December Diary

Sunday December 3

SOUTHERN CANTATA

St. John’s Bach Choir and Orchestra

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Southgate at 9 am.

To celebrate 500 years since Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, and to mark 20 years since the Bach cantata program started in Southgate, St. John’s has commissioned a new work from Sydney composer Andrew Schultz to a text by Melbourne poet Katherine Firth.  This four-movement construct will be performed, as have a slew of Bach cantatas over the past two decades, at the centre of the Sunday 9 am service in St. John’s.  Southern Cantata is scored for two soloists, chorus and period instrument orchestra, all conducted by Graham Lieschke, and, in a compositional device familiar from Bach’s 200-plus examples, Schultz’s score incorporates a chorale; in this case, Luther’s own Advent melody, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland.

 

Sunday December 3

BACH’S CHRISTMAS ORATORIO

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

Four years ago, the ACO and an imported Choir of London with a wealth of top-notch soloists presented this collation of six seasonal cantatas to excellent effect in this same venue, rounding out 2013 with a bang.  Here is a revisiting, even down to having the same Evangelist-tenor, Nicholas Mulroy, who impressed mightily in those years of benevolent reception before the flowering of local talent in Andrew Goodwin and the Thomson brothers, Daniel and Matthew  –  remarkable and reliable Bach exponents all.  You live in high expectation that Richard Tognetti and his musicians will bring off something like the same joyous experience tonight.  Whatever happens, you can always relish the delights of the first two elements in the sequence: Jauchzet, frohlocket and Und es waren Hirten, both of which encapsulate my Christmas ideal more than any other music.

This program will be repeated on Monday December 4 at 6:30 pm.

 

Monday December 4

Paul Lewis

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Not one to sidestep obsessions, British pianist Paul Lewis has found a set of new foci for investigation.   In this typically chaste program, he confines himself to a brace of Haydn sonatas, the late Six Bagatelles Op. 126 by Beethoven, and the just-as-late Six Pieces Op. 118 of Brahms.   Even the Haydn works feature fairly late in the composer’s output in this form: the last of the G majors, Hob. XVI. 40 from 1784, and the third-last of the lot in C Major Hob. XVI: 50 which dates from 1794.  Although this composer has enjoyed something of a resurgence in the past decade, he is still an irregular recital presence.  Not so with the Beethoven block which are unique in their intimate starkness.  And the Brahms collection of four intermezzi, a ballade and romanze are often heard as single items, not so often en masse.

 

Saturday December 9

NOEL! NOEL!

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 5 pm and 7:30 pm

Pail Dyer and his spirited players begin their Christmas celebrations in the Murdoch Hall with another program of odds and sods.  You’ve got the Brandenburg Choir leading the way with some seasonal regulars  – Deck the Halls, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, O Come, All Ye Faithful  –  as well as works by Palestrina, Gibbons, Rutter and Faure.  The night displays a young talent in tenor Joel Parnis, fresh from Sydney’s My Fair Lady production, who has been entrusted with Bring Him Home from Les Miserables  – that Christmas-centric musical  – O Holy Night, Irving Berlin’s tooth-numbingly saccharine White Christmas, Silent Night, Once in Royal David’s City and an updated Twelve Days of Christmas.  And from the slips comes a choral piece out of the first of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films: My Love Is Always Here by Alexandre Desplat.  It’s all unabashed populism, just like Carols by Candlelight but without the inbuilt ads.

 

Saturday December 9

HANDEL’S MESSIAH

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7 pm

Anything new here?  Conductor for the performances is Rinaldo Alessandrini, a Baroque keyboard authority; perhaps he’ll direct this performance from a harpsichord or chamber organ . . . we can but hope.  His soloists include soprano Sara Macliver and mezzo Joslyn Rechter, both well-known Australian-born singers. The male principals are British tenor Ed Lyon and Catania-born bass Salvo Vitale who boasts a wealth of Baroque opera experience.  The MSO Chorus could probably sing this score in their sleep and the orchestra will hardly be pressed, although Alessandrini will certainly have an individual take on how to tackle this venerable masterpiece that has almost a third of its content either directly or laterally relevant to the Christmas season.

This program will be repeated on Sunday December 10 at 5 pm.

 

Saturday December 9

CHRISTMAS TO CANDLEMAS: AROUND 1600

Ensemble Gombert

Xavier College Chapel at 8 pm

Once again, John O’Donnell and his formidable choir are presenting a programs of Renaissance glories for the season, in collaboration with Danny Lucin’s La Compania of period instruments.  The night opens with two settings of Resonet in laudibus: the 7-voice one by Praetorius and Lassus’ 5-voice version, both seeming to share a common opening shape of a falling common chord.   Andrea Gabrieli is represented by a Hodie Christus natus est but his nephew Andrea bears the burden of much of the night’s music-making: two glorious canzone – a primi toni and a duodecimi toni – as well as O magnum mysterium for double choir and the night’s concluding Nunc dimittis in 14 parts from the Sacrae symphoniae.   Lassus reappears with his creamy-rich Omnes de Saba and Adorna thalamum, the latter quite unknown to me.  And O’Donnell includes a moving early four-part motet by Victoria in Senex puerum portabat.  The combination of this choral body and the cornetti, sackbuts and dulcians of the Renaissance band – from past experience – is both impressive and moving.

 

Saturday December 16

MSO CHRISTMAS

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

This is a celebration with definite Christmas elements and other parts that can be stretched to fit the framework; a more well-judged operating principle of supplying something for everyone than underpins the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s Noel! Noel! program above (see Saturday December 9).  The main point of difference is that this one-off night sticks to its last pretty much throughout.  Guest conductor Christopher Seaman begins with some seasonal arcana: the Polonaise from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Christmas Eve in which the MSO Chorus should play a major role.   Some extracts from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel follow: the Prelude and the Dream Pantomime where the moving Abendsegen is given luxurious post-Wagnerian treatment.   Naturally, the MSO will play some scraps from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet, the MSO Chorus returning for the opening to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio  –  that bouncy sample of triumphant Christianity, Jauchzet, frohlocket  –  juxtaposed with Berlioz’s chromatic pastorale, the Shepherds’ Farewell from L’enfance du Christ.  Not wasting last week’s work, Messiah extracts follow (I’d guess the Nativity section, Scene 4 from Part the First, but will the organizers be able to resist a Hallelujah! reprise?), the night ending in O Come, All Ye Faithful

 

Sunday December 17

A MIGHTY WONDER: CHRISTMAS WITH THE AUSTRALIAN BOYS CHOIR

Melbourne Recital Centre at 3 pm

This year’s concert from Noel Ancell’s choirs – the ABC itself, its graduate-enfolding Vocal Consort, and its tyro singers – is based around the chant O magnum mysterium although I don’t think the young musicians will be demonstrating their prowess with the Andrea Gabrieli construct featured in the Ensemble Gombert program of a week previous (see  Saturday December 9 above).   We are promised settings by Byrd, Victoria, Poulenc and Norwegian/American Ola Gjeilo’s slow-moving Scandi-mystic version with an obbligato cello line; don’t know why I’m being sniffy about the Gombert’s Gabrieli as this one splits into 11 vocal parts at two stages.   And, of course, there will be lacunae for mass participation when the ABC parents show with unbridled gusto the origin of their sons’ lung power.

 

 

 

 

November Diary

Wednesday November 1

QUATTRO

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

BEETHOVEN 9: ODE TO JOY

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

BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS: MONTEVERDI & BACH

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

THE OUTSIDERS

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

HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

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

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

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

LETTERS FROM TCHAIKOVSKY

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

MSO PLAYS RACHMANINOV 2

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

MARWOOD PLAYS CHAMBER MUSIC

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

SOUNDS OF SPRING

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

 

 

 

September Diary

Friday September 1

SERENADE

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

TOWARDS ETERNITY

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

BEST THINGS

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

CREDO

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

HAYDN, MOZART & FRIENDS

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

GRIEG AND BEYOND

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

BRAHMS PIANO QUARTET

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

BLACK RIDER: THE CASTING OF THE MAGIC BULLETS

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

CATHEDRAL BRASS

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

SHOSTAKOVICH 13: BABI YAR

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

GREAT MOMENTS OF SONG

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

MSO PLAYS RAVEL

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

MUSIC IN THE ROUND

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

AMERICAN TRIPTYCH: STEVEN SCHICK

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

MSO PLAYS LA MER

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Diary

Saturday August 5

DMITRY SINKOVSKY: THE SINGING VIOLIN

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Seems like a bit of a cliche to refer to a violin as ‘singing’, but it’s better than ‘screeching’, I suppose.   Which is probably not the kindest thing to be talking about in reference to Sinkovsky who, as well as being a violin virtuoso, is also a countertenor.  His program is not just confined to Vivaldi and Locatelli, as some of the promotional material suggests, but also includes violin concertos by Leclair and Telemann and a chaconne by Aubert (presumably Jacques; not his son, Louis).  You’d have to assume that Sinkovsky will be directing as pretty much everything – apart from a two-horns concerto by Vivaldi – features violin.  What isn’t obvious is where the singing business comes in, although one of the Locatelli scores is a concerto grosso subtitled Il Pianto d’Arianna and so emotionally indebted to Monteverdi’s lyric; whether Sinkovsky intends to sing this piece as informative background is anyone’s guess.

This program will be repeated on Sunday August 6 at 5 pm.

 

Saturday August 5

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7 pm

Here is another of the MSO’s film-with-live-soundtrack efforts.  It’s hard to know why this particular cinematic construct was chosen, especially as the organisation is content to have one screening only, possibly aware that the film turns up on free-to-air TV quite regularly.  While boasting an original score by British rock musician Jonny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is notable above all for an extraordinary central performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.  Still, the whole point of these exercises – for me, at least – is hearing what the orchestra makes of the music which, in Greenwood’s case, involves some previously-composed material and a few snatches from the Brahms Violin Concerto and that bottomless mine of dejection, Arvo Part’s Fratres:  a work somehow suitable for this story of land- and soul-grabbers.

 

Sunday August 6

MOUNTAIN

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

Something along the lines of Richard Tognetti’s The Reef compendium, this exercise is basically a film comprising images of various ranges and peaks with appropriate music as a substitute for an Attenborough commentary.  But not entirely so: there is a script by Robert Macfarlane that is read by William Dafoe.  As with the MSO’s film soundtrack exercises, this holds interest for me chiefly for the musical content rather than the inspiring shots of snow-covered peaks and cloud-piercing summits.  In fact, the works played by the ACO are a dog’s breakfast: two slow movements by Beethoven (Violin and Emperor Concertos), three Vivaldis (the B minor Concerto for four violins, the start of Winter and the end of Summer), two pieces by Sculthorpe (Djilile and the First String Quartet’s Chorale bars), Chopin’s D flat Nocturne, another piano piece in Arvo Part’s Fur Alina, the galloping Praeludium to Grieg’s Holberg Suite, and an original composition by Tognetti.  That pretty much covers the gamut from Everest to Kosciuszko.

This program will be repeated on Monday August 7 at 7:30 pm.

 

Thursday August 10

MSO PLAYS SHOSTAKOVICH 5

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Guest conductor for this program is Jakub Hrusa, a very welcome visitor, not least for introducing us to Suk’s Asrael Symphony last September – a vivid, memorable night.  Here he escorts Ilina Ibragimova through Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2; she should have it well under her belt, having performed it three times in Sydney, once in Auckland and again in Hobart before she hits Hamer Hall.  It’s a demanding score but always a revelation because of the composer’s invention and command of texture.  As for the great symphony, the commentators and their revisions have left many of us marooned on an island of knowing and not-knowing: is it a daring anti-Stalinist manifesto, a nationalistic celebration, a graph of the composer’s emotional turmoil?  Interpretations are multiform, particularly with regard to the last movement; that strange book Testimony threw so many spanners into the works that whatever observations you make can be contradicted all too easily.  So you can end up thinking you have been inspired or depressed – or both.  One thing is certain: Hrusa will give the interpretation everything he’s got.

This program will be repeated on Saturday August 12 at 2 pm.

 

Saturday August 12

Takacs Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm.

Back they come, welcome as always.  For their first night, the group plays Haydn in F Major, the second of the Op. 77 and the last work in this form that the master completed; having set up the form over his life-time, the composer here shakes it around and isn’t concerned with applying any superficial gloss.  A neat balance comes in Beethoven’s Op. 127 where you can contrast the two writers’ slow movements and their treatment of variations at this late stage in their careers.  In the middle, the Takacs give the premiere of Carl Vine’s String Quartet No. 6, which carries the reassuring sub-title of Child’s Play.

On Tuesday August 22 at 7 pm, the musicians will present their Program II, starting with Haydn in D from the Op. 76.  It’s a bit confusing because, according to the publicity, I’m inferring that they are playing this work’s Largo only – or are they giving this whole work a nickname based on its second movement’s marking?  After this, they revisit the Carl Vine work from Program I, and finish with Dvorak No. 14: his last one and a work that you hear very rarely.

 

Saturday August 12

CAGE & ZAPPA

Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7 pm

If you are constrained to have dealings with the world of rock, you could do much, much worse than treat with Frank Zappa who distinguished himself in a turgid universe of inanity by having a consciousness of history, being a true and trained musician, and remaining unafraid to exercise a working brain.  Australia’s finest pianist, Michael Kieran Harvey, is juxtaposing Zappa’s music with that of a true revolutionary, John Cage, in a night’s work that also includes the National Academy’s unfailingly able resident pianist, Timothy Young, the ne plus ultra of percussionists, Peter Neville, and assorted ANAM musicians.   On this program’s first half, we hear selections from the Sonatas and Interludes by Cage, written for prepared piano and one of the keyboard repertoire’s seminal contemporary masterpieces.   Also,  Neville comes into the mix with Cage’s four-movement Amores.  Then it’s all Zappa, or Zappa-derived.  Some pieces for harpsichord and virginal (but played on those instruments? I think not) by Francesco Zappa (1717-1803, and no relation) are followed by the half-difficult The Black Page Parts 1 and 2, all three minutes of  The Girl in the Magnesium Dress, the slightly-longer G-Spot Tornado, and the don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it Sofa,   Fleshing out the proceedings will be more selections, this time from Harvey’s own 48 Fugues for Frank – actually 10 pieces inspired by a swag of Zappa works.

 

Wednesday August 16

BEETHOVEN

Peter Wispelwey

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Here begins the first of three recitals, under the Recital Centre’s own Great Performers banner, which have the formidable Dutch cellist working through pillars of his instrument’s repertoire in association with pianist Caroline Almonte.  These are lengthy events, and this first one is made even more so by the addition of pieces that are original but a bit of a come-down from the main works.  Wispelwey works through all five of Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas, as well as three sets of variations: the 12 on Mozart’s Ein Madchen oder Weibchen, then 7 on the same opera’s Papageno/Pamina duet Bei Mannern, and another 12 on Handel’s See, the conqu’ring hero comes. This certainly gives value for money and, as far as I can tell, comprises all the composer’s cello/piano output.

 

Thursday August 17

BACH

Peter Wispelwey

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Not a trace of extraneous material tonight.  Wispelwey has the stage to himself as he works in order through the six suites for solo cello.   It will take him a while – three hours, including two intervals – but we (and he, probably) will need the breaks to experience these works with the attention and respect that they deserve.  It’s not as though this sort of marathon hasn’t been presented before; I seem to remember Alfred Hornung doing a Bach marathon many years ago, although that might have been stretched out across a few nights.  But, from what I can remember of Wispelwey’s Bach playing, we’re in for some spectacular and idiosyncratic readings.

 

Friday August 18

BRAHMS

Peter Wispelwey

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

This is the third and most orthodox of the formidable cellist’s programs.  Almonte accompanies him through both the canonic sonatas in E minor and F Major, and also through Paul Klengel’s arrangement of the Violin Sonata No. 1, transposed from G to D.  Well, I suppose it’s a sort of semi-authorised work and, without it, the performers would have under an hour’s worth of material with which to entertain us.  Yet, of all three concerts, this is the one that I find most attractive in that it isn’t a three-hour marathon, however well-intentioned, and the sonatas are works to come back to time and again to re-acquaint yourself with the composer’s expressive depths.  I used to accompany a talented student in them, first for exam purposes, then for sheer pleasure in their catacombs of delight.

 

Friday August 18

GRETA BRADMAN: FOUR LAST SONGS

Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

We can only hope that ANAM runs to a full orchestra on this night because much of the concert relies on opulent sound washes, as well as a concluding bout of spiky dissonance.  Bradman, a highly gifted soprano, simply gets better and better each time she appears, her range of colours more expansive and the power of her voice heightened on each re-acquaintance.  This program is a well-organized retrospective of German late Romantic music and the currents that were running simultaneously with its last harvest.  At the centre come Strauss’s Four Last Songs of 1948, a sequence of lustrously orchestrated farewells with a vocal part of great beauty.  Some commentators find them sentimental but to others they speak of boundless regret and a welcoming embrace of mortality.  Bradman also sings Marietta’s Lied from Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt, written in 1920 and an astonishing success for the 23-year-old composer; the song itself is a post-Rosenkavalier gem with a toweringly fine vocal line. As well, we hear the final scene from Strauss’s Daphne of 1938, which involves the heroine’s transformation into a tree with an intensely difficult postlude for the orchestra.  As for the other near-contemporaneous currents, guest conductor Matthias Foremny directs the suite (the one assembled by Karel Salomon, I assume)  from Weill’s 1933 play-with-lots-of-music Der Silbersee, and he rounds out the seminar with Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony Op. 9 for fifteen instruments which, coming from 1906, is the oldest music of the night in its dating but the most challenging and advanced in purely musical terms.

This program is repeated on Saturday August 19 at 2:30 pm

 

Friday August 18

MSO PLAYS SCHUMANN 3

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Johannes Fritzsch is returning to conduct the last of Schumann’s symphonies and the most appealing to a modern-day audience; not that you get many opportunities to hear any of them these days.  Fritzsch has had successful relationships with the Queensland and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, as well as Opera Australia; his appearances here in my memory started some 12 years ago with Orchestra Victoria and most recently he fronted the MSO in a fair-to-good Mozart/Strauss night.  Soloist for this occasion is popular cellist Li-Wei Qin who gives his all in the Dvorak Concerto, full to the brim with eloquent melodiousness.  The evening’s novelty comes in Manfred Trojahn’s Cinque sogni per Eusebius, written for Dusseldorf in 2010 and comprising five brief meditations devoted to one of Schumann’s artistic personalities in the best schizophrenic E.T.A. Hoffmann mode.

This program will be repeated at 8 pm on Saturday August 19 and at 6:30 pm on Monday August 21.

 

Sunday August 20

THE FOUR Bs!

Team of Pianists

Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

A bit of a stretch; we all know the Three Bs but dragging in Bernstein as No. 4 is a tad cheeky.   In their penultimate recital for the year, the Team will be represented by Robert Chamberlain, while the guests are familiar locals: clarinet Robert Schubert and cello Josephine Vains.  With that personnel, the Beethoven is a giveaway: the Gassenhauer Trio which has been a specialty of Ensemble Liaison.  The Brahms is a predictable entity, too: the A minor Clarinet Trio, one of the luminous works from the composer’s last years.  As for the Bach, this is a straight gamba sonata, the D Major BWV 1028, which the clarinet will presumably sit out.  Bernstein’s work is one most of us will not have encountered: Variations on an Octatonic Scale.  Originally for recorder and cello, here it will appear in its clarinet-cello arrangement and, although I’ve not heard it, I’d assume that the composer will observe his title’s restrictions and employ a scale that moves in alternating tone and semi-tone steps.

 

Saturday August 26

IMOGEN COOPER: AT THE PIANO

Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Back  in Melbourne for a short visit, after recitals up the east coast and Beethoven concerto nights with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, British pianist Imogen Cooper is appearing only once in Melbourne with some of the Academy Musicians in a chamber music evening – a unique occurrence on this tour, I believe.  She begins with the Beethoven Trio Op. 1 No. 1 in E flat. She winds up with Beethoven as well: the Quintet for piano and winds Op. 16 which, unlike the trio, you won’t hear often.  In the middle, Cooper is performing one of the more interesting elements of her current solo recital offerings: Thomas Ades’ Darknesse Visible, a re-working of Dowland’s song, In darkness let me dwell where the original melody is present but your attention is distracted by pointillist interruptions and a constant tremolo.

 

Saturday August 26

THAIS: OPERA IN CONCERT

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Sir Andrew Davis likes Massenet’s opera, it would seem.  For the MSO’s mid-season gala, he will conduct a concert version of this work, from which most of us know only the Meditation: a gift for any pit’s concertmaster.  This opera is yet another one that most of us will not have seen, although I think that at one time its popularity was pretty high.  Oddly enough, Opera Australia will have presented a concert version of the same work a month before this MSO night, but in the Sydney Town Hall which will do nobody any favours, least of all leading lady Nicole Car.  As for Sir Andrew’s singers, the heroine is Erin Wall; one of the conductor’s Lyric Opera of Chicago graduates; she has been heard here in Davis’ reading of the Mahler Symphony No. 2 and singing a highly commendable Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss. Her lover, Athaneal, will be American baritone and Lyric Opera of Chicago regular, Quinn  Kelsey.  The Senior monk in Athaneal’s monastery, Palemon, is formidable Australian bass, Daniel Sumegi.  As Nicias, Athaneal’s sybaritic friend, is young Mexican-born tenor Diego Silva.  Liane Keegan has the role of Albine, the mother superior nun who takes in the reformed Thais, while Jacqueline Porter and Fiona Campbell sing the parts of Nicias’ slaves, Crobyle and Myrtale.  The MSO Chorus will oscillate between sacred and profane crowds as required.  Now to get a score and see what’s coming.

 

Sunday August 27

The Melbourne Musicians

St John’s Southgate at 3 pm

Frank Pam and his string chamber orchestra are hosting three guests this afternoon: oboe Jane Gilby, who is a regular with the Musicians;  Anne Harvey-Nagl, a violinist born in Melbourne but who formed a career in Europe with considerable success; and soprano Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez who appeared with the Musicians last year.  Two composers are programmed: Handel – arias from the oratorios, yet to be specified – and Telemann for whom we are celebrating the 250th anniversary of his death.  Harvey-Nagl will take us through the courtly pleasures of two Telemann concertos, Gilby heads an oboe concerto, both guest instrumentalists combine for a double concerto in C minor, and Lobegeiger de Rodriguez will undertake an Ascension Day cantata: Gott will Mensch und sterblich werden.  Telemann’s cantatas are more modest constructs than Bach’s, usually consisting of two arias connected by a recitative and featuring a solo instrument and continuo under the solo voice – very chaste and probably a relief to congregations of the time.

 

Tuesday August 29

Andrey Gugnin

Camberwell Boys Grammar School at 7:30 pm

Gugnin won the Sydney International Piano Competition in 2016 and is here reaching the end of a tour of Australia – 32 recitals from the last day of June to September 2.  He must be a formidable talent; not only did he get First Prize overall, but also he gained awards for the Best Overall Concerto Award,  Best 19th or 20th Century Concerto, Best Violin and Piano Sonata, and Best Preliminaries Round 1 Recital.  Very laudable, although such a catalogue does smack of Sydney overkill.  He’s Russian-born and has won other competitions in Salt Lake City and Valsesia, as well as second places in Vienna and Zagreb. At Camberwell, he will play a wide-ranging program; his 90-minute one as opposed to a shorter hour-long one.  He starts with Bach, the Adagio BWV 968 which is a transcription of the opening to the composer’s Violin Sonata No. 3.   Well, it’s short.   Completely warmed-up by now, he continues with Schubert’s Gasteiner D Major Sonata and that’s it for the Germans.   His second half turns homeward as he opens with Shostakovich’s Piano Sonata No. 1 from a time when the composer was a really contemporary voice – this piece bristling with difficulty and aggression.  Leonid Desyatnikov is a less familiar Russian voice; a notable film and opera composer, he is here represented by his seven Reminiscences of the Theatre.  A sudden interruption to the Slavic mode comes with one of Michael Kieran Harvey’s 48 Fugues for Frank (see August 12 above): No. 6 of the ten, G-Spot Tornado.  And, in case you haven’t had enough fireworks, Gugnin closes up shop with the Three Movements from Petrushka that Stravinsky organised for his cobber, Arthur Rubinstein.   90 minutes, eh?

 

Thursday August 31

TANGO

Ensemble Liaison

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Not a great fan of the tango; perhaps suffering from a Clive James overload.  Still, you live and learn with concerts like these and it will be a pleasure to hear accordionist James Crabb again; last time in town, I believe he was collaborating with Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, although that seems a long time ago.  With the Liaisoners, his sound envelope is smaller but more ‘pure’, as they say in Tangoland.  Of course, there is a swag of Piazzolla as arranged by Crabb himself: Milonga del Angel, La Muerta del Angel, Romance del Diablo, Vayamos al Diablo – all revenants from the ACO/Crabb Piazzolla disc of 2003.  John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango is for the Liaison personnel configuration but will require the additional services of a violin; in this case, Paul Wright.  Another tango emerges in Desde adentro by Antonio Agri and Jose Carli – another Crabb arrangement although the version I’ve heard asks for string quintet and piano as well as accordion. Away from the Latin, we hear some Scottish folk dances mediated by Crabb, and his arrangement of Franck’s organ work, Prelude, Fugue and Variation.  And the night begins with Liaison leader David Griffiths’ arrangement of Five Bagatelles for string trio and harmonium by Dvorak; the organizational mechanics should be entertaining.

 

Thursday August 31

SIR ANDREW DAVIS UNCOVERS BRUCKNER 7

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Skipping sideways from his Mahler conducting odyssey with the MSO, Sir Andrew has decided to unveil for us the world of Bruckner through the Symphony No. 7 in E Major.  Not only will he direct the performance – a touch over an hour long – but he will give us an illustrated (musically) lecture in the concert’s first half, which could be either great or gruesome.  What remains a puzzle is why the conductor feels the need to educate us; the work itself has been standard in the repertoire for many years and, if local performances are rare, recorded ones of the various versions are thick on the ground, including one by Davis with the BBC Symphony Orchestra of nearly 20 years ago.  Nevertheless, the score holds a wealth of melody and transubstantiations, so I’m expecting a thoroughly detailed 35 minutes of profound exegesis.

This program will be repeated at 8 pm on Friday September 1  and at 2 pm on Saturday September 2.

 

 

 

 

July Diary

Wednesday July 5

THE NATIONALISTS

Seraphim Trio

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

For some reason best known to themselves, the members of this piano trio are mounting two of their three annual subscription series recitals in one week.  Tonight, their review of the music written for their specific format focuses on two pillars of the repertoire: Brahms No. 1 in B and Dvorak’s Dumky No. 4.  Most of us who know the Seraphims’ work will have heard them perform these two scores at least once over the years (getting on for 24 of them) since they began collaborating;  what keeps your interest level afloat is hearing how their experiences as professionals have influenced what they find in this well-known music.  They play in the Salon and without an interval – a real study in concentration. And, while the Nationalist label sits comfortably with Dvorak, especially in this score, it’s not so easy to find much local colour in the moving broad strophes of the Brahms work.

 

Friday July 7

THE MODERNS

Seraphim Trio

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Two days on from their last recital, this ensemble moves into new territory with some modern compositions for the piano trio.  Well, the descriptor is a generous one: the Shostakovich E minor Trio dates from 1944, Ravel’s A minor masterpiece was written over a century ago, and Sculthorpe’s Irkanda III is now 56 years old.  Once again, the players are heading for the heights with the Russian and French works, indispensable elements in any trio’s knapsack and – again – Seraphim patrons will have heard both from the group several times before.  The Sculthorpe inclusion is intriguing; it’s not a long piece, lasting about 6 minutes, but it rarely enjoys an airing.  Let’s hope it stands up for itself in this distinguished company.

 

Saturday July 8

Sitkovetsky Trio

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Last time this group visited under the Musica Viva aegis in 2014, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and his pianist wife Wu Qian were in company with cellist Leonard Elschenbroich, who seems to have been with the group since the trio’s inauguration. From July last year, the family duo also enjoyed the services of Danjulo Ishizaka for recitals in London, Cheltenham, the Rheingau Music Festival, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Wimbledon and Leeds.  Somewhere along the line, Ishizaka has been replaced and this time round, Sitkovetsky and Wu Qian’s collaborator is Bartholomew Lafollette; the relationship seems to be very fresh.  The musicians play Rachmaninov’s first Trio Elegiaque (the one with only a single movement), Mendelssohn  in D minor, Shostakovich in E minor a day after the Seraphims have performed it, and young Australian composer Lachlan Skipworth’s Piano Trio, commissioned by Julian Burnside for Musica Viva and, as far as I can find out, not heard since its premiere in 2015 at Verbrugghen Hall.

This program will be repeated on Tuesday July 18.

 

Friday July 14

MSO PLAYS EINE KLEINE  NACHTMUSIK

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

This program kicks off a Mozart festival with an emphasis on the composer’s more well-known scores.   Yes, tonight features yet another run-through of the famous serenade, conducted by British keyboard performer/conductor Richard Eggar, last seen here two years ago with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.  I’d assume that Eggar will personally begin with the promised harpsichord piece from K. 1, then moving with the MSO into the three-movement  Symphony No. 1 in E flat.  Soprano Jacqueline Porter takes the solo line in that joyously elegant motet Exsultate, jubilate, before concertmaster Eoin Andersen stands up for the Adagio in E Major for Violin and Orchestra K. 261.  Eggar finishes with the Paris Symphony No. 31.  So this first instalment gives us works written between the composer’s 5th year and his 31st; we’re told to expect the unexpected – I can’t wait.

 

Saturday July 15

MSO PLAYS MOZART 40

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Night Two of the Mozart Festival and Richard Eggar is still conducting.  The guest soloist is fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout who has appeared almost three weeks before this in a Mozart/Schumann program for the Australian Chamber Orchestra (small-scale) at the Recital Centre.  Tonight, he is playing your old-fashioned piano in the Concerto No. 23 in A Major.  The program begins with the Chaconne from Idomeneo and  the great G minor Symphony is preceded by the Masonic Funeral Music of 1785.  In fact, all of this music stretches across the 1780s decade, all of it with sombre echoes, even in the mellifluous concerto’s F sharp minor Adagio/Andante.

 

Sunday July 16

ASIAN WINDS AND A WATER SPRITE

Team of Pianists

Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

This program features musicians unknown to me: flautist Chie Haur Foo, principal with the Malaysian National Symphony Orchestra; bassoonist Teng Aik Lim, principal with the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra and Selangor Symphony Orchestra; and Penang-based pianist Zhang Chi, a one-time student of the Team’s Darryl Coote.  As whenever two or more woodwind players are gathered together, the music for this night tends towards the eclectic.  I’ve never heard Saint-Saens Bassoon Sonata, one of the composer’s last works, and will probably never hear it again.  On the other hand, Prokofiev’s Flute Sonata Op. 94 is very familiar.   Zhang Chi holds the Team’s banner high for a taxing solo with Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, and all three artists come together for Three miniatures Song, Dialogue in the dark, Journey –  by German-American composer Tim Jansa; not a music with any great pretensions but well-constructed for the required forces.

 

Friday July 21

MOZART’S REQUIEM

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Getting towards the end of this festival,  Richard Eggar conducts the myth-status unfinished Mass with a clutch of top-rank local soloists: soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo Fiona Campbell, tenor Andrew Goodwin, bass Christopher Richardson  –  almost the same group that sang in the MSO’s October 2015 performance of this work under Benjamin Northey, when the tenor was Henry Choo.   The orchestra’s principal, David Thomas, will front the unparalleled Clarinet Concerto and the evening begins with the Overture to La clemenza di Tito.  All of these were written in the last months of the composer’s life, from September to December 1791; as a programmatic job-lot, they offer a riveting musical portrait of this flawed man and faultless musician.

 

Saturday July 22

AMADEUS LIVE IN CONCERT

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7 pm.

To end its Mozart Festival, the MSO will play the soundtrack to Milos Forman’s celebrated film.   Benjamin Northey will conduct.   It’s hard to know how this will go.   Certainly, there are passages that will work well enough where the music is used as instrumental backdrop.   But what of scenes like Kostanze’s aria at the premiere of Il seraglio? And later, how will the musicians negotiate the excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni?  The Two-Pianos Concerto extract?  Or will everybody just sit back and let the film soundtrack play?  The MSO Chorus will be on-site for the final scenes where the Requiem is laboured over by the dying composer and his predatory colleague.  I’ve got no brief for the film itself (or Shaffer’s play, for that matter) but the American actors impress for the obvious relish they take in the action’s posturing and sentiment.  While there’s no denying the truth of Mozart’s crude side, the film gives you no explanation of the genius who wrote the masterpieces we have enjoyed in the preceding concerts of this festival.

This program will be repeated on Sunday July 23 at 1 pm.

 

Thursday July 20

CONCERT GRAND

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm

MCO director William Hennessy and his players host pianist Lucinda Collins, Senior Lecturer at the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide.   She is soloist in Mozart’s Concerto No. 17 in G, notable for an uncharacteristically cramped middle movement and a rollicking finale in variation form.  Hennessy ends with the Beethoven Symphony No. 1, mirroring the good humour found in the concerto.  As a built-in encore, Collins will also play the Adagio in E Major from Mendelssohn’s A minor Piano Concerto, dating from the composer’s 13th year.  And the night opens with some unspecified Debussy Book 1 Preludes arranged by Goran W. Nilson, the Swedish conductor/pianist.  I can trace four of them in Nilson’s catalogue: Les sons et parfums tournent dans l’air du soir, La serenade interrompue, La fille aux cheveux de lin and Minstrels – so I assume these are the ones we’ll be enjoying.  An odd selection but intriguing to hear how they work in transcription.

This program will also be performed on Sunday July 23 in the Melbourne Recital Centre at 2:30 pm.

 

Thursday July 27

BENJAMIN NORTHEY CONDUCTS ENIGMA

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Getting used to the MSO’s quiet pursuit of the cult of personality: Benjamin Northey Conducts . . . . , Nicholas Carter Conducts . . . , Sir Andrew Davis Conducts . . . . as if they’d do anything else.   Tonight,  Northey conducts Elgar’s evergreen Variations as a solid wind-up.   Just before, though, he takes the players (some of them) through the composer’s brief Sospiri, a pre-World War One adagio for strings, harp and organ.  The all-French first half starts with Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1, organised by Guiraud which takes us from the Act 1 Prelude up to the Toreadors’ Entry in Act IV.   Kristian Chong will be soloist in Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor which opens up with a Lisztian cadenza and rarely lets the pianist off the hook; an exhilarating ride for us all, if a demanding marathon for Chong.

This program will be repeated on Friday July 28.

 

Saturday July 29

TURANGALILA-SYMPHONIE

Australian World Orchestra and the Australian National Academy of Music

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

A gala occasion as the World comes to town: an ad hoc orchestra of professional Australians from the nation’s capital city orchestras and other musicians who are now working overseas – all coming to Melbourne for a big night out.  In this case, the conductor is Simone Young; one of the better-known names from Australia at work in foreign climes.  There is only one work: Messiaen’s massive symphony, for which the younger set from ANAM will help swell the forces to reach the numbers required.  A phenomenally difficult piano part will be taken on by ANAM veteran Timothy Young and the Ondes Martenot – the composer’s aural depiction of orgasm – will be in and under the hands of another one-time ANAM musician: keyboardist/composer Jacob Abela.  You rarely hear this work live; in my time, I’ve heard it only twice.  Mind you, the first time I saw/heard it, an elderly gentleman sitting diagonally opposite on the aisle was following his score with avid interest throughout the performance, shuffling back and forth through its pages as though he’d forgotten to remember something important.  At the end, he went up onto the Hamer Hall stage.  It was, of course, Messiaen on his solitary Australian visit.

 

June Diary

Thursday June 1

STEFAN DOHR: SERENADE

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

MIGRATION

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

TRIO ALBA

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

ENSEMBLE MODERN: TRAILBLAZING

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

ZAPPA: YELLOW SHARK

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

HAYDN’S CREATION

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

SONGS OF THE NIGHT

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

SCHUBERT, SHOSTAKOVICH AND BEYOND

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

SCHUBERT GALA WITH TIMO-VEIKKO VALVE

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

CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN

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

MSO PLAYS PASTORAL

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

SCINTILLATINGLY SCANDINAVIAN

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

INTIMATE MOZART

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

MSO PLAYS DAS LIED VON DER ERDE

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May Diary

Thursday May 4

BETWEEN STRINGS

Katapult

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

A kick-off for the Metropolis New Music Festival, this program comes from ‘ a trio of internationally acclaimed soloists’ and is part of a Festival sub-set called the Resonant Bodies Festival.  As far as the actual players go, they include Dylan Lardelli, Lizzy Welsh, Laura Moore, and an extra body in Eric Lamb.  Lardelli is a New Zealand-born guitarist; Welsh is a Melbourne resident and is practised on both violin and baroque violin; Moore is a Sydney-based baroque cello and gamba specialist.  The outsider, Lamb, is an American flautist.   As for their program, there’s a new work by Lardelli, as yet unnamed; Melbourne son Vincent Giles’ silver as catalyst in inorganic reactions and also an apparent spin-off, . . . of sediment; New Zealand musician (I think) Nancy Haliburton’s Music for Guitar; another unnamed piece by Chris Watson, the senior British composer (again, I think); and Austrian conductor Roland Freisitzer’s Music for Eric Lamb of 2015.  It’s a lot to fit into an hour but variety is the spice of new music recitals.

 

Thursday May 4

Metropolis 1

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

The MSO’s contribution to this festival seems to have shrunk behind my back to two programs instead of three.  And the definition of ‘new music’ also  has undergone something of a sea-change.  This night opens with a gem from the orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence, Elena Kats-Chernin: her re-version of the Prelude and Toccata from Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo.  To balance this, the C-i-R has produced a real new work for the occasion in Ancient Letters, although the title suggests a provenance older than the late Renaissance.   Conductor Brett Kelly (or is it Mahan Esfahani, who shares leadership duties and is apparently making a harpsichord contribution?) will revive Brett Dean’s Carlo, the Australian composer’s 20-year-old monument to the murderous Prince of Venosa.   Guest soloist Joseph Tawadros fronts his fresh Oud Concerto and the night is rounded by Boulez’s 1985 Dialogue de l’ombre double, a stunning near-20 minute solo, here in an authorized version for the night’s second/third? soloist, recorder player Erik Bosgraaf, the performer reacting as he moves across the music stands to a pre-recorded tape of himself.

 

Thursday May 4

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

This ensemble is here for the first time ever, so I know nothing about them.  Not that they’re spreading their riches lavishly; just the one program performed for one night here, the following night in Sydney, and it’s home, James.   Their conductor is Jaap van Zweden, who is shortly going to take up a post as chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic as well.   The program is not exactly breaking new ground, apart from a work by one of the orchestra’s composers-in-residence, Fung Lam; Quintessence was premiered in 2014 and has been performed by the HK Philharmonic every year since. The main work is Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and guest Ning Feng, with his MacMillan Stradivarius, fronts the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4.

 

Friday May 5

LA SONNAMBULA

Victorian Opera

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

VO is making a habit of  Bellini concert stagings  –  Norma and I Puritani in previous seasons  –   so we’re inured to the disbelief suspensions required for this smaller-framed masterpiece.   Jessica Pratt sings Amina and here’s hoping she has a happier time than she endured in the company’s Lucia di Lammermoor.  Another survivor from the Donizetti, Carlos Enrique Barcenas, has the role of the sleepwalking heroine’s fiance, Elvino;  Greta Bradman is the advantage-seeking  innkeeper  Lisa; Paolo Pecchioli features as the nobleman with the revolving bedroom door, Count Rodolfo, while Roxane Hislop appears as the heroine’s foster-mother, Teresa.  As yet, I can’t find details of who will take the role of Alessio, the song-writer who has the misfortune to be devoted to Lisa.   Richard Mills conducts and this is a one-night only presentation scheduled to last three hours, which seems pretty excessive unless the interval is a gargantuan one.

 

Saturday May 6

THE THINGS THAT BIND US

Latitude 37

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

In an unexpected change of repertoire, this period music trio takes on a contemporary field as part of the recitals in this year’s Metropolis New Music Festival.    The players cast a wide net, with music from Iceland, the UK and America, as well as New Zealand and Australia.  Two works from Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir will enjoy an airing: Clockworking for violin, viola, cello and electronics will present the players with a how-many-of-us-are-there challenge, while Sleeping Pendulum calls for only a violin and an electronics operator.   The music is pleasant enough – starkly folksy, if anything.   David Chisholm’s 2011 Trick fits Latitude’s personnel, as far as I can hear;  for bass viol alone comes Lines Curved Rivers Mirrored from 2014 by British writer Edmund Finnis; then follows the delightfully named Slow Twitchy Organs by that brilliant American arranger, Nico Muhly – I’ve heard Fast Twitchy Organs which is electronics only, I think, but not this one; New Zealand’s John Psathas is represented by a piano solo, Waiting for the Aeroplane from 1988, close to the first thing he wrote; Australian Brooke Green’s Reza Barati is a 2016 elegy for the Iranian refugee killed on Manus Island, written for gamba solo, viol consort and drum; and finally comes the work that gives the night its title, a 2013 piece by Australian Luke Howard for organ, violin and gamba.

 

Saturday May 6

METROPOLIS 2

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

A night of excess; there’s too much here.  Brett Kelly conducts but Mahan Esfahani is also billed as ‘play conductor’.  We begin with Ligeti: the Passacaglia ungherese for solo mean-tempered harpsichord (Esfahani).  Which is followed by Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 6 (the Brandenburg No 4 re-arranged).  A recorder concerto by Dutch composer Willem Jeths will enjoy its Australian premiere from Erik Bosgraaf, its dedicatee.  A Vivaldi violin concerto in A minor has been transcribed for oud by the ubiquitous Joseph Tawadros who presents it tonight; British composer Anna Meredith’s Origami Songs, also written for Bosgraaf, end the program.   And somewhere in the middle come two works from the Cybec Twentieth Century Composers Program earlier this year: Ade Vincent’s The Secret Motion of Things, and Connor D’Netto’s Singular Movement.

 

Saturday May 6

FRAGMENTS

Alicia Crossley

Melbourne Recital Centre at 10 pm

This is the Metropolis New Music Festival’s last gasp and it features a solo artist in recorder player Alicia Crossley.   She kicks off with Bach – the whole G Major Cello Suite arranged for one of her instruments.  Another familiar name is Debussy whose Syrinx for solo flute will also be moved across to a new/old medium.  From her own recording Addicted to Bass from 2015, Crossley performs Andrew Batt-Rawden’s E and Mark Oliveiro’s Calliphora, both for bass recorder and electronics.  Johann George Tromlitz, a contemporary of Haydn, was a flute master of that time; Crossley performs one of his partitas as well as contemporary Dutch writer Jacob Ter Veldhuis’ 2003 work for oboe and ‘soundtrack’, The Garden of Love.  This last, the Bach, Debussy and Tromlitz have also been recorded by Crossley on the Move Records label.

 

Sunday May 7

ACO SOLOISTS

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

Eschewing the attractions of visitors, the ACO uses its own people as front-runners for this latest program in the national subscription series.  Satu Vanska is director in her husband’s absence and she takes solo responsibilities in Locatelli’s Harmonic Labyrinth Violin Concerto in D Major.   Glen Christensen partners her in Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor for Two Violins and Cello, that bottom line taken by principal Timo-Veikko Valve, who also gets exposure in an arrangement of Debussy’s Cello Sonata.  The program ends with Mendelssohn’s Beethoven-quoting String Quartet No. 2 in a string orchestra arrangement.  The odd men out are a new work, as yet unnamed, by Western Australian-based James Ledger, and an Andante for Strings, the slow movement from the String Quartet of 1931 by American innovator Ruth Crawford Seeger, Pete’s step-mother.

This program is repeated on Monday May 8 at 7:30 pm

 

Thursday May 11

BENJAMIN NORTHEY CONDUCTS SIBELIUS 2

Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Well, the youngish Australian conductor studied in Finland, so we’re expecting something of an affinity for this most popular of the composer’s seven symphonies; not that studying there or even being a Finn gives you much of an edge in these internationalist days.   The night’s first half is all-Beethoven: the Coriolan Overture, then the Emperor Piano Concerto in E flat where Stefan Cassomenos is entrusted with the solo part.   I suppose this last is what will bring in the punters and hopefully justifies the MSO presenting this Prom (or have they discarded that nomenclature?) on two consecutive nights.

This program will be repeated on Friday May 12 at 7:30 pm.

 

Saturday May 13

BAROQUE JOINS THE CIRCUS 2

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra/Circa

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed the last collaboration between the Brandenburgers and the Circa troupe in a French Baroque program, part of the orchestra’s 2015 season.  The focus has moved south this time round to Spain and, while actual details are currently lacking, the program will include works by Monteverdi, Falconieri, Kapsberger, Merula and Cazzati – none of whom, as far as I can see, ever visited Spain.  The orchestra has mined its own Tapas CD, which features tracks of music by each of the above-mentioned composers.  But then, most of the time your attention is focused on the acrobats and their extraordinary feats.

This program will be repeated on Sunday May 14 at 5 pm

 

Saturday May 13

TOGNETTI: PENDERECKI & BRAHMS

Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Taking up a residency at the National Academy, Richard Tognetti directs a program split in two.  He concludes operations with the Brahms Symphony No. 1, that much-deferred and well-worth-the-wait product of the composer’s 43rd year.  By way of a lead-in, the ANAM forces perform Penderecki’s 1961 composition for 48 strings, Polymorphia, and the more famous Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, written a year earlier for 52 strings.   In between the Polish master’s works comes Jonny Greenwood’s 48 Responses to Polymorphia, a construction that the Radiohead personality wrote in collaboration with Penderecki.   All very neat, concise and inter-related but you’ll need the interval to carry out some mental gear-changes, swerving from 40 minutes of mid-20th century (pace Greenwood’s 2011 homage) experimentation to late 19th century conservatism.

 

Tuesday May 16

Angela Hewitt

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Of course, there’s Bach: two partitas – No. 1 in B flat and No. 4 in D: well-known quantities just waiting for the clarifying exposition of this expert performer.   It’s a solid dose; Hewitt’s reading of both adds up to about 40 minutes’ worth.  Then comes a selection of Scarlatti sonatas, as yet unspecified but you’d expect about six of them, probably extracts from the pianist’s Hyperion album of 16.  Hewitt vaults across time for a bit less than 20 minutes of French music in  Ravel’s Sonatine and Chabrier’s Bouree fantasque, both also recorded on Hyperion.   Oh well, you play to your strengths but, for the dedicated fan, there’s nothing new here.

Angela Hewitt will perform a second program on Saturday May 20 at 7 pm, including Bach’s Partitas 2 and 4, and two Beethoven sonatas: No 2 in C minor and the Moonlight C sharp minor.

 

Saturday May 20

MSO + JAMES MORRISON

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

After a day-time effort for the younger set (Fri May 19 at 10:30 am for Years 7-12), this is an event for those aged over 13 and ‘all  adult lovers of jazz’.   Trumpet veteran James Morrison, one of the most recognized characters in the field, is the focus on this limited odyssey of a night.  For the jazz/classical fogies, Benjamin Northey conducts the MSO in Gershwin’s tone-poem An American in Paris and the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story.   The rest is less substantial, although covering a wide ambit.  There’s Spencer Williams’ Basin Street Blues of 1928,  Ray Henderson’s The Birth of the Blues from two years earlier, Benny Goodman’s Seven Come Eleven for his own sextet in 1939, and Cat Anderson’s El Gato, written for Duke Ellington and the Newport Festival of 1958  –  a real test for Morrison.   Other items will be Miles Davis’ All Blues, also from 1958; an Afro-Cuban classic, Manteca, by Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo and Gill Fuller; Weather Report‘s Joe Zawinul’s classic 1977 fusion gem and homage to Charlie Parker, Birdland; then back to 1931 for Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing.   Pretty comfortable listening, nothing too confrontational and experimental, but then the night has to showcase Morrison’s trumpet and much of this will carry out that mission very well.

 

Sunday May 21

SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE

Team of Pianists

Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

With an obvious Scotch touch and a promised Australian twist, this night in the National Trust stately home’s ballroom stars three singers  – Icon Trio –  and the Team’s own Robert Chamberlain.   Soprano Justine Anderson and mezzos Vivien Hamilton and Jeannie Marsh will lilt their various ways through Ye Banks and Braes, Charlie is my Darlin’, the Eriskay Love Lilt and a few other songs that generally lie undisturbed in the Caledonian ersatz-folk musical crypt.   As well, there’ll be no forgetting Beethoven, who arranged more than his fair share of Scottish airs for sundry vocal combinations.  And contemporary Scottish lights get a guernsey or three; first, the  prolific John Maxwell Geddes will have three extracts from his Lasses, Love and Life song-cycle expounded; we’ll hear two pieces from another cycle  –  William Sweeney’s five-part Luminate: from the Islands; the genders remain imbalanced despite the presence of three excerpts from Claire Liddell’s Five Orkney Scenes; Chamberlain gets to play music by Manchester-born Peter Maxwell Davies and the nationalistic drum beats loud with some more keyboard scraps from Percy Grainger.  Oh, and there’ll be a few Burns recitations to ram the message home.

 

Thursday May 25

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN

Melba Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

What you see is all you’ll get  –  or is it?  The Recital Centre’s handbook promises a two-hour program in the Salon but the only work scheduled is the great Schubert quartet.  For the sum of $199, you and a select group of 64 others will also enjoy preliminary canapes and Narkoojee Winery drinks before and after the performance, an introductory address from the organisation’s executive director Richard Jackson, and the opportunity to mingle with the performers (violinists William Hennessy and Elinor Lee, violist Keith Crellin and cellist Janis Laurs) after they have expended their energies on one of the most draining works in the chamber music repertoire.   As they say in the world of PR, enjoy.

 

Thursday May 25

MSO PLAYS PETRUSHKA

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Bramwell Tovey, that amiable British pianist/conductor/raconteur, is back in town for a night of Russian music, more or less.  There’s no denying the provenance of Stravinsky’s great ballet of 1911, written before the composer said goodbye to his motherland for many decades; of course, this is the 1947 revision, carried out from the physical safety if copyright badlands of the United States.   The best-known Russian piano concerto, Tchaikovsky No. 1 in B flat minor, will enjoy the services of Cuban-born Spanish resident Jorge Luis Prats who I believe is performing here for the first time.   He is of an age with Tovey so I’m expecting a steady two pairs of hands on the score.   Russian at one remove, Elena Kats-Chernin is this year’s Composer in Residence with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.   To celebrate her position, she has produced Big Rhap and tonight will be its world premiere.  The Tashkent-born composer can always be relied on for accessibility.

This program is to be repeated in Costa Hall Geelong on Friday May 26 at 7:30 pm, and again back in Hamer Hall on Saturday May 27 at 2 pm.

 

Saturday May 27

STEFAN DOHR: FANFARE & FANTASIES

Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Dohr has been principal horn with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for 24 years, which is testament to his enduring ability and sense of service – although, once you have a job like that, where else can you go?   He is taking the Academy brass musicians (and others) through a program of ten segments, beginning with the famous and uplifting Fanfare from Dukas’ ballet, La Peri, followed by some more Dukas in the horn test-piece Villanelle arranged with brass accompaniment.   Thierry de Mey’s Table Music, where three or more performers percussionize on available table-tops, provides a break, after which the Belgian-French fin de siecle ambience continues with Trois Melodies by Debussy, arranged for trombone quartet.   Slovenian composer Vito Zuraj jolts us back to de Mey territory with his Quiet Please from 2014, a construct for three brass mouthpieces.    Back where we belong come Henri Tomasi’s Fanfares liturgiques – well, the final Good Friday Procession from this 1947 suite for brass, timpani and drums.   No concert of this nature would be complete with Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, derived from the splendid Third Symphony.   Chou Wen-Chung’s Soliloquy of a Bhiksuni for trumpet solo, brass octet and three percussionists continues the American connection briefly, only to have the night wrenched back to the mainstream with a Tristan Fantasie involving 6 horns, which I assume will offer a digest of the Wagner opera’s main points of interest.  But finally, The Great Satan has the last word with a suite from Bernstein’s West Side Story – arranged for brass and percussion, of course.

 

Monday May 29

Nikolai Demidenko

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Two composers only on this program – Scarlatti and Schubert.   Like Angela Hewitt (see above – Tuesday May 16), Demidenko has recorded some of the sonatas – 39 on two albums – so he’s got a lot to choose from.  As with Hewitt, at the time of writing, which ones he will perform has not been determined; well, not to the stage of telling us.   He has also recorded one of his Schuberts – the A flat Impromptu from Op. 90.   But the big C minor Sonata, one of the great final three from the composer’s last months, is a fresh offering.  Mind you, I’d be content to hear this musician play even his beloved Medtner live; like Garrick Ohlsson, he enriches us by the insight and devotion he invests in large-scale and small works alike.

 

 

 

April Diary

Sun April 2

BACH VIOLIN CONCERTOS

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

That’s mainly what Richard Tognetti and his cohorts are offering: three of the violin concertos.  As far as I can work out, the man himself is soloist in the E Major No. 2, the one that starts with three chords and was later transposed by Bach for harpsichord soloist. Then, I think Tognetti will collaborate with Helena Rathbone in the D minor Double Concerto, forever associated in my memory with Oistrakh father and son – a performance that defies improvement.   Adding Satu Vanska to the mix, the Three Violin Concerto emerges, a reconstruction of the Three Harpsichords Concerto  BWV 1064.  And Tognetti offers some arrangements – the rapid-fire Preludio from the E Major Violin Partita and the E flat Cello Suite’s Sarabande.  Putting some Classical-era flesh into the stew are two Haydn symphonies  –  The Philosopher No. 22 and the G Major No. 27, both written about a decade-and-a-bit after Bach’s death; presumably inserted here on the principle that you can have a bit too much Bach.

This program will be repeated on Monday April 3 at 7:30 pm.

 

Friday April 7

MATTHEW McDONALD: ON THE DOUBLE

Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

This musician is principal with the Berlin Philharmonic, so he’d be expert in knowing what his instrument can do beyond Bottesini show-pieces and the Mahler Symphony No. 1 slow movement.  He begins with Mozart’s marvellous flight of fancy, the Serenata Notturna with a bass forming part of the concertino.  The evening concludes with Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, which has a prominent bass role in the 7th movement, Vivo.  In the centre comes Francaix’s Mozart new-look, a 1981 bagatelle for bass and wind instruments based on the Don Giovanni serenade, Deh vieni alla finestra.  Then McDonald centres the solid four-movement Divertimento concertante by Nino Rota.  As well, he outlines some tangos arranged by bassist Peter Grans called Memories from the City of Turku which, in the version I’ve seen, involves only a quartet of basses.

 

Sunday April 9

FIERY FINGERS AND LILTING LOVE SONGS

Team of Pianists

Rippon Lea at 6:30 pm

Beginning its yearly series at the National Trust mansion in Elsternwick, the Team hosts a vocal quartet  –  soprano Cleo Lee-McGowan, mezzo Shakira Dugan, tenor Michael Petruccelli, bass Daniel Carison – in the Brahms Neue Liebeslieder Walzer which I haven’t heard live for many years.   In fact, I can’t recall the singers from the last time but I’m pretty sure that TOP musicians were involved at that recital in the unusual surrounds of 101 Collins Street’s foyer/atrium.  The piano four-hands accompaniment on this night will be provided by senior partners Max Cooke and Darryl Coote.  One of the Team’s products, Kevin Suherman, will play some piano solos: the first two Chopin Scherzi, Rachmaninov’s arrangements of Kreisler’s Liebeslied and Liebesfreud, and Carl Vine’s Five Bagatelles of 1994, the year of Suherman’s birth.  Cooke and Coote are also playing Debussy’s Petite Suite in its original four-hands version.

 

Wednesday April 12

EMMA MATTHEWS

Elizabeth Murdoch Hall

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Appearing here in the MRC’s Great Performers series, the Australian soprano is working in collaboration with UK pianist/conductor/repetiteur Richard Hetherington.  She starts out well enough with three Schubert lieder (Gretchen am Spinnrade, Du bist die Ruh, An die Musik), followed by a bit of Richard Strauss in Morgen!   But then the operatic temptation proves too much.   She has programmed Bellini’s Ah, non giunge (La Sonnambula), the Mad Scene from that same composer’s Hamlet, Donizetti’s O luce di quest’ anima (Linda di Chamounix),  Bernstein’s Glitter and Be Gay (Candide),  Lehar’s Meine Lippen sie kussen (Giuditta). Victor Herbert’s Art is calling for me (The Enchantress), Kern’s All the Things You Are (Very Warm for May), and a stand-alone from Flanders and Swann: A word on my ear.  It’s rather like the sort of program that Sutherland used to give: a potpourri  with thrilling moments, although I never warmed to arias with piano accompaniment.  What do I know? This will probably be a house-full night.

 

Friday 14 April

ST. JOHN PASSION

Melbourne Bach Choir and Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 3 pm

Last year about this time, the Bach-centric organization presented a fine interpretation of the St. Matthew Passion.  So why not essay another main pillar of the Easter season in the composer’s liturgical chain?   Again, conductor Rick Prakhoff has acquired the services of Andrew Goodwin as his Evangelist – a standout artist in this genre.  Warwick Fyfe resumes the Christus role.  Lorina Gore returns for the soprano arias; Henry Choo takes on the tenor contributions once more; Jeremy Kleeman is turning up for his second year with bass responsibilities.   As well, Prakhoff’s choir is a formidable group, well prepared and capable of striking empathy with those intensely moving chorales that punctuate the work.  As last year, the concert is being given on Good Friday; it shouldn’t make a difference to your reception, but somehow it does.  I’m hoping for another red letter performance along the same lines as in March 2016.

 

Friday April 21

CARMINA BURANA

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Here is the Big Daddy of 20th century choral works, Carl Orff’s percussive and modernist version of medieval Latin/German/Provencal poems, involving three soloists, three choirs and a massive orchestra.  The opening strophes are part of the lexicon of modern advertising, very familiar to audiences the world over.  The music is very attractive, packed with singable melodies and striking illustrative effects, although its modernity has always been a vexed question: it occupies a layer of popular barbarism some streets away from the worlds of more serious composers, and these Carmina are the only pieces by the composer that you hear these days.  Soprano soloist is Eva Kong, the much-tested tenor is John Longmuir, and Warwick Fyfe sings the baritone part.  All are artists with Opera Australia. Yu Long from the China Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras conducts and the MSO Chorus is assisted by the National Boys Choir.  As a filler, the MSO will play Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, beginning with a magical Daybreak scene and ending in one of music’s most erotically suggestive General Dances.

This program will be repeated on Saturday April 22 at 8 pm and on Monday April 24 at 6:30 pm.

 

Saturday April 29

IN HONOUR OF LIFE: 20TH CENTURY SELECTIONS

Ensemble Gombert

Xavier College Chapel at 5:30

To begin a rather shorter year than usual in its Xavier series, this exemplary vocal group is taking on some unusual near-contemporary works, leaving till last one of the greatest in Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir, last sung here in July 2016 by the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge in a perception-sharpening, elegant interpretation.  Leading up to this challenge, John O’Donnell takes his singers through American composer/conductor Steven Sametz’s in time of, an e e cummings setting in its 1997 a cappella version for that fine group Chanticleer; Sametz is the only writer on this program who is still alive.  English musician John McCabe is represented by his double-choir Motet of 1979 to verses by the Irish poet John Clarence Mangan; this musician’s compositions are rarely heard here – in fact, my main memory of him is as a pianist working through Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis in the great days of the Port Fairy Music Festival under the late lamented Michael Easton. Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch’s Three Sonnets of John Donne sets some familiar lines in Batter my heart, Oh my blacke Soule! and Death be not proud – all in a simple SATB format.  Czech composer Antonin Tucapsky’s In honorem vitae suite of five madrigals on texts by Horace is also written for 4-part choir.

 

Sunday April 30

BEYOND BAROQUE

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 2:30 pm

Principal violist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Christopher Moore will be the soloist here with the Telemann Concerto in G Major and a reconstruction by Wilfried Fischer of Bach’s E Major Keyboard/Violin Concerto (see above the Australian Chamber Orchestra on April 2/3).  Director William Hennessy surrounds these with a C. P. E. Bach Sinfonia in E minor, arranged for strings alone and called by the strange sobriquet Fandango, which I can’t hear in it.  Another Telemann piece, the Volker-Ouverture, is bracketed with the composer’s viola concerto; the overture-suite gives mini-pictures of the French (by means of two minuets), Turks, Swiss, Muscovites, and Portuguese before throwing the game away and ending with musical portraits of non-nationalistic types in Les boiteux (hobblers) and Les coureurs (runners).   Spreading the family joy around will be eldest son W. F. Bach’s Sinfonia in F Major which adds a pair of minuets to the normal three-movement structure.

This program will be repeated on Thursday May 4 in the Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm

 

 

 

March Diary

Wednesday March 1

THE ROMANTICS

Seraphim Trio

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

It’s been quite a while – well, a year –  since I heard this piano trio in action.  To their credit, the musicians persist in presenting recital series despite their involvement in full-time careers: pianist Anna Goldsworthy at the Elder Conservatorium, cellist Timothy Nankervis among the Sydney Symphony Orchestra cellos, and violist Helen Ayres doing guest duties with the London Philharmonic.   For this Salon appearance, the program is mainstream: Beethoven’s Ghost and Mendelssohn in D minor.  Fine, although the musicians are falling back on repertoire that is all-too-familiar to them and to their audience, works that the trio has been playing throughout its 23-year-long career.  This is the second of a four-part series in which each recital holds two masterpieces;  I suppose dealing with old friends saves on rehearsal time.

 

Thursday March 2

CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND TOY BAND

Adam Simmons

fortyfive downstairs at  7:30 pm

You’d think that a toy band was just that – something like the extraneous instruments in that popular symphony by Leopold Mozart/Michael Haydn/Anybody Else.  But no: the name refers to an all-embracing Creative Music Ensemble headed by Adam Simmons who attempts in this time-honoured form to fuse the worlds of jazz and serious music, as well as melding a few other juxtapositions of what could be regarded as opposites.   The composition is to last an hour but the implications are that Busoni/Alkan-style concentration is not part of the experience.  The soloist will be Michael Kieran Harvey, one of this country’s more expert apologists for challenging musical experiences.

This program is repeated on Friday March 3 and Saturday March 4 at 7:30 pm, and on Sunday March 5 at 3 pm.

 

Thursday March 2

ROCOCO CELLO

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra

Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm

Starting off with a modified bang, the MCO hosts Li-Wei Qin, a fine cellist who is always a pleasure to hear in live performance.  The players are being conducted by Michael Dahlenburg, himself a graduate from the organization’s cello desks.  Li-Wei takes on the Variations on a Rococo Theme by Tchaikovsky: a killer of a piece that tests technique and interpretative skill pretty sorely, to the point that successful performances are rare.  Also programmed is C. P. E. Bach’s Concerto in A, although whether the major or minor one is unclear from my source.   For relief, the MCO plays the Idomeneo Overture and Chaconne/Pas seul by Mozart, and Haydn’s Letter V Symphony No. 88 in G.

This program will be repeated in the Melbourne Recital Centre on Sunday March 5 at 2:30 pm.

 

Friday March 3

JURASSIC PARK

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

Last year, the final film/live-soundtrack MSO events made a big deal of promoting the first 2017 experience in the same mould: Spielberg’s first Jurassic Park adventure.  It’s possible that I saw this epic the whole way through; if so, I’ve forgotten the most important plot element – who gets killed.   Slightly less significant, I can’t recall anything of John Williams’score – not even the main title, which is the composer’s finest achievement in many another blockbuster.   Still, the orchestra can always rely on success with these music-fore-fronting occasions as Melbourne’s public regularly packs out each session.   A boost for the coffers and, of course, the chance to be associated with a familiar eye-catching poster.   But the best thing I find in these performances  –  so different to the theatre experience  –  is that nobody talks and the Arts Centre ushers (most of them) keep a sharp eye out for idiots with iPhones who want to take pictures of – the pictures!

This program will be repeated on Saturday March 4 at 1 pm and 7:30 pm.

 

Saturday March 4

2017 OPENING CONCERT: ENIGMA

Australian National Academy of Music Orchestra

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Into the second year of his stint as chief conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Nicholas Carter is visiting ANAM to direct an all-English program that features two favourites and a couple of rarities.   Clearly, the night’s apex comes in Elgar’s sterling sequence of variations, the composer’s first international success.   For a bit more retrospective entertainment, Carter will take the Academy’s strings through Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis which should resonate to pleasurable effect in the Town Hall’s wooden environment.   A tad more contemporary, Britten’s 1940 Sinfonia da Requiem, a memorial to the composer’s parents, is rarely heard live, even though it is Britten’s major purely orchestral composition.  The evening begins with Thomas Ades’s Three Studies from Couperin: Les amusemens, Les tours de passe-passe, and L’ame-en-peine – all concluding pieces from the 7th, 13th and 22nd ordres of the Pieces de clavecin, and all finely honed arrangements to challenge their young interpreters.

 

Thursday March 9

YOUTH  AND THE DANCE

Selby & Friends

Deakin Edge, Federation Square at 7:30 pm

Three works by relatively youthful writers begin Kathryn Selby’s recital series.  They don’t come much younger than Beethoven’s E flat Piano Trio Op. 1 No. 1, dating from when the composer was about 23 and here sustaining an untroubled aural landscape.  The F Major Piano Trio Op. 18 by Saint-Saens is attractively rustic in its inner movements and comes from the composer’s 28th year; young for a man who lived to be 86.  And the figure of an Old Reliable lurches forward in Dvorak’s Dumky, coming from the composer’s 49th year and based on dance, if not exactly youthful (he died aged 62).   Selby’s partners/friends for these three scores are violinist Grace Clifford, back for a while from the US, and American cellist Clancy Newman who has become a Selby regular.

 

Thursday March 9

MSO PLAYS MAHLER 7

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Beavering enthusiastically through his cycle, Sir Andrew Davis is drawing close to an end with this one, the last of the central set of non-vocal symphonies.  With its two Nachtmusik movements and a powerful central nightmare, this score presents a musical imagist’s paradise, although the outer movements push against this with firmly argued declamation.   But the sounds of mandolin, guitar, cowbells and that oddity, the Tenorhorn, support the claims for this work being of more than usually high orchestrational, travelogue-coloured interest.  As well,  the MSO Chorus puts in an appearance for David Stanhope’s 1999 The Heavens Declare, a setting of part of Psalm 19 and probably – in its text, at least – more suitable as a prelude to the next symphony in Davis’ Mahler pilgrimage.

This program will be repeated on Friday March 10 in Costa Hall, Geelong at 7:30 pm minus Stanhope’s The Heavens Declare, and back in Hamer Hall on Saturday March 11 at 2 pm with the Stanhope score restored.

 

Saturday March 11

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Victorian Opera

Playhouse, Melbourne Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

The production is being presented at 7:30 pm on Tuesday March 14, Wednesday March 15, Friday March 17, and at 1 pm on Saturday March 18.

This is an opera: La bella dormente nel bosco, written by Respighi and premiered in 1922. Composed for a marionette company, the work calls primarily for puppets, as well as for singers – a large slew of them – and an orchestra light on wind.   The composer revised it for a ‘normal’ production (children instead of marionettes) 12 years later, and a further revision followed Respighi’s death, that one overseen by his widow.   The VO is clearly mounting the original with puppets constructed by Joe Blanck, while the vocalists and instrumentalists are intended to be off-stage or in the pit which in the Playhouse is better suited to something like Into the Woods  .  .  .  still, the original scoring is pretty light. Phoebe Briggs, the company’s Head of Music, conducts.   As a novelty, they don’t come more refreshing than this work.  The cast includes Carlos E. Barcenas, Kirilie Blythman, Liane Keegan, Jacqueline Porter and Timothy Reynolds.

 

Sunday March 12

HOANG’S GRAND TRIO

Hoang Pham Productions

Melbourne Recital Centre at 5 pm

I’m all for the enterprising artist who takes his career into his own hands and have admiration for pianist Hoang Pham who has set up his own company, as well as taking on work from other quarters.  To begin his operations for this year at the MRC, he has acquired the services of veteran violinist William Hennessy and another young entrepreneur on the Melbourne scene, cellist Christopher Howlett.   The trio is taking on three cornerstones of the repertoire, without any apparent detours into distracting byways.   Rachmaninov’s G minor, the Elegiaque in one movement, is followed by another G minor gem, Smetana’s Op. 15 written as a memorial to his daughter Bedriska who had died recently from scarlet fever.   Finally,  we enjoy that acme of trios, Beethoven’s warm-heartedly aristocratic Archduke in B flat where equable performers like these can hardly go wrong.

 

Tuesday March 14

Daniil Trifonov

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Starting this year’s Great Performers series sponsored by the Recital Centre itself, Trifonov is known (well, to me) for competition wins: First Prize at the Rubinstein in 2011 , Gold Medal and Grand Prix at the Tchaikovsky in the same year.   Since then, he’s been busy enough recording and touring; this night’s appearance comes nine days after his 26th birthday,and follows a pretty tight schedule of appearances in Sydney and Perth as recitalist and concerto soloist, so he isn’t wasting any time.  Tonight he plays a Schumann group – the Kinderszenen and Kreisleriana with the hefty Op. 7 Toccata in the middle.   Then comes a selection from the 24 Preludes and Fugues by Shostakovich, and the Three Movements from Petrushka, which Stravinsky organised for Arthur Rubinstein although the redoubtable pianist never actually sat down and recorded them properly.   Trifonov is setting out to show his gifts across the spectrum, from the deceptively simple Schumann scenes to the dexterous leaps and scrappy brouhaha of the great ballet.

 

Friday March 17

MSO PLAYS TCHAIKOVSKY

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

Speaking of Daniil Trifonov, here he is in concerto-fronting guise, the MSO under Sir Andrew Davis supporting him in Rachmaninov No. 1, a work you rarely hear live these days.   Still, Trifonov will have performed it three times with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (and played there the same solo recital program outlined above), as well as performing the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 in Perth, before he hits Melbourne.   Davis brackets this voluble effusion with Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel and the Tchaikovsky Pathetique Symphony No. 6, which offers you a range from brilliantly scored buffoonery to wrenching depression, all in the space of two hours.  A sad state when a not-exactly-unknown concerto offers the only glimmers of originality on this menu.

This program is to be repeated on Saturday March 18 at 8 pm and on Monday March 20 at 6:30 pm.

 

Friday March 24

THE LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

The last part of this occasion doesn’t need spelling out.  Sir Andrew Davis will direct –  as he did for many years in London – the usual Proms rabble-rousing roster of Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, Arne’s Rule Britannia (with an as yet unnamed soprano and the MSO Chorus), Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 interrupted by the non-obligatory chorus, and probably a run-through of Parry’s Jerusalem, possibly followed up with an all-in You’ll Never Walk Alone.   There’s a bit of home-grown nationalism on display in Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry and Country Gardens (English).   A rousing opening to the night comes through Berlioz’s Le Corsaire Overture (as misplaced here as the Roman Carnival was at the otherwise all-Russian program that started this year’s free Myer Bowl concerts).   But the interesting content arrives with the superb Song of Summer tone poem by Delius, some Facade scraps by Walton, and a completely out-of-the-box resurrection of John Ireland’s Piano Concerto of 1930 which I, along with many another spectator, will be hearing live for the first time.

This program will be repeated on Saturday March 25 at 8 pm.

 

Saturday March 25

MESSIAEN

Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Having a formidable Messiaen expert in residence has caused the ANAM authorities to dedicate a night to the Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jesus.  It’s not clear exactly what is going to happen because the participants will include Hill himself, but also an unknown quantity of ANAM pianists.   Fair enough: the work, in its proper form, lasts for two hours and, although we’ve seen some pianists carry out the whole task by themselves, it speaks volumes for Hill’s pedagogy that he is sharing this labour with his charges.  There’s no denying that the Vingt regards can induce transcendent illumination and mental delight, but it can irritate to breaking-point many listeners who find it impossible to enter the dense and clangorous sound-world of this remarkable composer.  No, not easy listening but well worth the effort.

 

Thursday March 30

MSO AND THE AUSTRALIAN STRING QUARTET

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 8 pm

Since the first violin of the Australian String Quartet is Dale Barltrop, who is also one of the MSO’s concertmasters, it’s not surprising to see the chamber music ensemble appearing as guests in this program.  The problem comes in finding a work for string quartet and orchestra; there are less than you’d expect but Barltrop & Co. have revived Matthew Hindson’s 15-year-old The Rave and the Nightingale, which takes its fanciful flight from Schubert’s final G Major String Quartet and suggests what Schubert could have been writing if he were our contemporary.   Apparently, he might have chosen the path of popular music because he wrote so many songs  –  a finding that suggests an imaginative vault I find hard to negotiate.  Still, to each his own fantasy and Hindson follows the implied Granados’ avian scene-stealer with some coloristic solo violin work  .  .  .  and the piece is 15 minutes long.   Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto in E flat for five winds and ten strings would seem to be the sole program component that ventures outside the night’s dominant instrumental format and it lasts about as long as Hindson’s piece.  The evening’s major work is real Schubert, his Death and the Maiden String Quartet No. 14   –   the predecessor to the work that Hindson’s Rave/Nightingale employs.  This scorching D minor masterpiece will be offered in orchestral guise, which I assume implies strings only in the well-ploughed Australian Chamber Orchestra pattern.

The program will be repeated in Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University on Friday March 31 at 8 pm.

 

 

 

 

February Diary

A few Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts have been left off the list, mainly because they don’t raise my jaded eyebrows.  The organization is handling a good deal of material throughout the month, apart from the events itemised below.  On Thursday February 16, Indian film composer AR Rahman is appearing at the Bowl, fronting his own music although not doing very much as UK conductor Matt Dunkley seems to be directing matters.  In Hamer Hall on Friday February 24, the film Satan Jawa will be screened while the MSO performs Iain Grandage and Rahayu Supanggah’s score live.  The following night, Jose Carreras finishes up the Australian leg of his final world tour at the Margaret Court Arena, helped along his way by Antoinette Halloran while the MSO provides underpinning for the predictable selections from operas, operettas and musicals.

 

Saturday February 4

EAST MEETS WEST

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7 pm

It’s Chinese New Year again, although this concert falls outside the calendar week of celebration.  Popular composer/conductor Tan Dun is back to direct the MSO in yet another program that makes little sense on paper, even if it’s harmless fun in its delivery. The bookends of this night, which comes four days after a similarly structured event in Auckland, are Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite; perhaps both have some combustible connection to the Year of the Rooster,  In the centre are three works by Chinese composers, including the conductor’s own Farewell My Concubine Concerto for Piano and Peking Opera Soprano; the volatile keyboard part is played by Dutch contemporary music expert Ralph van Raat and the singer is Xiao Di.  Also on offer are 100 Birds Flying Towards the Phoenix by Guan Xia (who has also written a Farewell My Concubine score) featuring Liu Wenwen’s suona, a double-reed instrument with a similar penetrating timbre to any self-respecting Peking Opera soprano, and Tan Weiwei’s Song Lines.   Tan could be the well-publicized Mandopop singer, but I doubt it.

 

Saturday February 4

‘TIS PITY

Victorian Opera

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

A year-opening oddity, this is an operatic fantasia, the music provided by company artistic director Richard Mills, its libretto composed by Meow Meow, Cameron Menzies and Mills. The titular reference to John Ford’s rarely-staged tragedy seems ill-suited to the fantasia’s promised subject matter  –  ‘selling the skin and the teeth’  .  .  .  whatever that actually means.   Meow Meow will be partnered by Kanen Breen as the two-hander vaults across the centuries and treats of the Ewigweibliche in her several forms, mostly as a moral outcast or solitary: courtesan, concubine, conqueror, queen and ‘sing song girl’.  The heart of the matter comes in the blurb’s self description as a song cycle.  And the texts are wide-ranging.

 

Sunday February 5

MURDER & REDEMPTION

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

Pekka Kuusisto is director and soloist for the ACO’s first subscription series concerts in 2017.   Also featured is Sam Amidon, American singer and banjo player, who is probably involved in the afternoon’s two brackets of American folk songs and possibly will participate in an arrangement by Kuusisto of the Shaker tune Simple Gifts.   Pushing even further into the US musical mythos,  the orchestra performs John Adams’ Shaker Loops, its four movements split around Brackett’s seminal hymn.  Which covers the redemption element, while murder is exemplified by Janacek’s Kreutzer Sonata Quartet No. 1, which took its inspiration from Tolstoy’s overwrought, repulsive novella.   The quartet will be performed in string orchestral format, of course, so that the psychological drama can be delivered with even more heightened theatrics than usual.

This program will be repeated at 7:30 pm on Monday February 6.

 

Wednesday February 8

MSO PLAYS THE RUSSIANS

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Sidney Myer Music Bowl at 7:30 pm

And the musicians will get around to Russian music, but only after a bracing overture: the Roman Carnival by Berlioz   –   one of the repertoire’s finest fire-crackers and a test in vivacity for conductor Benjamin Northey and his band.   Another educational opportunity is wasted as the night moves into predictable waters with the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2, Jayson Gillham doing the solo honours.  A suite from Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty pushes all the predictable buttons, the inter-movement applause (a specialty of this audience) an inevitability.   Oddly, Northey and Co. finish up with a score that used to be reserved for the end of this whole free concert series: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.   In past years, these free concerts have served as a mode by which the musicians can play themselves in for a heavy year’s work through familiar repertoire; not much has changed.

 

Saturday February 11

MSO PLAYS ROMEO & JULIET

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Sidney Myer Music Bowl at 7:30 pm

This program carries on from the first night in the series and is even more Russian in content.  The doomed lovers tonight emerge through Prokofiev’s ballet score: one of the last century’s orchestral marvels, so finished and evocative that it always delights, especially in a staged performance where the calisthenics can get you down.   Once again, this audience claps everything: Montagues and Capulets, The Young Juliet, the Death of Tybalt. Mind you, this isn’t one of the set suites; just an amalgam under the descriptor ‘excerpts’. For 2017, the MSO’s Composer-in-Residence is Elena Kats-Chernin and, for her first official outing, she offers a score from 2009, Golden Kitsch, written for and performed tonight by Sydney percussionist Claire Edwardes  –  with, one assumes,  the orchestra’s support.  The composer has found her inspiration in Klimt paintings, quite a few of the most popular heavy on gold – The Kiss and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer encapsulating the kitsch that Kats-Chernin is celebrating.   To end, Benjamin Northey takes the players through one of their show-pieces: Rachmaninov’s three Symphonic Dances.

 

Wednesday February 15

MSO PLAYS LA VALSE

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Sidney Myer Music Bowl at 7:30 pm

Here is a night with lots of waltzes, although the programmers found it hard to leave their Russian motif alone.   Before the light-hearted comes Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka in the 1947 version; always a pleasure to experience, especially the many folk-tunes embedded in its crowd scenes that the composer refused to acknowledge during his lifetime.  The title work is, of course, Ravel’s phantasmagoria in which the infectious whirling action becomes impressively hysteric and disjunct.   A harmless oddity emerges in Korngold’s three-movement Straussiana suite – a polka, mazurka and waltz using Johann Strauss’s music taken from unfamiliar sources and written for high school musicians.  To end, Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier Suite reveals a composer on whom Korngold drew heavily for his heftier works.   Opulent, sparkling and loaded with exquisite detail like the luminous Presentation of the Rose sequence, it serves as a reminder of the composer’s recoil to Toryism after the striking operatic marvels of Salome and Elektra.  Oh, Benjamin Northey has a night off so that Kazuki Yamada can dominate from the podium; he’s permanent conductor of the Japan Philharmonic and is a welcome and regular guest with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

 

Friday February 24

NICHOLAS CARTER CONDUCTS TCHAIKOVSKY 4

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

This ex-Proms series begins tonight with the prospect of yet another predictable menu.  Young Australian conductor Nicholas Carter opens accounts with the Prokofiev Classical Symphony, the precocious first of the seven that the composer produced and a barrel of restrained Haydnesque laughs, if some interpreters are inclined to over-egg its humour. The night’s title work is another affair altogether: a Fate-encrusted sequence of four well-known movements, wrenchingly fraught with emotion at its opening, Tatiana/Lensky-lite in the Andantino, full of balletic beans in the scherzo, and a chain of welters on the hapless Birch Tree folk-tune in a lashing finale.  Guest Anne-Marie Johnson takes centre-stage for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor: a sure-fire crowd-pleaser and, I’d guess, bound to attract a full house.

 

Saturday February 25

HANDEL’S MESSIAH

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Paul Dyer and his fine orchestra are stealing a march on everybody with this pre-season airing of Handel’s famous oratorio.   I’ve always thought Messiah was more relevant to Easter than Christmas; so did the composer, if his Dublin premiere date is any guide (which it probably isn’t) and if the concentration of Passion/Resurrection themes in Parts Two and Three is taken as outweighing the Nativity message of Part the First that has ensured the work’s usual allocation to Christmas.   Dyer is also bringing his Brandenburg Choir to Melbourne and that group is well worth hearing in a chorus-rich score.  The advertised soloists at time of writing are: Spanish soprano Lucia Martin-Carton, Greek alto Nicholas Spanos, American tenor Kyle Bielfield, and local David Greco singing the bass arias.  These promise to be a mixed bag, the upper voices experienced in Baroque operations, Bielfield sitting on the cusp of serious and pop arenas, while Greco recently appeared at the Peninsula Summer Music Festival in a program of Schubert lieder.  But that’s part of the ABO ethos: surprises.  And some of them are strikingly fine.

The oratorio will be presented again on Sunday February 26 at 5 pm

 

Sunday February 26

MOZART MARATHON

3MBS FM

Hawthorn Arts Centre from 9:30 am

This all-day sucker comprises six sessions spread across twelve hours: 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 2pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, 8 pm.   You could stay for the whole thing or you can do the eastern suburbs thing and spare yourself overload by dipping in and out.   The programs have probably been settled by now but I can’t find them.  What anyone can get to without much trouble is information on some of the works to be performed: the A Major Piano Concerto K. 414, the Clarinet Concerto, the Rondo alla turca Piano Sonata in A, the Gran Partita Serenade in B flat with its incomparable Adagio, the Eine kleine Nachtmusik Serenade, the last Piano Trio K. 548, and something unidentified for piano four-hands – one of the four complete and authenticated sonatas?   As for the participants, you are assured a lot of familiar ensembles: Goldner String Quartet, Australian Piano Quartet, Arcadia Quartet,  Sutherland Trio, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and an unknown quantity to me called the 3MBS Choir, directed by Michael Leighton Jones.   Pianists are numerous: Timothy Young, Elyane Laussade, Tristan Lee, Kristian Chong, Kathryn Selby, Stefan Cassomenos, Daniel de Borah.   You’re offered several violinists including Curt Thompson, Wilma Smith, Rebecca Chan, and Sophie Rowell; cellists Christopher Howlett and Svetlana Bogosavljevic, viola Christopher Moore, veteran oboist Jeffrey Crellin, clarinetists David Griffiths and Paul Dean, and tenor Andrew Goodwin.  There’s also an appearance by Richard Mills in his capacity as artistic director of Victorian Opera; whether he’s bringing along the company is unclear.

 

Monday February 27

THE CLASSICAL TRIO

Seraphim Trio

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

This popular ensemble, having despatched the complete Beethoven and Schubert oeuvres over recent years, now moves into the solid mainstream without any deviations – sort of. In 2017, the series heading runs The History of the Piano Trio in Ten and a Half Chapters. Tonight, the musicians perform the Haydn Piano Trio in G, called the Gypsy because of its rapid-fire finale with atmospheric early-Ziegeuner references.   With the Schubert nine-minute Notturno as a makeweight (but very popular in My Favourite Chamber Music lists), the evening’s main constituent is Mozart in B flat of 1786, one of the half-dozen works in this form from the composer.   All this is fair enough, as a solid Classical start to this four-part review.  The Romantics will feature Schubert in E flat and Mendelssohn in D minor; The Nationalists are Brahms No. 1 and Dvorak’s Dumky; The Moderns are Ravel, Shostakovich in E minor, and Sculthorpe’s From Irkanda 3   –   the only surviving movement from a 1961 trio and, although just six minutes long, evocative of the composer’s lonely emotional landscape.

 

Tuesday February 28

Eighth Blackbird

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

This ensemble has visited Australia a few times but not previously under the Musica Viva umbrella.   A sextet  –  flute, clarinet, violin/viola/,cello, percussion, piano  – it is a crossover group that specialises in music by living composers.  Pretty much home-grown, though; the only non-American on this night is Sydney writer Holly Harrison with a MV commission: Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.   The evening’s other four elements are relatively fresh USA products: Nico Muhly’s 2012 Doublespeak, written for Eighth Blackbird and a tribute to Philip Glass, so starting out with a close triple canon; Bryce Dessner’s Murder Ballades of 2013, also composed for this ensemble, comprising seven movements with elliptical titles lasting 20 minutes in all; Ted Hearne’s By-By Huey from 2014, memorialising the murder of Black Panthers’ co-founder Huey P. Newton – another Eighth Blackbird commission; and Timo Andres’ Checkered Shade, also from 2014, also written for these players, and inspired by drawings created by Pennsylvania artist Astrid Bowlby.  Not your typical MV presentation, but maybe there’s a segment of the patronage crying out for US avant-garde.

The program will be repeated on Saturday March 4 at 7 pm.

 

Tuesday February 28

MAXIM VENGEROV

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 8 pm

The gala opening to the MSO’s season features the excellent Russian violinist as soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.   Nothing amiss with hearing a master play a masterpiece, but no marks for originality, especially when you consider the violinist’s impressive repertoire.   Benjamin Northey conducts, but then yields place to Vengerov who will direct the only other work programmed: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade  –  that voluptuous four-movement suite that almost plays itself.  Don’t know anything about the violinist’s conducting abilities but I doubt that he’ll be exercised by this warhorse that is nevertheless very appropriate for a festive concert where nobody wants profundities or pontifications. Still, I can’t help feeling that an opportunity has been missed to raise the bar.