Monday April 1
Teddy Tahu Rhodes & Kristian Chong
Melbourne Recital Centre at 6:30 pm
The well-loved baritone has given few Melbourne recitals, as far as I can recall. Tonight he makes up for this famine with a solid program that offers three song-cycles. Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte is a real cycle in its end being wound into its beginning and the whole six numbers being through-composed and musically linked. Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring, five Shakespeare settings of great integrity, have not travelled well outside England. Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, drawn from verses of that name by Robert Louis Stevenson, is also little attempted outside the English-speaking world, if having an easier path to appreciation than the Finzi suite. A trio of Celtic tunes brings in an unexpected level of popular appeal – Raglan Road (presumably On Raglan Road, Patrick Kavanagh’s poem, set to The Dawning of the Day tune), Molly Malone and Loch Lomond. Between the British song cycles, Rhodes and Chong will perform three lyrics by Calvin Bowman: West Sussex Drinking Song, The Night, and Noel – all three recorded for Decca last year by baritone Christopher Richardson. This duo on paper makes a promising combination, both artists notable for their generosity of timbre and spirit.
Thursday April 4
MOZART’S CLARINET CONCERTO
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm
You can be lucky – as a composer, as a performer, as an audience member. Tonight, British clarinettist Michael Collins gets to play solo in his instrument’s greatest concerto. Paul Dean, the MSO’s Composer in Residence for this year and former director of the Australian National Academy of Music, is presenting his own new Clarinet Concerto. As a tick of public approval, the first night is sold out already; which may be due to the small (1001 seats) capacity of the MRC’s Murdoch Hall but in some small way also would have been brought about on the strength of the Mozart concerto’s attractiveness. Most of us know Michael Collins and his musical progress – Philharmonia, London Sinfonietta, Nash Ensemble, Royal College of Music, then a glittering freelance career; tonight, he plays and leads this well-loved work, which headed a Top of the Pops list fomented by ABC radio some years ago. Immediately after the Mozart comes Dean’s new score, played by the composer with Collins directing; could be an unavoidable case of by their ambience ye shall judge them. After interval, we are treated once more to the Beethoven Symphony No. 7: a welter of bludgeoning delight in three of its four movements while a dour tragedy informs most of the grave Allegretto.
This program will be repeated on Friday April 5 in the Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University at 7:30 pm.
Saturday April 6
BACH AND TELEMANN IN CONCERT
Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm
We don’t get to see Pinchgut productions in Melbourne, which is a great pity as the company’s repertoire engages with a bevy of neglected works by big-name composers. When I say ‘neglected’, I mean ignored in this country where you can wait from one millennium to the next for the national company to program anything by Rameau, Vivaldi, Purcell, Charpentier (ancient or modern), Cavalli, Salieri, Haydn or Hasse. Even Handel has fallen out of favour, now that the counter-tenor craze has passed. These Baroque/early Classical works comprise Pinchgut’s stock-in-trade. Anyway, let’s take what we can get; in this case, a night of Bach’s Easter Oratorio and Telemann’s Thunder Ode. The first is fairly well-known as an extended cantata that lasts about 45 minutes, here to be given as originally set out with SATB soloists (Alexandra Oomens, Anna Dowsley, Richard Butler, and a choice between David Greco and Andrew O’Connor) with no choir. Telemann’s work is of similar length, with five soloists (including the two basses) and, I assumed, a four-part choir but here also the soloists will be doing double service. Erin Helyard conducts the Orchestra of the Antipodes: a body that I, for one, will be hearing live for the first time with keen anticipation.
Sunday April 7
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank at 11 am
Ringing in the MSO’s chamber music recital series will be the job for a string quartet and Philip Arkinstall whose clarinet enriched the recent visit by Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra. This morning opens with a divertimento for string trio by Mozart, the K. 563 in E flat Major and a considerable six-movement work with a rich Andante plus 7 variations at its core. As for performers, you can be sure of principals Christopher Moore on viola and David Berlin on cello; the violin line will be taken by either concertmaster Sophie Rowell or principal second violin Matthew Tomkins. The afternoon second half will be taken up by the Brahms Clarinet Quintet; hard to think of a better way to spend your Sunday than luxuriating in this superbly finished construct. And, for once, the program’s title sums up these proceedings accurately.
Thursday April 11
Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm
Directing this dramatic setting of the Mass for the Dead is Lawrence Renes, a Dutch-Maltese conductor who is completely unknown to me. He’s had plenty of opera experience – chief conductor of the Royal Swedish Opera, as well as working with the Netherlands and English National Operas; all of which will stand him in good stead here. American soprano Leah Crocetto has enjoyed wide Verdi experience: Otello, Luisa Miller, Il trovatore, Falstaff, Aida, Don Carlo and this Requiem last year in Spain. Alto Okka von der Dammerau has less substantial Verdi credentials, although she has sung Emilia in Otello and Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera. Issachah Savage, another American, sings the solo tenor, hopefully with the same power that he has brought to Radames, Manrico and Otello. Tonight’s bass is Nicholas Brownlee, another American whose most recent Verdi experience was last year’s Simon Boccanegra in Karlsruhe where he sang the part of Paolo Albiani; he has also sung Banquo’s aria at the 2016 Belvedere Competition in Villach (he won). If all this sounds like an unusually mixed bag of individual experiences, you can always trust in the MSO and its Chorus to give the performance a solid base of professionalism.
This program will be repeated on Saturday April 13 at 2 pm.
Friday April 19
ST. MATTHEW PASSION
Melbourne Bach Choir and Orchestra
Melbourne Recital Centre at 2:30 pm
Reverting to its foundation repertoire, the Bach Choir and Orchestra under Rick Prakhoff takes on this big Good Friday special which concentrates the attention remorselessly on the events of this day without a trace of Easter morning celebrations. Sure, you can find consolation descending after the Es ist vollbracht but you leave the Murdoch Hall – one hopes – in imaginary penitential garb. This reading of the Passion brings back some familiar voices: Andrew Goodwin ever-welcome as the Evangelist; Jud Arthur, familiar from national opera company productions, as the Christus; two Jacquelines – Porter and Dark – soprano and alto soloists respectively; Michael Smallwood the tenor (whom I last heard perform a fine Mullerin a bit over 3 years ago); and Jeremy Kleeman given the bass solos, coming into his own in the last part of the work. Much of the score’s processes rely on the choirs, for whom this Passion is home-ground; the only information lacking is where Prakhoff is sourcing his boys’ choir for the opening and closing numbers of Part 1.
Friday April 26
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm
Not the all-female (except for Chris Hemsworth) remake but the original from 1984 starring Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, directed by Ivan Reitman (once described by Arnold Schwarzenegger as ‘a genius’, so it must be true). The film did well at the box office – extremely well – and the MSO is counting on a lot of nostalgia out there, scheduling three performances in Hamer Hall; at the time of writing, there are plenty of seats available at all three performances, except for the first performance balcony where none appear to be on offer. Benjamin Northey will add to his live soundtrack laurels by taking the MSO through Elmer Bernstein’s acclaimed score although the composer seems to have had as much trouble with studio shenanigans as did his contemporary non-relative Leonard with the West Side Story film transmutation. Apart from the title number, the rest of the score is not vivid in my memory, despite my having seen the film several times. That’s the attraction of these events: you have to focus on the music because it attracts unusually high attention, often becoming the dominant constituent in the aural mix.
This program will be repeated on Saturday April 27 at 1 pm and 7:30 pm.