrew Haveron from the concertmaster’s desk, principal viola Tobias Breider, and principal cellist Umberto Clerici.   Now that’s an imposing set of visitors, all used to dominant roles.  Should be a powerful end to an always enjoyable, illuminating and – in this new ambience – plushly comfortable experience.

Thursday November 2


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

There’s nothing like the Symphony No. 9 for warming the communal heart cockles; its choral finale has been used and abused by modern-day advertisers and a hideous gaggle of sports promoters over recent decades but nothing beats the stop-start excitement of the work’s final strophes.   Not forgetting – although most do – the superb drama of the preceding three movements.   This is billed as the Season Finale Gala, which it almost is, if you leave out about half-a-dozen later programs.   Benjamin Northey gets his chance at this big canvas, the MSO Chorus on hand for the fireworks, and a cast of all-Australian soloists: a wonder these days and not the case with the MSO’s real season end –  Handel’s Messiah in December.  Tonight, we’ll hear soprano Jacqueline Porter, mezzo Liane Keegan, tenor Henry Choo (good luck with the Alla marcia, sport), and bass Shane Lowrencev.  For starters, Northey conducts John Adams’ Absolute Jest where the Australian String Quartet and the MSO indulge in the American composer’s take on Beethoven scherzos and other non-funny works; rib-tickling it ain’t but a 25-minute construct that keeps referring to Beethoven and winding up in a game of Guess The Movement.

This program will be repeated on Friday November 3.


Saturday November 4


Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

I don’t know about Monteverdi and the bittersweet, let alone if such an emotionally catholic composer was ever obsessed.  Nor does the idea of over-centric preoccupation come to mind when thinking of Bach, although you could have cause to re-think when considering A Musical Offering and Art of Fugue.  But this assorted program from the Brandenburgers could throw some new light on both composers’ psyches.  The night opens with the Italian composer’s Lamento della ninfa, a four-part madrigal from Book VIII of Monteverdi’s output.  It requires a soprano, especially for the exposed central section where the poor nymph carries out her plaint – in this case, Natasha Wilson – with a choir of two tenors and a bass.  Well, we have one tenor scheduled in Karim Sulayman from the US, and another in our own Spencer Darby, with Denmark’s Jakob Bloch Jespersen giving bass support.  Then the ABO gets involved with Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda: a scena, also from Book VIII and requiring two tenors and soprano to tell this Tasso-inspired story of Christian murder.   Finally, Bach provides some light in his Coffee Cantata, which is really a one-act opera in ten parts asking for Wilson to sing the addicted Lieschen,  Jespersen to take on the part of her grumpy father Schlendrian, and one of the tenors to fill in as the Narrator who tops and helps tail the work.

This program will be repeated on Sunday November 5 at 5 pm


Sunday November 12


Trio Anima Mundi

Holy Trinity Anglican Church, East Melbourne at 3 pm

I’ve neglected these people shamefully but, if you miss one of their recitals, it’s a long time between drinks because they only give two programs a year: first in Geelong, then, after a few weeks’ break, repeating it in this East Melbourne church.  The personnel – pianist Kenji Fujimura, violinist Rochelle Ughetti, cellist Noella Yan – are ranging pretty widely in their definition of what constitutes an outsider.  They include Haydn, here represented by his Piano Trio No. 10 in A Major, because he lived a fair part of his life in the geographically situated Hungarian wilds of Esterhaza . . . which was true for 25 years but didn’t stop him being the most celebrated composer in Europe.   Rutland Boughton’s Celtic Prelude represents – briefly – a composer of high integrity who had considerable success founding an opera festival at Glastonbury but eventually became suspect because of his Communist sympathies; surprising he stood out at all for this political disposition in post-World War I Britain.  Also being played is Alfred Schnittke’s Trio – originally for strings but later arranged for the piano trio combination; like pretty much every Soviet-era composer, Schnittke fell foul of the authorities, eventually migrating to Hamburg, although the Russian state re-claimed him after his death.  The Trio Anima Mundi’s 2017  Composition Prize-winning work will also be performed on this full-program.


Tuesday November 14

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Rachel Podger

Musica Viva

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Podger is actually directing this well-credentialled period music band which operates without a regular conductor in full democratic mode; atypical for this genre of organization, although not unheard of.   This will be the fourth in a series of eight concerts across the country under the MV umbrella, all of which comprise the same program: Podger as soloist/leader in Mozart’s first and last violin concertos, Haydn’s three-movement Lamentatione Symphony in D minor, and a J. C. Bach Symphony in G minor (presumably the Op. 6 No. 6).  Is this the OAL’s first Australian visit?  Whatever the case, the body has a long pedigree packed with notable guest directors and soloists and it will be interesting to see how large a body fronts up to the Recital Centre.

This program will be repeated on Saturday November 18


Wednesday November 15

Emma Kirkby with Jakob Lindberg

Great Performers

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Kirkby seems to have been around for years.  She is certainly a senior citizen among the ranks of British singers and her fame rests mainly in the early music field; among her collaborators have been the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, appearing a night before her in the Recital Centre.   Tonight she is sponsored by the MRC itself, one of their Great Performers for the year.   Accompanied by lutenist Jakob Lindberg, she will be amplifying on their 2007 CD collaboration with a program of English, French, Spanish and Italian works of the Renaissance, leaching into the early Baroque.  But then, Kirkby can’t help retracing her steps, as she has sung pretty much everything in the repertoire at some time or other, not least with her former partner, Anthony Rooley.   For purity of intonation and clarity of articulation, you have to look far and wide to find her equal.


Thursday November 16


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Plenary Hall at 7:30 pm

Dealing with one of the most recognizable film scores of modern times, the MSO is moving out of Hamer Hall to cope with the hordes who want to re-experience the Harry Potter films with a live soundtrack underpinning.   Is this the city’s biggest performance space with a decent acoustic?   I reckon so, although there’ll be the usual amplification chicanery going on.   I don’t know why I’m bothering with this entry, though: both performances are sold out.  You can put your name down on a wait list, apparently.

This program will be repeated on Saturday November 18 at 1 pm


Friday November 17


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Plenary Hall at 7:30 pm

On the other hand, you can still book seats to this, the second in the Harry Potter experience where you get to see Voldemort in the personage of Tom Riddle and you also witness the incomparable Dumbledore of Richard Harris for the last time.  Needless to say, the score is largely a reprise of the first film’s content, although the basilisk sequence has some exhilarating novelties.   Moreover, a large part of the arrangement was carried out by William Ross as John Williams was swamped with work at the time.   What is the attraction of these live soundtrack experiences?   You’ll never know until you try but I suspect part of it comes down to the communal experience of sitting in a theatre with several thousand other people and watching a total familiarity where all the jokes are still worth a laugh and the thrills are somehow more compelling when seen on the big screen. Or it could be the sensation of watching expert musicians at work for once.

This program will be repeated on Saturday November 18 at 7:30 pm


Sunday November 19


Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 2:30 pm

It’s Peter Ilyich till you’ve had an ample sufficiency.  The main  and unadulterated element is the Serenade for Strings where the melodies run rampant throughout its four irreplaceable movements; always a joy to hear from a devoted band, and they don’t come more ready-for-purpose than William Hennessy’s ensemble.   And, of course, we have the arrangements: MCO favourite composer/orchestrator Nicholas Buc’s version of the three-movement Souvenir d’un lieu cher set for violin solo and strings replacing the original’s piano, then some of Rostislav Dubinsky’s string settings of the Album for the Young Op. 39 – your guess is as good as mine about which ones will emerge because Dubinsky certainly arranged all 24 of these miniatures for string quartet.   Hennessy kicks off his afternoon with Arensky’s Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky: seven of them plus a coda based around the fifth of the composer’s Sixteen Children’s Songs.   Deviating from the main motif, the MCO will play another arrangement for strings of Shostakovich’s early Three Fantastic Dances, the composer’s first piano pieces.  Shane Chen, first violin in the Flinders Quartet, will be soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir.

This program will be repeated on Thursday November 23 in the Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm.


Thursday November 23


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Returning to a well-tilled field, the MSO will race through a work they have made a specialty in their repertoire since the days of Hiroyuki Iwaki.   Something about its spacious lyricism and harnessed nervousness brings out the best in these players when they launch into Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor.   Tonight they are conducted by Stanislav Kochanovsky, a native of St. Petersburg in his mid-thirties and already well-established as a notable opera conductor – to the extent that the poor fellow comes to us fresh from directing a Barrie Kosky production of Eugene Onegin in Zurich.  Kochanovsky opens his Melbourne debut with Schumann’s Manfred Overture, then the night’s soloist, Swedish soprano Lisa Larsson, expounds music by one of her countrymen and regular collaborator, Rolf Martinsson: Ich denke dein . . . , settings of five poems by Goethe, Rilke and Eichendorff, written expressly for Larsson in 2014

This program will be repeated on Saturday November 25 at 2 pm.


Friday November 24


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Back for his annual stint in the halls of ANAM, British violinist Anthony Harwood is heading an evening of chamber works that begin with Mozart’s Piano Trio in G Major  – one of the five definites and two possibles in the composer’s catalogue (this is the K. 496 with the six-variations finale).  Marwood and his as-yet-unknown colleagues end with Dvorak’s third – and last – String Quintet, that in E flat which asks for a second viola; a requirement that might prove attractive for the ensemble’s versatile leader.   In the centre comes Erwin Schulhoff’s String Sextet, finished in 1924 after a long gestation and one of the ill-fated composer’s most impressive if sombre works.


Friday November 30


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 8 pm

It’s great to see the MSO break out of its overture/concerto/symphony straitjacket for these events at the MRC which seem to be left in the hands of the body’s two concertmasters.  Tonight is Eoin Andersen’s turn at the helm and he starts with a great seasonal opening; no, not Vivaldi, but Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in F Major in which he will be accompanied by Stefan Cassomenos, last heard at September’s Music in the Round Festival thundering through Liszt’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  Expanding the timbre field a tad will be Copland’s Appalachian Spring in the original version for 13 instruments: an American voice speaking in firm and resonant notes with a humanity and emotional truth that give promise of better times to come, a national harbinger of a resurgence in robust ethics out of the present sewer.  Finally, Andersen takes the solo spot in an arrangement for violin and strings of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons in Buenos Aires where I defy you to point to any significant difference between the movements in any parameter that counts.

This program will be repeated in Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University on Saturday December 1 at 8 pm