April Diary

Wednesday April 1


Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium at 1:05

What passes for an April Fool north of the Tweed?   This concert may hold the answer.  On the other hand, it could be a simple-minded come-on from a latter-day advertising sad sack; it could be just a few smart young people from the Con using the day’s nickname as a fulcrum for the title of their musical exercise.   Whatever the case, students from the Conservatorium are presenting a program of well-known japes.  Among these are Haydn’s Joke String Quartet Op. 33 No. 2 in E flat where the humour is both broad and refined; Mozart is necessarily represented by his A Musical Joke sextet for two horns and string quartet in which the best of the laughs are formal; Beethoven used the same instruments as Mozart for his three-movement  Horn Sextet Op. 81b.   And that fills out the great Classical trinity’s essays at raising levity, even though few of us know the last of these and are unaware of its relationship to the  April Fool theme.   To end, we get Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, that great 14-movement compendium of inspired effects which may be given in its original scoring for two pianos, string quintet, flute, clarinet, glass harmonica and xylophone.   Or maybe not.   Whatever comes up on the day, the organizers have it right: getting through this program is going to be a serious concern for the players, no matter how much we are entertained.


Thursday April 2



Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7 pm

At this first concert for the year from Brisbane’s chamber orchestra, the focus will fall on a well-travelled collaboration between Nigel Westlake and Lior which gives this concert its title.   I first heard this local equivalent to The Song of the Earth about six years ago in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl; it’s a fine vehicle for the singer (as far as I can work out, he has taken part in every performance since the first one in 2013) who performs tonight, and a very accessible work that carries its philosophical and humanitarian burdens lightly.   While it exists in two versions, you’d anticipate that Camerata will perform the later one that eschews the original large orchestra scoring for the reduced forces of string quartet, double bass, piano and percussion as a background for the tenor’s keening line.   Artistic director Brendan Joyce opens the night with Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge in one of its string orchestra manifestations.   Before the short La Oracion del torero by Turina, presumably in its 1926 string orchestra raiment, we hear the equally brief Echorus for Two Violins and String Orchestra by Phillip Glass, a reworking of the composer’s Etude No. 2.    A 1967 poem by Ginsberg, Wales Visitation, goes with the music and it will be read by local actor Barbara Lowing.   This composite is somehow a tribute to Yehudi Menuhin who might have been nonplussed by the score which is, as usual, an exploration of a simple arpeggio.


Friday April 3


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11 am

Last month, the young musicians of Griffith University’s Conservatorium of Music had their say on Mozart’s last symphony; today, the state’s top professionals have their way with it.   Conductor Alexandre Bloch is in charge; getting on for 35 years old, he has conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (2016) and the Australian Youth Orchestra (2014).   Now he comes to Brisbane to direct the great C Major symphony.   He begins this matinee with more Mozart: the Don Giovanni Overture with its composer-supplied concert ending.   In pride of place comes soprano Emma Pearson to sing the solo line in Les Illuminations by Britten – another child prodigy, if not as flashy a one as Mozart.  Thanks to Peter Pears, many people forget that the cycle – settings of Rimbaud – was originally written for the female voice and the few times I’ve come across it in live performance over recent years, sopranos have done the honours.  The work is brilliant in its melodic sweep and mastery of string orchestral writing.   No, it’s not profound or mentally challenging, but neither is the poetry.   As with a fair amount of music by the British composer, you do best to be content with its splendid surface.

This program will be repeated on Saturday April 4 at 7:30 pm at which the Don Giovanni Overture will be replaced by Schubert’s B minor and Unfinished Symphony.


Friday April 3


Muses Trio and Vulcana

Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse at 7:30 pm

A collaboration between two organizations, this event is a performance that will ‘celebrate women being heard and taking up space’.  As all the performers are female, that shouldn’t be too difficult to carry out.   As far as the musical component goes, this will be provided by the Muses Trio: violin Christa Powell, cello Louise King, piano Therese Milanovic; an ensemble that has made an intentional choice to promote music by women composers.  There’s no indication as to what music will be played, however. But the more overtly physical component of this music theatre entertainment comes from Vulcana Circus, an organization that also seems to concentrate on expanding and exposing the talents of female artists.   It all sounds like a version of the sort of concept that we have seen in the past from the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa, although this latter collaboration finds its musical sources in more reactionary reaches.   You’d hope that the evening’s necessary polemic is tempered to a finer edge than the night’s title which probably seemed clever at the planning stage.   Seen But Not Her lasts for 50 minutes.


Wednesday April 8

Goldner String Quartet & Piers Lane

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre at 7 pm

As with Garrick Ohlsson’s Musica Viva appearances, there are two programs on offer for this latest in the organization’s international series.   The venerable Sydney quartet and expatriate pianist Lane are collaborating in three piano quintets across both programs: Brahms in F minor,  Korngold in E Major, and Elgar in A minor from the remarkably fecund (for the composer) year of 1918.   The artists have recorded the Korngold (2018) and the Elgar (2010), so the performances ought to be exemplary.   Brisbane gets to hear only the British work.   As well, the Goldners trot out that hoary chestnut, Dvorak in F Major Op. 96 from the American years.   But, as a balance, they will premiere a new String Quartet No. 1 by Adelaide composer  Jakub Jankowski; in fact, this will be its third hearing, after Sydney and Perth.   I’ve had no exposure to this composer’s work, as far as I can tell, but am intrigued by the title that the Musica Viva promotional material gives to this quartet: Kairos.   Which means the proper time: not the correct tempo, but the suitable or appropriate moment.   Granted, that’s old-time Greek; in my family, we use the word to talk about the weather.


Wednesday April 15

Leanne Jin

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University at 7:30 pm

This musician is currently studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has a string of awards to her name, including last year’s Lev Vlassenko, the Sydney Eisteddfod Kawai Piano Scholarship and the Sydney Conservatorium Piano Concerto Competition. She has won places at competitions in Vienna and New York, but you have to work hard to find out about her repertoire.    A few concertos: she has fronted the Prokofiev No. 1 and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, while only last month, she was soloist in Beethoven’s E flat Emperor in Chatswood, Sydney.   As for recital material, two years ago she was playing Haydn’s E flat Sonata Hob. XVI/49, Scriabin’s Sonata No. 2, Liszt’s Paganini Etude No. 2 from the S. 140 collection of six,  Falla’s Four Spanish Pieces, Beethoven’s Sonata in B flat Op. 22 (the one that featured in Garrick Ohlsson’s recent Musica Viva recital), and Schumann’s Kreisleriana.    She’s presenting Scarlatti, Haydn and Rachmaninov on April 28 at the Camberwell Uniting Church in Melbourne, so you might guess that those three composers will feature on tonight’s bill of fare.  Exactly what Jinn will present remains up in the air – a normal state of affairs with these Conservatorium recital programs.    It’s as though you’re expected to come along on trust and be happy with the music that  is served up.   Whatever we do hear, you can be pretty sure it won’t be too adventurous.


Sunday April 19


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio at 3 pm

Here is the second in the QSO’s somewhat checkered chamber music recitals in which success is a hit-or-miss affair.   For all that, they’re popular enough, possibly because of the reasonable price of admission.   This afternoon, the Beethoven 250th birthday celebrations continue with a Rasumovsky, the String Quartet in F op. 59 No. 1 in which the composer gets serious and asks his chamber music interpreters to work hard.    The lucky winners here are violins Alan Smith and Jane Burroughs, viola Nicholas Tomkin and cello Andre Duthoit.   The other major work is Weber’s Trio in G minor for flute (Alison Mitchell), bassoon (Nicole Tait, substituting for the original cello)), and piano (Anna Grinberg, who took part in this year’s first QSO chamber music Sunday afternoon program, herbing powerfully through the Brahms Piano Quintet).   On a lighter note, in the middle come arrangements of arias from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville; well, I’m assuming the intended atmosphere will be on the less hefty side, but who can tell?  These arias (and duets, and trios) have been arranged for two bassoons (Tait and Evan Lewis);  probably the transcriptions by Francois Rene Gebauer of which there are 12.    We’ve all got our favourites, even if the best is over by the time the Act 1 curtain falls; here’s hoping we get All’idea di quell metallo and Zitti, zitti, piano, piano.


Sunday April 19


Ensemble Q

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University South Bank at 3 pm

When isn’t the world in a state of conflict: Taliban? Daesh? Coronavirus? Brexit?  Nonetheless, this recital has a clear reference to the two world wars, although some of the composers involved were more terribly affected than others.   With regard to World War 1, the Ensemble presents two compositions: Ravel’s remembrance of dead soldier-friends Le tombeau de Couperin (piano solo played by Daniel de Borah, or one of the many arrangements?), and Battle-of-the-Somme sacrifice Frederick Septimus Kelly’s 1915 Elegy in memoriam Rupert Brooke for Strings (presumably Richard Divall’s arrangement for string quintet eschewing the original’s harp).   A victim of a Nazi camp, Erwin Schulhoff wrote his four-movement Concertino for flute, viola and double bass in 1925, before the shadows deepened intolerably.   Another Czech composer, Hans Krasa wrote his Passacaglia and Fugue for string trio in the year of his murder at Auschwitz.   Heinrich Kaminski survived World War II but not by much.  His Quintet for clarinet, horn and string trio dates from 1917, so he sits in this program as a sort of middle-man, straddling the World Wars.   The regular Q Ensemble personnel will host German-Canadian guest violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel


Friday April 24


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

If there’s no staged opera being offered this late in the year, why not give a greatest hits concert hall selection?    Conductor Giovanni Reggioli has conducted here before, most recently at a similar concert to this one in 2019.    I can’t find out much that is current about his present overseas activities; doubtless he wouldn’t be here unless he had proven his talent.    The concert is a grab-bag, as you’d expect, with four soloists: soprano Emma Pearson, mezzo Bronwyn Douglass, tenor Andrew Goodwin, and bass James Clayton.  The QSO gets to shine in three pieces: the overture to Verdi’s The Sicilian Vespers, the greatest polonaise of all from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and the Intermezzo from Act 3 of Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz which tears a passion to tatters on the flimsiest of excuses. Mascagni’s opera is notable for this extract as well as the Cherry Duet in Act 2 which we also get to enjoy; the rest of the piece is lost in transition.   As for more Verdi, all the singers come together for the Rigoletto quartet, and Clayton has the last say of the night with Iago’s profession of faith.   Rossini scores with three extracts, all from The Barber of Seville: Figaro’s self-introduction, Rosina’s opening gambit, then the pair’s duet Dunque io son.    As well as the Polonaise, Eugene Onegin is further exposed in Lensky’s Kuda, kuda and the Letter Scene, Puskai pogibnu, that lays bare the marvellous character of Tatyana.   There will be two Mozart excursions: the Countess’s Dove sono from The Marriage of Figaro, and that magical quartet No ti fidar, o misera from Act 1 of Don Giovanni.   The two Gounod slabs are unexceptional: the love duet O nuit d’amour from Act 3 of Faust, and the opportunity for Pearson to sparkle in Juliet’s waltz song,  Je veux vivre.    Saint-Saens and Donizetti are represented by one aria each: for the former, Delilah’s neglected solo Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse, while Goodwin is gifted with Nemorino’s  Una furtiva lagrima from L’elisir d’amore.

About half of this program will be performed on Sunday April 26 at 11:30 am.


Tuesday April 28

Umberto Clerici and Daniel de Borah

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University at 7:30 pm

Clerici is principal cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and my experience of his work has been exclusively through Selby & Friends recitals where he has put in several fine appearances.   Here he is again in that field, partnered with de Borah from the Conservatorium’s staff.    This pianist also has been to my ears a chamber music performer.   From the sketchy details on the concert diary of the Conservatorium, I learn that the pair will play sonatas by Chopin and Mendelssohn.   You’d assume that the Polish composer would be represented by his G minor Cello Sonata.   And you’d be right.  Fortunately, more specific information can be found on de Borah’s website.   Of the two Mendelssohn possibilities, the duo are presenting No. 2 in D Major.   By way of introduction to the proceedings, they will also perform Mendelssohn’s Op. 109 Song Without Words.   Half way through the recital, they intend to play some ‘songs without words’ by Chopin, referring specifically to the composer’s Opus 74.   This work, you’d have to assume, is the composer’s 17 Polish Songs; I’m almost ready to guarantee that Clerici will play the vocal line, not sing it wordlessly.   The scheduled No. 8 ‘song without words’ is indeed in D Major – that finger-snapping hit, Sliczny chlopiec; No. 9 is, however, not in G Major, as the web-site has it, but a Melodia in E minor.



March Diary

Sunday March 1

Jayson Gilham

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 3 pm

Hailing from the recently drought-stricken, now over-wet town of Dalby, Gilham has carved out for himself a respectable career as a recording and touring pianist based in London but making frequent return visits to home soil.  Appearing under the local Medici Concerts banner, this 33-year-old musician is presenting an all-sorts program with some old-fashioned virtuoso favourites to further the melange’s attractiveness.  Not one, but two Beethoven sonatas: the No. 17 Tempest in D minor with its spinning-wheel finale, and the No. 14 in C sharp minor yclept Moonlight.   Gilham ends with a group of three ‘Schubert’ arrangements by Liszt: Auf dem Wasser zu singen, Der Muller und der Bach, and Widmung which, since my Eileen Joyce days, I’d always thought was written by Schumann.   Anyway, as exotica, the pianist will perform the Chopin Barcarolle, and then two French bagatelles in the unexpectedly mobile Melancolie by Poulenc, and  Chaminade’s lilting Op. 89 Theme varie; these last two serving the function of mid-program encore materiel, to my mind.


Tuesday March 3


Brandenburg  Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

French harpist Xavier de Maistre is returning to perform as guest with the Brandenburgers, wedging in one Brisbane appearance between his duties in Sydney and Melbourne.   I’m not as hyperbolically responsive to this musician’s talents as most of my colleagues; his transcription of Smetana’s The Moldau – one of this musician’s signature pieces – works well as far as it goes but there are slabs of the original score that have gone missing.   Anyway, this program looks less of a grab-bag than that for de Maistre’s previous tour because it does focus on Venice in the days of its musical (and economic) greatness; an inspiring vision of a city that these days is an unpleasant tourist trap.   We will hear the Vivaldi Lute Concerto in D, RV 93 in D Major, transcribed for harp soloist; the same composer’s Winter from The Four Seasons, also transcribed from the violin solo original.  There will be a Marcello transcription also of the D minor Oboe Concerto, the one that Bach arranged for solo keyboard.   The evening ends with a concerto grosso from Gregori’s Op. 2 set for two violin soloists, this performance billed as an Australian premiere; possibly it will be given as originally scored.   It’s a tad out of place, as this composer lived in Lucca, but what’s a separation of 300 kilometres between friends?     Salzedo’s transcription of Pescetti’s keyboard Sonata in C minor gives us another Venetian voice from Vivaldi’s time.    For non-Venetian filler, de Maistre plays Parish Alvars’ La Mandoline, called a gran studio in my score and a repeated-note test-piece par excellence.  This 19th century salonesque aberration apart, the rest of the program is laudably homogeneous.


Friday March 6


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11 am

Conducted by Benjamin Northey, the QSO begins this entertainment with Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, irremediably linked in my mind with Walt Disney’s vision of it in his 1940 film Fantasia, ruined at the end by Stokowski condescending to an enthusiastic Mickey Mouse.   The night ends with the Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, complete with piano (two and four hands) and organ parts; such a fine constituent of contemporary Australian culture, thanks to Nigel Westlake‘s interpolation of its Maestoso into both Babe films.   Lucky Brisbane to have the splendid Klais instrument at the orchestra’s disposal for this rousing score; to general astonishment, Melbourne’s Hamer Hall lost its Casavant organ in the building’s refurbishment 10 years ago, which consequently made performances of works like this one impossible in that city’s main orchestral concert-giving venue.   The night’s soloist, principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic Stefan Dohr, fronts the first Strauss Concerto in E flat, written when the composer was about 18.   You’d expect a really authoritative reading; I’d be happy for an intonationally accurate one.

This program will be repeated on Saturday March 7 at 7:30 pm with the addition of Brisbane-born Cathy Milliken‘s Earth Plays, Þingvellir or Thingvellir, which refers to a park in Iceland where the country’s first parliament, the Althing, assembled from 930 to 1798.  I’ve not heard the work but would anticipate that the writer might have concentrated on musically illustrating the site’s natural properties rather than its legislative achievements.


Saturday March 7


Jonathan Henderson and Emily Granger

Old Government House at 3 pm

I came across flautist Henderson in Alex Raineri‘s chamber music festival towards the end of last year, during which he played difficult music in several consecutive recitals.  Here, he partners harpist Granger for an hour-long program in which some of the composers have been named; several details are specific, others inferential.   For example, the players begin with Ravel, who wrote nothing for this duo combination, but we are getting his Piece en forme de Habanera, originally a Vocalise etude for bass voice and piano.   Marin Marais?  A treatment of La Folia from its original viol publication into a version for solo flute.  Then Bizet, and automatically you think of that intermezzo in Carmen between Acts 2 and 3; but that isn’t on offer.   Rather, Henderson flaunts his gifts in Francois Borne’s showy Fantaisie brillante on Carmen tunes, mainly the Habanera and the Act 2 Gypsy Dance.   Here comes Jacques Ibert who wrote some entr’actes for flute and harp, as well as a clutch of splendid harp solos, but who also wrote a piece that simulates the Spanish guitar; I can’t find much in his works that brings Spain to mind, except some Don Quixote-related songs.   Chabrier is unrepresented in this combination’s stakes, so you get another habanera: the piano solo from 1885.   De Falla is a near-absentee from the instrumental chamber music field, so we’ll be treated to the Nocturne piano solo of 1896 and all of the Seven Spanish Folksongs.   In addition, we can sample Alphonse Hasselmans, a famous Belgian/French harpist and teacher who wrote a good deal for his instrument, but the only potentially flamenco-reminiscent work I can find is his Gitana caprice.   Whatever comes out, it’s a lot to pack into an hour.


Sunday March 8


Brisbane Chamber Choir

St. John’s Cathedral at 2 pm

On the premise that there’s more to the great German composer than his evergreen oratorio, the BCC are presenting other music by Handel.  God knows there’s a lot to choose from but details are non-existent.   Brisbane University’s Graeme Morton will conduct; there will be a supporting band, led by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Associate Concertmaster, Alan Smith.   About the pieces to be attempted, I am as much in the dark as anybody else not associated with this event.   ZadokMy heart is inditing? Judas MaccabeusSolomonSaulThe Water MusicThe Fireworks Music??   Behold, I tell you a mystery.


Sunday March 8


Queensland Baroque Orchestra

St. Andrew’s Uniting Church at 2 pm

Here is another program about which details are very few.   The guest soloist is trumpeter John Foster, who is also this body’s artistic director.   His CV is an impressive one, with a lengthy list of appearances in the United States and Europe.   For all that, I can’t recall seeing and/or hearing him in Melbourne.   This afternoon’s music features works by Purcell, Handel, Corbett (presumably William) ‘and others’.  The list of this ensemble’s members is substantial, even if none of the names is familiar to me; 20 strings, 4 woodwind, a brace of trumpets, Baroque guitar and harpsichord adds up to a considerable body.


Sunday March 8


Ensemble Q

Conservatorium Theatre, Southbank at 3 pm

The title comes from a 2000 film with a soundtrack featuring some original pieces supplied by Osvaldo Golijov.   The two extracts nominated for this occasion are Lullaby and Doina; the former is probably the soundtrack number called Close Your Eyes, while the latter has me stumped as it refers to a Romanian musical style well-documented by Bartok.   It could be referring to another track called Without a Word which is an instrumental number from the film that features the Kronos Quartet –  on the recording, not in the film itself.   The concert opens with The Unanswered Question by Ives, that puzzling pseudo-philosophical scrap that asks for four flutes (with an oboe and a clarinet possible for the bottom two lines), a trumpet (or a cor anglais, oboe or clarinet) solo, and a body of strings.   This is followed by a Beethoven string trio, the C minor last of the Op. 9 set; then Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder in one of its several arrangements – Henze, Christophe Lootem, Alain Bonardi, or maybe just as the composer wrote it: voice and piano.   Hindemith’s Trauermusik for viola soloist and strings follows, written at short notice on the death of George V.    Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A rounds out the central German/Austrian core of the entertainment; it can be performed a quattro, without the need for braces of oboes, bassoons and horns.   In the Hindemith, Tobias Breider from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will be soloist; soprano Greta Bradman sings the Wagner cycle; Daniel de Borah takes centre-stage in the concerto.  Violinist William Huxtable from Victoria is guest concertmaster.


Wednesday March 11


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

Look, I don’t know about this.   Not the merits of it, but how the actual collaboration will work and make sense.    Or perhaps I really am troubled by its value as my main question is: what is Folds bringing to the orchestra and to an informed public?   The American singer-songwriter has appeared several times in this country, notably in 2006 when he performed with most of the state symphony orchestras.   This time around, he’s fronting all these mainland organizations again.    He has a piano concerto in his catalogue of compositions, and that might be interesting to experience.   But what I’ve heard of his songs makes me think that the premier orchestral musicians of this country will be slumming.    We’ve seen plenty of this in Melbourne as far back as when the MSO collaborated with Elton John and got so excited by the experience that the organization made him a life member.    But then, Kiss also stood in front of the MSO, after which certain participants struggled to sound grateful for the experience.   In any case, audiences will obviously come in droves to these concerts; otherwise, putting them on the annual program couldn’t be justified.    It’s probably a pleasant enough event to sit through, but it’s mindless and, in these mentally tremulous times, we have to exercise our brains more often than we have done over the past seven decades.   Oh, and I’ve just listened to the Folds Piano Concerto.    It’s another case of somebody playing at being creative but with absolutely nothing new to say, the construct emanating from a musical type who shows no awareness of developments in serious music over the past century and hence is hard to take seriously.

This program will be repeated on Thursday March 12 at 7:30 pm.


Sunday March 15


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11:30 am

Here is the first of this year’s five ‘Music on Sundays’ concerts from the QSO.   For one mad moment, I thought that the event would have dancers to bring the music into the dimension where it belongs.   But a look at what is being offered put paid to that daydream.    Popular local lad Simon Hewitt, currently principal conductor at the Hamburg Ballet, is one of the two directors listed; the other is Guy Noble, who also has the narrator’s job thrust upon him.   You’ll have to be ready to do a lot of jumping around, with several ‘selections from’ on the menu.   Bits from Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes preface selections from Delibes’ Sylvia and Coppelia,  The concert ends with the Suite No. 2 from Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane with its exhilarating and entirely appropriate Bacchanale.  Speaking of which, we also get to hear the Bacchanale that starts the last act of Saint-Saens’ Samson et Dalila, an extract that cemented Near Eastern atmospherics for some generations of Hollywood composers.   The Grand Pas de deux from Adam’s Giselle is ranged alongside the Dance of the Furies and its balancing Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck’s Orfeo.    Also, the QSO brass get a chance to shine in the Fanfare pour preceder ‘La Peri’ by Dukas – music for a ballet before the curtain actually goes up.   And, on this kind of program, you can always rely on an outsider sneaking up on you; in this case, another Saint-Saens in the Morceau de concert, today showing off the talents of Alex Miller, the orchestra’s associate principal horn, and having no relevance at all to The Ballet Beautiful.


Friday March 20


Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University at 7:30 pm

The most aristocratic of Classical period symphonies concludes this night’s work, its student participants under the control of Johannes Fritzsch, conductor laureate of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and currently guest conductor of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.    Preceding this elevating masterpiece, Fritzsch takes his charges through Stravinsky’s eight-movement Pulcinella Suite, extracted from the 1920 ballet which marked the composer’s descent into neoclassicism; this requires pairs of woodwind and horns, as well as a single trumpet and trombone, with a string corps.  Requiring probably even fewer numbers, at the night’s centre stands Takemitsu’s 10-minute Tree Line for chamber orchestra.    Put it all together and you get a bit over an hour’s playing time, which strikes me as rather short, especially for a university concert.    However, you’d hope that the music-making itself will prove brisk and refreshing.


Saturday March 21


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio at 9:30 am and 11 am

This is a musical re-telling of Li Cunxin‘s life story: how the country boy became one of the world’s most famous dancers.   There’s no choreography involved but the exercise is reinforced with illustrations by Anne Spudvilas, and actor Bryan Probets will provide the narrative component.   This work, written in 2009, is a ‘symphonic tale’ which lasts half an hour, involving single woodwind, single brass, timpanist and two percussionists, harp and 30 strings.   The story has, of course, particular significance for Queensland as Li is artistic director of the state’s ballet company.    But, even to outsiders like this writer, the dancer’s story is a gripping one: it illustrates how having the right people helping you at the right time makes the difference between a successful career in the upper echelons of Australia’s cultural world and a lengthy term of detention on Christmas Island or Nauru.  Brett Kelly conducts.


Monday March 30


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7 pm

Again, something of a mixed bag from the country’s leading chamber orchestra.   One of the more revealing works will be Prokofiev’s 1947 Solo Violin Sonata being played by all ten of the ACO violinists.   In fact, the composer wrote this work for massed performers, in line with Russian teaching practice (then? now?) where groups regularly played soloists’ music en masse.   ACO Artistic director Richard Tognetti and Satu Vanska are the violin soloists in Arvo Part’s Tabula rasa Double Concerto, which requires a prepared piano as well as string orchestra support.   Shostakovich provides the concert’s conclusion with his Chamber Symphony: the Quartet No. 8 arranged for string orchestra by notable violist/conductor Rudolf Barshai.   Prefacing these major works will be Wojciech Kilar‘s Orawa, a work relating to a district on the border between Poland and Slovakia.  Nevertheless, the most linguistically advanced work on this program is also its shortest: the Misterioso movement from Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho‘s Nymphea Reflection in which the textures are added to by the players’ whispering lines of a poem by Arseny Tarkovsky at the same time as articulating the composer’s wispy textures








February Diary


Yundi Li

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday February 6 at 7:30 pm

Somewhere along the line, I must have  missed this pianist’s Melbourne appearance in 2018; surprising, because his standing as the youngest competitor ever to win the Chopin Piano Competition (in 2000) would have brought him to any interested party’s attention.  Fortunately, he’s back in Australia to electrify his devoted adherents with a solo recital that – you’d guess from its title – features sonatas; in this instance, works by Chopin (No. 3, which Li has recorded twice) Schubert (the A Major D. 664) and Rachmaninov (not much of a choice here and Li has opted for No. 2).   As a filler, the performer moves outside the format and brings in the eight Etudes-tableaux by Rachmaninov.   If you’re interested, prepare to pay: the worst seats (and they are pretty terrible) cost $89 apiece while a decent place puts you back $129.   Group discounts are available but none for individuals, as far as I can work out from the QPAC site.   Li is being presented by Harmonie International, this Brisbane recital following appearances in Melbourne and Perth before two nights in Sydney, a stop-off in Auckland, then on to the US and Canada.  A limited world tour, then.



Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday February 8 at 7:30 pm

One-time teenage prodigy Alexander Prior conducts this opening concert for the QSO’s 2020 operations.   Building on his Russian heritage, he directs the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 that most of us considered to be a paean to Communist ideology until we were admitted into the arcane world of the composer’s sub-texts which turned every pre-conception on its head.   Still, it never fails to energize the spirit, whether you interpret its import as sustaining the down-trodden kulak or condemning Stalin’s police state.   Opening the night, we hear a new score from Melody Eotvos, currently teaching composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium.   The name of this freshly-written work is, as yet, unknown but it was a QSO commission and Eotvos is well-versed in such occasional tasks.   At the night’s centre comes Beethoven’s Triple Concerto – with the Brahms Double Concerto, one of my guilty pleasures.   The soloists all have strong local connections:  violinist Emily Sun comes fresh from reviving Matthew Hindson‘s Violin Concerto Australian postcards at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl; cellist Caleb Wong has been a Melbourne regular, thanks to the Australian National Academy of Music, for several years; and pianist Aura Go has made a recurrent and welcome presence in Australia’s recital programs.   How the three of them will work together in this work is anyone’s guess; my preference has always been for an established piano trio fronting a work that is all too often undervalued.



Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Saturday February 15 at 2 pm

Everybody’s favourite in the first trilogy, I guess; having just endured the overblown Gothic of the last instalment of the final set, this old (1983) masterpiece shows up how poorly the scripts have developed over 36 years.   I’ve not experienced the production modes of Brisbane as far as film soundtracks go but am assuming they’re not that much different to Melbourne’s practices.   The music will be very prominent, probably to the point where projected surtitles will be necessary for those desert-dwelling Stylites who haven’t seen this film twenty times over.   There’s no avoiding the warming inevitability of the John Williams score with its memorable main title and the motifs that hurl out every time Darth Vader and the storm troopers come into view, although you get some relief with the Ewoks and the final medieval celebration music is a splendid touch.  Nicholas Buc here adds to his impressive repertoire of realized film soundtracks, getting the audience well onside before the QSO brass bursts out across the first frame.

This program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.



New World Players

Brisbane Powerhouse

Saturday February 15 at 7:30 pm

These players are new to me.  Are they locals?  I can’t trace them; moreover, the ensemble plays a lot in the USA, if you can trust the internet for your information.  Further, the group’s advertised conductor/director, Eric Roth, is a famous American jack-of-all-trades: composer, orchestrator/arranger. producer and conductor with wide acclaim for this particular program.  It’s based on a video game which revolves around fantasy and science fantasy role-playing games.  Right: I’ve got some awareness of this from my grandson although the exercise seems to be far more directed towards participants than observers; mind you, they’re probably one and the same.  In any case, Roth and his ensemble – a decet, if the publicity photo is any guide – will play this video-game music, written by Nobuo Uematsu who is a big noise in the industry and composed most of the scores for the Final Fantasy franchise.  An individual musician singled out for note in this concert is German pianist Benyamin Nuss who has had composer-approving success interpreting Uematsu’s work.  With only limited exposure to Final Fantasy‘s soundtrack, I found the product charming, Romantic, salonesque; no matter what happens in the games, it’s as though 20th century music didn’t happen.


BEETHOVEN 1, 2 & 3

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday February 17 at 7 pm

And here we go on the Beethoven sestercentennial.  Richard Tognetti and his excellent orchestra – expanded for the occasion with 12 wind (13 for the Symphony in E flat), timpani and some extra strings provided by the Australian National Academy of Music. This is a marvellous juxtaposition of two scores that we rarely hear live and one of the cornerstones of the repertoire, all written across a five-year span and demonstrating Beethoven’s expansiveness of vision; already obvious in the first C Major work but explosive in the Eroica.   Have we heard the ACO’s reading of the composer’s first two essays in the symphony form?   I don’t think so but we are assured of a dust-free evening as Tognetti and his charges unveil a fresh battery of sparkling facets to music that all too frequently is delineated with numbing solemnity and attention-dulling heft.  The question that faces us after tonight is: will anybody better this program in a year full of celebratory observances?



Ensemble Trivium

Old Government House

Friday February 21 at 7 pm

This will be one of the more concentrated chamber music experiences of the year.  Flautist Monika Koerner and three friends are taking on the four Flute Quartets by Mozart.  Not particularly difficult, these small-frame gems exemplify the composer’s melodic facility and his capacity to surprise you with unexpected quirks that are absent in his contemporaries’ more four-square creations.   Helping Koerner through the hour’s worth of music performance are violinist Anne Horton from the Australian National University’s School of Music, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s associate principal violist Yoko Okayasu, and cellist Trish O’Brien from Ensemble Q.   It will all be a leisurely stroll, these works products of Mozart’s early 20s and of a piece with his lighter string quartets or divertimenti.   Fleshing out the entertainment, the quartets will be interwoven with readings from Mozart’s letters; you assume the musicians will carry out this task as no speaker is specified.



Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio

Sunday February 23 at 3 pm

Opening its Beethoven celebrations in this 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, the QSO dedicates half of this chamber recital to a rarely performed piece: the Wind Sextet Op. 71.   Its catalogue number would make you think that the score belongs to the period of the Pastoral Symphony, the Emperor Concerto, the Ghost Piano Trio, and Fidelio.  But it actually belongs to the era of the first two piano concertos, the early cello sonatas, the C minor Piano Trio, and the Quintet for piano and winds.   Its four movements show a brusqueness, if not too aggressive in its application; for many of us, this will be the first live performance we’ll have heard – and are likely to hear for some time.  The clarinets are acting associate principal Brian Catchlove and Kate Travers; principal Nicole Tait and Evan Lewis provide the bassoon lines; the horn players are associate principal Alex Miller and Lauren Manuel.   As an odd complement to this rarity, we hear the massive Piano Quintet in F minor by Brahms, thanks to concertmaster Warwick Adeney and fellow violinist Shane Chen, violist Bernard Hoey, associate principal cello Hyung Suk Bae, with guest Anna Grinberg from the University of Queensland’s School of Music taking on the formidable keyboard element.   Both works total only about an hour in performance but there’s a fair chance you’ll be satisfied, if not sated, at the event’s conclusion.



Southern Cross Soloists

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday February 23 at 3 pm

To be honest, I’d be delighted to hear a trumpet player let loose; most of the time, they’re inclined to behave as if constipated, tastefully controlling their dynamic level to avoid any semblance of domination.    From the Concertgebouw comes principal Miroslav Petkov who opens his innings with Maurice Andre‘s arrangement of the Vivaldi Trumpet Concerto RV 20, which in my book is the Violin Sonata No. 4 in F Major.  Did the composer write a concerto for single trumpet?   If so, I can’t find it.   For relief, Paul Dean interpolates a clarinet solo by Tasmanian-based saxophonist Jabra Latham before the ensemble launches into Frozen River Flows from 2005, originally for oboe and percussion, by Petkov’s fellow Bulgarian Dobrinka Tabakova.   Then come some arrangements for trumpet of Rachmaninov Romances – probably not all 7 in the list of the composer’s compositions.    Stravinsky’s Petrushka then appears, but surely not the whole ballet?   And Petkov ends with La Virgen de la Macarena in the version made popular by the famous Mexican trumpeter Rafael Mendez: a nice piece of kitsch to round off another mixed bag of offerings from this unpredictable ensemble.  Oh, and the recital will take place in Reverse Mode, with the audience positioned in the choir seats surrounding the stage, thereby enjoying close proximity to the performers.


Karlsruhe Konzert-duo

Commissariat Store Museum, 115 William Street

Tuesday February 25 at 6:30 pm

This ensemble, established in 1998, comprises cellist Reinhard Armleder and pianist Dagmar Hartmann.   For this event, the musicians are being sponsored by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, which might go some way to explaining the recital’s venue.   In any case, we are promised works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann,  Liszt, Ravel and de Falla.  No problems with the first two names, thanks to five formidable sonatas from Beethoven and two sonatas as well as a set of fine concert variations from Mendelssohn.   Schumann produced the 5 Stucke im Vokkston, and the cello is a possibility in the Op. 70 Adagio and Allegro, as well as the Op. 73 Fantasy Pieces.  Liszt arranged two elegies for the cello/piano combination, as well as the Romance oubliee and La lugubre gondola.  R avel wrote nothing for this instrumental duo; Falla wrote a Melody, a Piece and a Romance for cello and piano.  Or perhaps this list of possibilities is a tad purist.   The duo certainly play Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 in an arranged format and I suspect they may play other transcriptions as well.   Try as I might, details of actual works are impossible to find: you just have to invest the players with a certain amount of  trust.  There will be no intermission and the event lasts for 90 minutes.



Musica Viva

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre

Thursday February 27 at 7 pm

Always a welcome visitor, American master-pianist Ohlsson is offering two programs for this tour, Brisbane scoring the first of them.   The offerings range from Beethoven, through Prokofiev, landing finally on a substantial Chopin bracket.  Over the years, Melbourne has heard a good deal from Ohlsson, most of it in solo recital format, and he never disappoints, his interpretation standards informed without excessive erudition and his technical command unfaltering.   Beethoven to begin, then: the B flat Sonata No. 11 of 1800 which some commentators esteem as formal perfection, in this case wedded to an easy-flowing optimism across all four movements.   Ohlsson then bounds forward 140 years to the bracing Prokofiev Sonata No. 6: brilliant virtuosic writing for keyboard and asking for rapid-fire recovery rates.   As for the Chopin, the pianist – only American winner of the Chopin Piano Competition (1970) – genuflects to the well-known with the Berceuse, as well as the half-remembered in the Impromptu No. 2, gives an airing to the open-hearted C sharp minor Scherzo, and treats us to some of the Op. 25 Etudes – Nos. 5 to 10.   Unmissable.


January Diary

This note is by way of saying what I hoped was unprintable.

There’s nothing on.

Not that there’s much difference in Melbourne.   Over many decades, the only serious music offering during January involved a rural retreat in the form of the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival.   Over recent years, this was complemented by the Peninsula Summer Music Festival which offered a compendium to suit the season and required a retreat of a more intellectual character.

Both were out-of-town, of course, and involved road-trips hat could veer alarmingly in time spans.

But, as far as I can see, there’s nothing comparable in Brisbane.  My favourite niece is taking her family to the Woodford Folk Festival, which is my idea of physical and mental hell, in this case possibly serving as punishment for domestic misdeeds

But that seems to be the only music available and that concourse entertainment falls mainly across the dying days of December 2019.

December Diary

Sunday December 1


The Queensland Choir

Brisbane City Hall at 2:45 pm

The choir is one of the country’s oldest, on a par with the Hurlstone Choral Society of blessed memory and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic.  Despite its venerable status, the northern body seems to be pretty focused on this one exercise: a seasonal observance that probably obtains in every Australian state.  The choral forces number about 100 and their Handel appears to be a popular event in which certain members of the Brisbane public are invited on board.  Which makes it a cross between your regular orthodox performance without surprises and those odd occasions where the soloists are professionals but the choir comprises anyone who turns up with a score.   Conductor this afternoon is QC’s long-time director Kevin Power; his soloists are soprano Eleanor Greenwood, mezzo Sarah Winn, tenor Phillip Costovski and bass Sam Hartley.  Supplying the instrumental component will be the Sinfonia of St. Andrew’s, which is associated with the city’s central Uniting Church.


Tuesday December 3


Maree Kilpatrick

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium at 6:30 pm

Kilpatrick is fulfilling part of the requirements for her Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Queensland Conservatorium (I assume) with a series of recitals.  This evening, the pianist is accompanied by violinist Jason Tong and cellist Kirsten Tong in Australian ‘heritage’ works by Percy Grainger (that field is wide open: I don’t know anything for piano trio by our GOM  but God knows the possibilities are myriad) and Miriam Hyde who wrote a Fantasy Piano Trio.  As well, we are promised pieces by ‘others, including unpublished works’, which suggests the programming of a few products of academic research that may have lain dormant for some time and might be worth resurrecting.   Still, any attempt to bring part of our fast-fading historical record to light is well worth encouraging.   Further, the 90-minute recital is free.


Saturday December 7


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio at 9:30 am

I reviewed a few concerts of this genre from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra before the administration had the good sense to stop inviting me.  The musical fare on offer is essentially populist – tunes everyone knows or pap that won’t stress the brain-cells at all.  And nothing too long, either.  This methodology continues with the QSO’s family-oriented series of matinee concerts which features music by conductor (and QSO cellist) Craig Allister Young and five collaborations with his song-writing partner, Donna Dyson.  Young contributes the exercise’s Overture, conducts the whole event and plays Santa Claus;  Dyson has paired up with him to produce Sneezy the Reindeer, I Won’t Believe It’s Christmas, Santa’s Christmas Cake, Santa Boogie Woogie and Lucy and the Orchestra – that’s half of the music-making today.  As well, families get to experience Santa Claus Is Coming to TownRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Silent Night, all in Young arrangements.  The odd man out is Stephen Lawrence‘s The Incredible Shrinking Clarinet.  Helping the versatile Young in his endeavours will be QSO horn  player Vivienne Collier-Vickers as Mrs.Claus. Zac Parkes playing Sneezy, and Ashleigh Denning as Izzy the Elf.

This program will be repeated at 11 am a/nd 1 pm.


Saturday December 7


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

A more polished version than that from December 1 above, I’m guessing.   Is this venerable oratorio out of vogue here in the north?  The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra manages to attract two pretty full houses to its Messiah renditions in Hamer Hall (and an extra one this year at Costa Hall in Geelong); the QSO seems content with one.   Tonight’s conductor is Stephen Layton, a well-known visitor down south, and his soloists are soprano Sara Macliver. mezzo Helen Charlston, tenor Gwilym Bowen and bass Laurence Williams, with the brunt of the work’s argument falling to the Brisbane Chamber Choir.  It’s useless to rail any more about the suitability of this choral monument to Christmas when its central matter and conclusion centre on Easter, but it might be time for more consideration to be given to Bach’s massive Christmas Oratorio as a more suitable seasonal celebration.   Mind you, such a change would mean doing without your annual overdose of hearty musical plum pudding.


Sunday December 8


Brisbane Chamber Project

Old Government House at 5 pm

It’s not clear to whom the title of this recital refers.   It might be to the Chamber Project’s guest artist, baritone Jason Barry-Smith, although this musician has progressed well beyond the post-apprenticeship stage of his life.   More probably, ‘journeyman’ refers to one of the works that feature on Barry-Smith’s bill of fare: Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, whose narrator has made a profession out of Weltschmerz.   A wind quintet and a speaker (Barry-Smith?) are required for Berio’s 1950-1970 Opus Number Zoo; its gestation length seems inordinately long when you consider that it only lasts for a fraction over 7 minutes.  As for the rest of the night, details are scant although the Project organizers seem to be particularly gratified in announcing the inclusion of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which has, for inexplicable reasons, attracted continued popular acclaim since its 1985 debut.  I saw Cohen once in the State Theatre during a Melbourne International Arts Festival many years ago; ‘underwhelmed’ comes close but I didn’t know how impressed I was meant to be until much later.  Tonight, this journeyman work comes under the generic heading of ‘festive music’, which might have surprised the composer.


Sunday December 8


Brisbane Music Festival

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point at 7:30 pm

This is a remarkable series of recitals that brightens up a usually barren time of year across the country.   Living up to its title, tonight’s program is a thoroughly Austro-German affair featuring masterpieces from both Viennese schools (the more extraordinary metamorphoses coming from the Second) but the chief burden of the players’ output comprises work by Brahms.  To open, Alex Miller from the horn corps of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra partners with pianist Alex Raineri in Beethoven’s Horn Sonata; no, I don’t know it, either.   Raineri then has the joy of providing the keyboard part for two glorious Brahms scores: the F minor Clarinet Sonata with Luke Carbon, followed by the A Major Violin Sonata with Anne Horton.  Carbon returns after interval for Berg’s Four Pieces Op. 5 and Raineri enjoys a solo with Webern’s transparent Variations for Piano.  Finally, Miller, Horton and Raineri have the enviable task of outlining the Brahms Horn Trio in E flat – packed with melancholy in balance with vibrant good humour and the outstanding example of this format (not that Brahms has much competition).


Wednesday December 11


Brisbane Music Festival

356 Bowen Terrace, New Farm at 7 pm

In this admirable series, artistic director/pianist Alex Raineri serves as a fulcrum for several programs.  Tonight, he works with double bass Marian Heckenberg in Suspended Preludes by Andrew Schultz, a seven-movement work from 1993 by the fertile Adelaide-born composer.   Swiss writer Beat Furrer has not crossed my path previously; his Phasma of 2002 is one of only four works for solo piano in Furrer’s voluminous catalogue.  The Sonatine for flute and piano by Boulez still gives me nightmares.  I had to play the keyboard part for a Master’s concert by an ambitious flautist friend back in the 1960s and our necessarily  sporadic preparation took months of labour; even the recorded version by David Tudor and Severino Gazzelloni from 1957 was little help as the players’ congruity proved to be a moveable feast.  On this occasion, the flautist will be Jonathan Henderson.  To end, we hear Liam Flenady‘s Oikeios Topos (Inbuilt/Interior Theme?) which will here enjoy its world premiere and, as a consequence, the composer is withholding its elements or trace constituents from public gaze.


Friday December 13


Brisbane Music Festival

Old Museum Building, Bowen Hills at 7:30 pm

This festival’s artistic director, Alex Raineri, sees the four components of this program as two-way streets: it’s instrument talking to instrument in a set of duos, or composer addressing listener in a set of four vignettes.   The latter comes to life in Debussy’s early Suite bergamasque for solo piano which proposes four discrete scenes, the most famous being Clair de lune.  A fledgling musician’s staple, this opulently arpeggiated gem shines out in some odd surroundings, although the concluding Passepied has an attractive falling note to its whimsy.   Cellist Oliver Scott works with Raineri through Prokofiev’s Ballade Op. 15, a lavish sectional rhapsody with plenty of spiky dissonances to smarten up a surprisingly conservative harmonic backdrop.   Jonathan Henderson‘s flute returns to the series for another Sonatine for flute and piano, this one by Pierre Sancan and the most famous work by this composer who remains pretty much an unknown quantity outside France.   In case Scott didn’t feel as though the 12-minute Ballade had given him ample exposure, he works with Raineri through Rachmaninov’s weighty G minor Sonata of 1901, a product of the months after the famous hypno-/psychotherapy treatment of the composer’s depression by Nikolai Dahl.


Sunday December 15


Brisbane Music Festival

Old Museum Building, Bowen Hills at 3 pm

You see this fish and your thoughts automatically turn to Schubert, unless you’re gastronomically monomaniacal.   In this penultimate recital of the festival, Alex Raineri provides the pivotal piano part for Schubert’s evergreen quintet, in partnership with violinist Anne Horton, violist Yoko Okayasu from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, cellist Oliver Scott, and double bass Marian Hackenberg.   This composition, even for Schubert, is remarkably splayed out with a good deal of potential tedium inbuilt because of the bank of repeats that are involved in a ‘true’ performance.   But the fourth movement variations are always a delight, especially in confident hands.   By way of prelude to this score, flautist Jonathan Henderson appears in his third recital across four days to perform the Bach A minor Partita: one of the cornerstones of this instrument’s repertoire and as impermeable in its surfaces as the composer’s output for solo violin.


Sunday December 15


Canticum Chamber Choir

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point at 5:30 pm

A regular seasonal contribution from the well-regarded Brisbane choir, this seems to a newcomer to be a good old-fashioned service of Lessons and Carols, if probably a bit more free in format than those re-creations that cling with fidelity to the King’s College tradition.   Founder Emily Fox is not slated to direct but then neither is anybody else.  Some community singing is advertised as part of the proceedings; fine, as long as those members of the public who choose to participate can actually stay on pitch.   As a warm-up, Cox’s husband, Christopher Wrench, is playing a short recital starting at 5.10 pm; don’t know how much he can get through in 20 minutes on the state’s oldest organ but it would be a pleasure to hear this musician after a long hiatus (I’ve not heard him play since he won the Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord Bach Competition in 1985) and, as a bonus, working at the instrument of a church where he was organist for 18 years.


Wednesday December 18


Brisbane Music Festival

Old Museum Building, Bowen Hills at 7:30 pm

You’d think that the title of this final Festival event would owe something to Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth.  But maybe not: it doesn’t do to second-guess composer Christopher Dench, one of this country’s more intellectually agile composers.   His new composition – here enjoying its first exposure under the hands of Festival artistic director/pianist Alex Raineri – builds on an earlier work from 2004 called passing bells: night which presents a resonance-rich range of tintinnabulations to the listener and a challenge in rhythmic capsules for its interpreter.  Raineri surrounds this premiere with Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No. 1 which shows that you don’t have to give up your nationalistic vitality when you employ 12-tone writing; and he ends the night with Chopin’s 24 Preludes Op. 28 which offer a round trip through all major and minor keys as well as displaying an astounding emotional variety.




October Diary

Wednesday October 9


Arcadia Winds

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

Well, there’ll be four of them, which isn’t too many.   Oldest of all is J.S. Bach who yet again comes in for a transcription exercise: the Organ Sonata No. 6 in G.   You’d have to assume that this will involve only three members of the Arcadia quintet – perhaps flute, oboe and bassoon?   Around this venerable construct are much more contemporary voices, like Steve Reich whose Vermont Counterpoint for amplified flute and tape will showcase the talents of Kiran Phatak.   English-Australian composer Andrew Ford’s Scenes from Streeton melds some of the artist’s paintings with what the various landscapes look like these days as reported by people who farm them; at the same time, there will be illustrative music, you’d hope.   This will be the world premiere of a work commissioned to commemorate the Recital Centre’s 10th birthday.   As a bonus, the Arcadians perform a work chosen as the recipient of their own Composition Prize.


Saturday October 12


Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

This quartet, performing under the Musica Viva aegis,  comprises flute Anna Besson, violin Louis Creac’h, viola da gamba Robin Pharo and harpsichord Jesn Rondeau. Their collaboration in Baroque performance dates from their student years at the Conservatoire Superieur National de Paris – which can’t have been too long ago as they all look young, although their chronicled activities and discographies so far are impressive.   Tonight focuses on two composers: J.S. Bach and Telemann.  From the former come selections from the Art of Fugue, an arrangement of the Organ Sonata in C, and the Trio Sonata in G BWV 1039 which usually calls for two flutes as well as the inevitable continuo.    As for Telemann, the group plays the first and last of his Paris Quartets (of which these musicians have made a particular study), as well as Fuga 14 from the 20 Small Fugues which are not that small, nor what you would commonly call fugues.

The second program on Tuesday October 15 at 7 pm is more adventurous in scope for the audience.  The group starts off with some Marais –  Suite IV from the Trios for the King’s Bedtime.   Then comes L’Espagnole from Couperin’s Les Nations suite.  The Nevermind fixation on Telemann is exercised here as well with No. 4 of the Paris Quartets.  The ensemble moves into unknown territory for most of us with quartet sonatas by Quentin and Guillemain – once (in the 18th century) well-known names, now all but forgotten.


Sunday October 13


Kronos Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

The fabled group is here as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival’s meagre serious music line-up.   This time, the Kronoi are accompanying a documentary film by Sam Green and Joe Bini, the subject of which is  –  you guessed it   –   the players themselves.   Such larks.   I can’t think of an exercise more self-reflective than playing the score to a film about yourself, but that’s the sort of thing you can get away with when you’re numbered among the legends.   This exercise lasts for 85 minutes with no interval – which either argues for the concentration necessary for such an experience or a fear that audience numbers might plummet if the chance arose for an interval exit.   But you can’t be too unkind about a group that gave us those searing performances of George Crumb’s Black Angels dating back about 45 years.   And, as with the Ardittis, where would contemporary music be without them?

This program will be repeated on Monday October 14 at 7 pm.


Thursday October 17


Robert Davidson

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

This odd program is another element from the Melbourne International Arts Festival collation.   It features pianist  Sonya Lifschitz playing the music of Robert Davidson, a Brisbane composer-musician whose name hasn’t come across my path, as far as I can tell.   The hour-long work has an audio-visual component and it offers pretty much everything  –  ‘a maelstrom of history, politics, art and rebellion.’    Great.   The pre-performance blurb makes reference to Maria Yudina, an uncompromising pianist of the Soviet era admired by Stalin, or so the story goes.   She was a proponent of 20th century music and was a fellow-student of Shostakovich.   Whether her repertoire features in Davidson’s work, I don’t know; whether he quotes giants that Yudina favoured like Bartok and Stravinsky is unclear.  All will be revealed on the night


Friday October 18


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Lu is the MSO’s soloist-in-residence for 2019 and tonight gets the opportunity to show his abilities in recital, rather than in the concerto format.   He collaborates with Melbourne-based Chinese-Australian pianist Angela Li in a program that moves from solid repertoire to frolicsome encore material with a couple of Chinese bagatelles in the middle.   Debussy’s Violin Sonata of 1917 makes for a brave opening, immediately followed by Beethoven’s F Major Spring Sonata.   Lei Zhenbang’s Why Are the Flowers So Red is essentially a folk-song, presumably organised here for violin/piano duo; Lei arranged it some time ago with Julian Yu for a CD entitled Willow Spirit Song.   Cantonese composer Han Kun Sha’s Pastoral is a straight duo and, as far as I can tell, an original composition.  Then we come to the show-pieces: Kreisler’s Praeludium & Allegro, Svendsen’s Romance, and Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen to raise the performance temperature while the aesthetic level sinks to the flashy virtuosic.  Nevertheless, this violinist is a brilliant performer, not just a fleet-fingered lightweight.


Friday October 25


Ensemble Liaison

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

It’s the hair.  Every time Serbian violinist Radulovic hits Melbourne, the promotional photos feature the musician in full flight with his substantial mane streaming around his skull.   What does this crowning glory have to do with his playing?   Well, the only way to find out is to drop in and watch the man at work, alongside his friends from Ensemble Liaison – cello Svetlana Bogosavljevic, clarinet David Griffiths, piano Timothy Young.  The night begins with J.S. Bach’s Clarinet Sonata in D minor BWV 1034, better known as the Flute Sonata in E minor.    Bogosvljevic and Radulovic collaborate on Johan Halvorsen’s Passacaglia on a Handel original theme.   Khachaturian’s G minor Trio for clarinet, violin and piano will enjoy a rare outing, only to be outshone by Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, presumably in a violin/piano format.   And another arrangement ends the night: Griffiths’ version of the monumental Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor, in which the clarinet takes the viola line, although a few of us will find it hard to repress memories of Schoenberg’s brilliant orchestration of this score.


Saturday October 26


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

This performance will be one that uses two pianos as an orchestral substitute; all quite hunky-dory as Brahms arranged the work himself in this format.   The players are Donald Nicolson, better known to me as the harpsichordist member of Latitude 37, and Tom Griffiths who has been the MSO Chorus’s principal repetiteur/accompanist for yonks.   Soloists are soprano Lee Abrahmsen and baritone Simon Meadows while the lengthy work will be conducted by Chorus Master Warren Trevelyan-Jones.   The concert begins with two Schutz motets: a precursor of the Requiem’s conclusion in Selig sind die Toten; and Herr, nun lassest du deinen Diener – the Song of Simeon that the composer set twice.   Sorry I can’t get to it; besides the tender and massive choral complexes, there is little more wrenching and moving in Western music than the Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit movement – enough to make humanists of us all.


Monday October 28


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

A bitzer of a program here.   There will be Bach, beginning with the Violin Sonata in A minor; no, not all of it – just the third movement Andante.   This will probably feature Richard Tognetti in solo mode.   And the night ends with my favourite Brandenburg Concerto: No. 6 with two violas as the top voices.   Speaking of which, one of the night’s guests will be composer/violist Brett Dean.   The program’s second piece brings the other guest into play: Erin Helyard will give a harpsichord accompaniment to Tognetti (one expects) in the Violin Sonata No. 2.   Adding to the mix are selections from the  15 Three-Part Inventions which will be surely entrusted to Helyard.   As punctuation, patrons get to experience Kurtag’s Hommage a J.S.B. which is for a solo instrument – any one you have to hand, it appears; the Sonnerie de Sainte-Genevieve du Mont de Paris by Marais that generally involves violin, viola and continuo; and Dean’s own Approach (Prelude to a Canon), here enjoying its Australian premiere.


Wednesday October 30

Quatuor Ebene

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Like the Kronos, this quartet has been fortunate in retaining most of its original members.  Violinists Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure have been there since the beginning in 1999; so has cellist Raphael Merlin.  Only the violist has changed: from Mathieu Herzog to Adrien Boisseau to Marie Chilemme who has been an Ebeniste since 2017 and the ensemble’s first female.   For its Australian debut under our Recital Centre auspices, the ensemble plays three Beethoven works: Op. 18 No. 2 in G, the Serioso Op. 95 and the Harp Op. 74.   This comes about because the players are celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday (next year, in fact) by playing all 16 quartets as they tour the globe, recording their performances and, for local colour, audience reactions.   Quite a challenge for musicians who have not really specialised in any corner of the repertoire, although a CD (recorded in Vienna?) of the first two Razumovsky quartets is to be issued at the end of September.


Wednesday October 30


Selby & Friends

Tatoulis Auditorium, MLC Kew at 7:30 pm

OK, although for many of us he never went away.   Kathryn Selby and two friends we’ve not seen so far this year – violinist Andrew Haveron from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster desk, and cellist Richard Narroway who becomes Lecturer in Cello at Melbourne University’s Faculty of Music next year – take up the Beethoven challenge with two sonatas and a piano trio.   First up is the penultimate cello sonata, Op. 102 No. 1 in C with its unusual two-movement structure operating in a time-frame of about 15 minutes.   Then comes the C minor Violin Sonata No. 7 which takes nearly twice as long; this is the work that Brahms is reputed to have transposed up a semitone at sight to accommodate Remenyi’s unwillingness to re-tune his violin.  Well, the composer became a master of chromatic shifts, so it’s sort of credible.   Finally, all three musicians work through the Op. 70 No. 2 – a welcome appearance given the popular penchant for its companion: the Ghost Trio.   These three works offer an interesting tour of significant points in Beethoven’s compositional journey; a nimble piece of programming that avoids the well-trodden path.




September Diary

Tuesday September 3

Viktoria Mullova, Matthew Barley & Stephen de Pledge

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

A piano trio that comes under the Recital Centre’s promotional heading of ‘Great Chamber Ensembles’, its violinist and cellist are familiar names – husband-and-wife team Mullova and Barley  –  but who is de Pledge, apart from being a friend of the family?  Guess we’ll find out on the night.   To open, we hear the Ravel which will test he friend/pianist, and the group winds up with the glorious Schubert in E flat – one of those feasts that always satisfies.   In between comes a new work by Salina Fisher. a young New Zealand composer/violinist    I’m assuming this is the piece for cello and piano commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand that is being taken around the composer’s home country later this month; hard to tell from Fisher’s website where her list of works is not up-to-date and this Melbourne appearance doesn’t rate a mention in the list of performances of the composer’s works.


Wednesday September 4


Selby & Friends

Tatoulis Auditorium, MLC, Kew at 7:30 pm

Kathryn Selby’s colleagues for this recital are familiar from previous years: violinist Susie Park and cellist Julian Smiles.   It’s fair to say that these performers are not game changers, but then you’d be pressed to find much revolutionary about the composers highlighted on this amiable night’s work.   Elena Kats-Chernin has become a major presence on this country’s music scene but not for her ability to make us re-think our perceptions.   Blue Silence in a piano trio version was arranged in 2012 for the Streeton Trio, six years after the piece’s original composition for cello and piano.   Based on a four-note motif, the score is as formally -placid and non-directional as a Satie Gnossienne. In Ravel’s Violin Sonata No 2 (the one we all know with the Blues middle movement), the composer experiments with jazz inflections but it hardly represents any blazing of new pathways; Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue appeared three years before this sonata and really altered  public attitudes – for a while.   Smiles and Selby take on Britten’s first composition for Rostropovich: the Cello Sonata of 1961 which started the British composer on his sequence of five splendid scores for the Russian master.  This program concludes with Dvorak in F minor, Op. 65 which signified a directional change from the composer – less nationalism, more abstraction.   Like the Ravel, it’s a game changer more for the writer than for the landscape of European serious music.


Saturday September 7


Australian National Academy of Music

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

There’ll be no soloists in this program from the ANAM orchestra.   We hear the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, recently aired by the MSO and its Chorus, although I don’t think there’ll be any singing here.   Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat follows with what are called ‘Suite selections’ – two sets to choose from but probably no singing despite the original’s two songs for mezzo.  Then comes the title work, also given recently by the MSO and a severe test still for a young orchestra.  You’d think that the outer tableaux depicting the Shrovetide Fair would be the most problematic, but the two central scenes present problems of a different character with their concentration on individual and small group filigree work.   Tonight’s conductor is Brazilian-born Eduardo Strausser, a young gun with a string of successful appearances to his credit in South America and Europe.   He made his Australian debut last year with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, goading that ensemble through the Bruckner Symphony No. 4; this ANAM program is, in comparison, almost frivolous.


Sunday September 8


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

Apart from a Haydn prelude  –  the Symphony No. 39 called Tempesta di mare for reasons I can’t fathom  –   this program is all-Mozart.   You’d assume the Haydn was selected to balance Tognetti’s final offering: the Mozart G minor Symphony No. 25 that enjoyed unusual exposure in Forman’s Amadeus film.   The artistic director takes a solo with the Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, yet another spirit-lifting delight from the teenage composer.    Guest artist Dejan Lazic – a truly formidable pianist – returns to the ACO to perform the E Flat Concerto No. 14 which is a piece you won’t hear often although several commentators place it at the start of the remarkable central group of such works in the composer’s oeuvre.   I think it has a brilliant first movement but is not as enthralling in the following Andantino and Allegro.  Lazic makes a further contribution with a Rondo Concertante that he has arranged from the finale to the B flat Piano Sonata K. 333.    I thought the original would have been too bare-boned and direct for any kind of transformation but Lazic may give us a startling re-composition/adaptation.   We’ll see.

This program will be repeated on Monday September 9 at 7:30 pm.


Friday September 13


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Not much to report about this night.   Conductor Benjamin Northey takes us on a brisk journey through Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony No. 1, which is always agreable to experience if the players are in skittish form for its 14 minutes’ worth.   Then the MSO’s own Thomas Hutchinson takes the lead for the Strauss Oboe Concerto which lasts for an atypically brief 25 minutes; this soloist currently occupies the Associate Principal position under Jeffrey Crellin, who has been in the main chair for 42 years.   Northey then gets the chance to expound the great G minor Symphony and you’d have to wish him well in attempting to bring something new to these all-too-familiar pages, shamefully bowdlerized by pop music cretins and ad men with absolutely no idea about the worth of their adopted material.   There’ll be some immediate interest in seeing (and hearing) whether Northey uses the version with clarinets.


Saturday September 14

Emerson String Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

Not that it matters, but this ensemble will play its second program first in Melbourne.  The well-settled group – one personnel change in 43 years – takes its name from Ralph Waldo, a philosopher more often used as a reference than as reading material; what I know about him derives pretty much completely from Charles Ives.  The musicians begin with Haydn Op. 71 No. 2 which will probably hold plentiful surprises for Emerson enthusiasts because this particular work does not feature in the ensmble’s The Haydn Project recordings.   Beethoven’s middle Razumovsky, they have recorded to mixed reviews.   No raised eyebrows with the centre work, either: Bartok No. 5.   In short, a program from a well-respected ‘name’ quartet, calculated to highlight the players’ abilities in core repertoire.

The Emersons will perform their Program 1 on Tuesday September 17 at 7 pm.   This comprises Mozart in D Major K. 575, first of the Prussian series which the group has recorded; Dvorak Op. 51 in E flat. oozing nationalistic flourishes, particularly in its second half; and Shostakovich Op. 92 which the Emersons have also recorded and which makes an odd match for the second program’s Bartok.


Sunday September 15


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Iwaki Auditorium, Southbank at 11 am

When you read that heading, the first thing that comes to mind is the Bartok Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and sure enough: that masterwork from 1937 leads the two-part agenda for this recital.   It’s not uncommon to come across it on programs, even these days when the composer is recognized by an ever-shrinking repertoire, but you rarely hear the score achieved with complete confidence.   Here’s hoping pianists Louisa Breen and Leigh Harrold with MSO percussionists John Arcaro and Robert Cossom breeze through its three movements with aplomb.   The morning-into-afternoon concludes with Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story in an arrangement originally for two pianos by American composer/pianist John Musto, transmuted even further by Cossom to include the two available percussionists.   A pretty short recital, which may not stretch past noon as the two works last for about 50 minutes combined.  But no: I’m forgetting those laborious spoken introductions and commentaries that bring this extraordinary music down to the level of banality.


Thursday September 19


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

Hmm . . . Elgar. . . Variations.   No secrets here, then: we’re in for the Enigma, conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth who is solidly British in background and no close relation to Mark, a fine musician who could have been the MSO’s sometime chief conductor if the stars had aligned, I believe.   Anyway, good luck to Ryan and his interpretation of this hoary collection.   As guest soloist, we hear Paul Lewis in Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3 which is being substituted for Wigglesworth’s own Mozart Variations . . . a new score that might have given some expanded relevance to this concert’s title.   Never mind: Lewis is a remarkable, insightful artist heard here in concertos too rarely.   To begin, Lewis and Wigglesworth collaborate as soloists in Mozart’s Two-Piano Concerto in E flat: a secret pleasure as my favourite above most of the better-known one-piano concerto masterworks.  And my lack of discernment is exhibited yet again by a partiality for the Keith Jarrett/Chick Corea live performance from 1985.

This program will be repeated on Friday September 20 in Costa Hall, Geelong at 7:30 pm.


Friday September 20


Australian String Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

The Quartet No. 1 by Ives had no subtitle when I first heard it back in the 1960s.  Now the ASQ have labelled it From the Salvation Army; American groups have called it A Revival Service.   Whatever its sobriquet, the work is packed with hymn tunes and – up until the last movement – an orthodoxy that disturbs because you keep waiting for the biting clashes that signify the composer’s idea of a man’s music as opposed to all that French slop being produced about the same time (1898-1902).   Speaking of which, Debussy’s Op. 10 Quartet at the end of tonight’s program dates from 1893 and is a fine example of the kind of writing that Ives detested; we less Spartan minds have learnt to make allowances.   Nigel Westlake’s new piece being premiered on this tour is his String Quartet No. 3, about which no information is readily available.   It enjoys its first performance in Sydney on September 4; then in Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth before being expounded to the discerning ears of Melbourne’s chamber music aficionados.


Saturday September 21


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

The American players – flute Denis Bouriakov, oboe Ramon Ortega Quero, clarinet Boris Allakhverdyan, bassoon Whitney Crocket  and horn Andrew Bain – open with a welcome burst of nationalism through Barber’s sophisticated and benign Summer Music before employing the services of an ANAM bass clarinettist for Britten’s 1930 Movement for Wind Sextet – a window into the 16-year-old composer’s practices.  Then we cross the Channel in a big way.   An ANAM pianist (Timothy Young?)  gets to join the Los Angeles musicians for Poulenc’s Sextet before we take a step back in time for Gounod’s Petite symphonie which entails the assistance of further ANAM musicians  –  an oboe, a clarinet, a bassoon and a horn.   Milhaud’s Chamber Symphony No. 5 expands the participating personnel by one, requiring a piccolo, a cor anglais to help the oboe, that bass clarinet again, an extra bassoon and another horn.   Finally, the visitors will be duplicated by a home-grown group in Francaix’s 9 Pieces caracteristiques for double wind quintet.   If nothing else, the evening bears evidence of the immense debt that wind players owe to France.


Tuesday September 24

Paul Lewis

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Back in the thick of the recherche, this fine British pianist is again confining himself to a circumscribed field.   He begins with Haydn in E minor Hob XVI.34 which, as far as I can detect, has not featured in his recordings of music by this composer.   It’s a pretty terse work, the three movements rushing past with an unusual conciseness of rhetoric.  Continuing his predilection for late works by the masters, Lewis then focuses on the Three Intermezzi Op. 117 by Brahms where the melancholy and resignation of old age colour every page: extraordinary creations of apparent simplicity.   For his finale, Lewis takes on Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations which has not enjoyed the exposure of Bach’s Goldberg and probably lags behind the Baroque work in any universal discography.   You can wait many years to hear the Diabelli live; I believe that I’ve heard it only once – at one of Stephen McIntyre’s  one-day piano festivals at St. Michael’s Church.   To an unprepossessing tune, Beethoven brought all his hard-won craft and you’d anticipate an engrossing interpretation of this lengthy score from this player gifted with consummate skill and a working intellect.


Thursday September 26


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Terribly popular, this concerto.   It seems hardly a year goes by without its appearance on an MSO program.  Not that you can whinge about its coming up yet again when the soloist is Ray Chen, a violinist of great accomplishment and insight (when he’s playing something worthwhile).   Tonight’s director/violinist is MSO Concertmaster Dale Barltrop who leads us into a light-filled program with Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri Overture and brings us home with Schubert’s Symphony No. 3 where the concluding frolic of a presto brings to mind the composer who opened the concert.   As a sort of programmed encore, Chen and Barltrop collaborate in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins in A minor, which Bach transcribed, along with three other concertos by the Italian composer, for organ solo.   As a composite presentation for this hall, this all strikes me as effective and appropriate; nothing sombre and little that would benefit from a noticeable echo.

This program will be repeated in Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University on Friday September 27 at 7:30 pm.





August Diary

Friday August 2


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

French conductor Bertrand de Billy comes to front the MSO for the first time.   He has made a reputation as an expert at opera in various houses throughout Europe, although his residences have been uncommonly brief.   His exhibition piece for this program is Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra which the MSO publicity team is anxious to link with Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey; yes, the eminent film-maker used the whole first minute of this verbose tone poem.   What will they do for an organ, now that Hamer Hall doesn’t have one?   Yet another electronic substitute for Calvin Bowman to coax into life, I suppose.   Guest soloist Johannes Moser won the Tchaikovsky Competition 17 years ago; tonight, he works through the most famous 20th century concerto which, unlike the Strauss, is a model of concise expression.   And to ease us into late Romantic mood, de Billy directs Wagner’s ever-moving Siegfried Idyll, that delectable pre-Ring palate-cleanser.

This program will be repeated on Saturday August 3 at 7:30 pm and on Monday August 5 at 6:30 pm.


Friday August 9


The Melbourne Musicians

Tatoulis Auditorium, MLC Kew at 7:30 pm

Accompanied by Frank Pam and his ensemble, Elyane Laussade concludes a three-concert series of Mozart piano concertos with the only one among the first ten or so that concert-goers regularly hear: No. 9 in  E flat, the Jeunehomme, which breaks the rules by having the soloist enter almost straight away, then keeps the surprises coming, including a sudden Minuet in the Rondeau finale.   On either side, Pam directs two Haydn symphonies – No. 43 in E flat, the Mercury, and the better-known La Passione No. 49 in F minor.   Breaking the Viennese flavour, the night ends with a three-movement Boccherini symphony in D minor called House of the Devil which reserves its supernatural promise for a violently active final Allegro con molto.


Saturday August 10


Australian National Academy of Music Orchestra

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

Well, the joy isn’t hard to find.   ANAM resident faculty member Noah Bendix-Balgley, first concertmaster with the Berlin Philharmonic, directs and leads Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony to bring the program to a vitally optimistic, if minor-key conclusion.   What comes before is less happy.   Gideon Klein’s folk-influenced, astringent Partita of 1944, the year before the composer’s death in or near the Furstengrube labour camp, was originally a trio for violin, viola and cello, later arranged for string orchestra by Vojtech Saudek.   Further in the heartbreak stakes, Bendix-Balgley takes the solo part in Hartmann’s powerful Concerto funebre, written in the first year of World War Two but drawing part of its sources from German and Russian songs memorializing victims of violence.   Quite a test in concentration for the conductor/soloist; still, you’re only young once.


Sunday August 11


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

This is another collaboration by the ACO with photographer Bill Henson, revisiting a previous effort in 2005.   These fusions rarely come without problems of balance in interest, although what I remember of the previous exercise was not an unusually lopsided affair, possible due to the cool, detached nature of Henson’s work.   As for the music, it’s another medley that, at time of writing, is vague in its details; some Britten, some Janacek, Peteris Vasks’ Violin Concerto entitled Distant Light, a descent into the abyss with something from R. E.M.    I’m anticipating that this last will involve the participation of the program’s main guest, the singer Lior whose work with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in music by Nigel Westlake stands as one of the few almost-successful fusions of serious intentions with popular vocalisation.   You can understand that Richard Tognetti, director and probably soloist in the 30-minute-long Vasks concerto, wants to keep open options to marry his music with Henson’s photographs; let’s hope the wash-up doesn’t consist of incongruent scraps.

This program will be repeated on Monday August 12 at 7:30 pm.


Wednesday August 14


Markiyan and Oksana Melnychenko

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

This mother-and-son piano/violin duo has shown admirable versatility in previous recitals.   This time, it’s straight down the line with Schubert and Brahms.   To begin, they play the Grand Duo, Schubert’s Violin Sonata D 574; not a work that you experience often – not like the contemporary and highly appealing Sonatinas.   In fact, I can’t remember the last time I heard it in live performance.   The main Brahms offering is the magnificent G Major Regen Sonata which radiates a healthy gemutlichkeit that typifies this composer’s finest chamber music: a warmth that swells in all-embracing  breadth from one bar to the next.   Finally, the Melnychenko partners look further back in the composer’s career – some 25 years or so – to that youthful oddity, the F-A-E Sonata written in collaboration with Schumann and his pupil Albert Dietrich.   Brahms contributed a scherzo to this composite construct which hits you like a hammer with its intense power and rhythmic vigour, including a clutch of signature hemiolas.


Wednesday August 14


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

The Australian soprano is a guest artist in residence at ANAM at this time of year.   As far as I can make out, she has no singing pupils to deal with; which is to say that none are mentioned on the Academy’s 2019 list of musicians.   So you’d assume that Macliver is giving ANAM pianists a chance to accompany her, one of the country’s most versatile sopranos.   Some lucky player will escort the singer through Schumann’s Frauen-Liebe und -Leben, which sets the bar impossibly high for any other lieder composer: an intense, heart-breakingly moving depiction of female psychology in eight superb songs.  Someone else will assist Macliver in selections from Duparc’s 17 chansons: we can hope for L’invitation au voyage, Phydile and Extase.   In between, we’re to enjoy Grieg’s Haugtussa, the composer’s solitary song-cycle which follows a country girl from youthful joy in life to later disillusionment.


Saturday August 17


Australian String Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 4 pm & 6 pm

Both of these programs consist of Australian works: six in the early session, five in the later one.   Two singer-composers will be guest artists at 4 pm: Stephen Pigram, from whom we’ll hear Walganyagarra Buru, then Mimi in an arrangement by Iain Grandage; and Lou Bennett whose Jaara Nyilamum is preceded by a collaboration with Grandage, dirt song.   Running parallel with this indigenous current come Kate Moore’s String Quartet No. 3, Cicadidae, which the ASQ presented here in May; and David Paterson’s Quartettsatze, all two of them.   For the second program, the players begin with a venerable (well, it’s almost 30 years old) favourite in Sculthorpe’s two-movement String Quartet No. 11, Jabiru Dreaming.   Guest William Barton joins the ensemble for a new work by Stephen King that involves, naturally, the didgeridoo.   Grandage speaks en clair with his After Silence – like the Sculthorpe, taking its inspiration from Aboriginal sources.  Barton’s own Square Circles Beneath the Red Desert Sand from 2017 is preceded by Sarah Hopkins’ Reclaiming the Spirit of 1993, presumably in its string quartet format.   Good on the ASQ for taking on the challenge of two all-Australian recitals, even if the audiences will probably fit comfortably into the Primrose Potter Salon.


Thursday August 22


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

And here comes another cellist.   Johannes Moser opens the month with Elgar’s anguished masterpiece; now Jian Wang puts his talents into Saint-Saens’ Concerto No. 1, the more popular of the composer’s two works in the form.   Conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider has enjoyed a sterling career as a solo violinist with an impressive CD catalogue of concerto and chamber music performances.   Tonight, he begins proceedings with excerpts from Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream; no sign of any singers or speakers, so there’ll be no melodramas or Ye spotted snakes – which rather limits these extracts to the all-too-familiar.   Szeps-Znaider gives pride of place to the brilliant Berlioz symphony, a masterpiece that nonplussed the strait-laced Mendelssohn and set out an orchestration text-book from which Saint-Saens profited handsomely.

This program will be repeated in Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University on Friday August 23 at 7:30 pm, and back in Hamer Hall on Saturday August 24 at 2 pm.


Thursday August 22


Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Only two works occupy this evening’s program: the Mendelssohn Octet for strings and the Brahms Serenade No. 1, in its second format for nonet which will be a reconstruction because the original score disappeared.   Piecing together possibilities, this Brahms may be articulated by flute, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, and one each of the string groups. A full complement of the 8 strings necessary for Mendelssohn’s light-filled gem is outlined on the ARCO web-site including violinists Rachael Beesley and Miki Tsunoda, violist Simon Oswell, and cellist Daniel Yeadon.   The whole exercise will be led by Jakob Lehmann who is continuing his liaison with this organization while leading a hectic artistic life focused on his home-town, Berlin.   On paper, the entertainment looks a tad lop-sided: Mendelssohn’s Octet lasts about 30 minutes, the Brahms close to 45.   But you’d be hard pressed to think of two such complementary optimistic and innately happy scores.


Thursday August 29


Ensemble Liaison

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

The ensemble’s three friends for this night’s work are top-notch musicians: Natsuko Yoshimoto from the Adelaide Symphony,  Elizabeth Sellars at Monash University, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s principal violist Christopher Moore.   But operations begin with two of the core Liaison personnel – cellist Svetlana Bogosavljevic and pianist Timothy Young – playing Three Pieces: Humoresk, Lied and Tarantell by Alexander von Zemlinsky, Schoenberg’s brother-in-law.   Brief in length, these bagatelles precede one of the promised quintets, that by Weber for clarinet and string quartet.   This puts Ensemble stalwart David Griffiths firmly at the centre of the action in one if the foundation works for his instrument.   Australian writer Natalie Williams is represented by a new trio, Treppenwitz  –  the German term for l’esprit de l’escalier, or thinking too late of the perfect reply –  which piece seems to have been tailored for the Liaison personnel.   Finally, guest violinists and viola come on to partner Bogosavljevic and Young through the sombre depths of Shostakovich’s Quintet in G minor.


Friday August 30


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

James Gaffigan, chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, lightens the atmosphere after interval with Dvorak’s rural-flavoured Symphony No. 8 in G Major.  Eschewing the stentorian brouhaha of the following New World, this score is a fine example of the Czech composer’s ability to appeal to the bucolic in even the most metropolitan-centred of us; a special delight comes with those waffling horns in the exciting finale.   Viktoria Mullova is an honoured name world-wide and you couldn’t ask for a more authoritative hand than hers with the night’s eponymous concerto; it’s one of a kind and engrossing from start to finish, not least for the torrent of work given to the soloist.   For a starter, Gaffigan directs Janacek’s Jealousy, the original overture for Jenufa about which the composer had second thoughts; a fraught 6 minutes of perturbing fragments and blazing brass.

This program will be repeated on Saturday August 31 at 7:30 pm, and on Monday September 2 at 6:30 pm.





July Diary

Thursday July 4


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

Lang Lang came here many years ago in the first flush of his success to play with the MSO: Tchaikovsky No. 1, I think.  Rapturous applause but I was unmoved; a player with full mastery of the tricks but no idea what he was dealing with.  Packing a lot more exposure and experience, he’s back in yet another of the administration’s by-the-book programs.   No, that’s not fair.  It may follow the overture/concerto/symphony format of yore but not slavishly.   Conductor Kirill Karabits opens this celebration with the incomparable lightness of being that is The Marriage of Figaro Overture; thrown off hours before the premiere, according to legend.   But it’s still barely 4 minutes’ worth of festive greatness.   The guest pianist dis/continues the prevailing strain with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, the overture’s companion in Kochel’s catalogue and a C minor harbinger of Beethoven.   Among the final flurry of the composer’s piano concertos, it sticks out like a sore thumb for its intransigence of expression (except for the amiable middle Larghetto) and is a real test of Lang Lang’s interpretative strength.   For us old-timers, the work is a deviation: 40 years ago, a celebratory gala with a focal Mozart concerto would have been hard to imagine without the presence of a superstar like Haebler in town.   Ditto for the symphony, which is not the Rachmaninov No. 2  –  an MSO favourite  –  but the No. 3 which  I’ve heard the orchestra play twice.   More concise than its predecessor, this score is another splendid  canvas for the performers to unveil.  Karabits remains an unknown quantity; all his work so far appears to be Eurocentric.


Saturday July 13


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

What do you think will happen when Sir Andrew eventually leaves his chief conductor post with the MSO?   Will this annual observance fall into abeyance?   We can only hope.  I can’t be the only one who thinks that, with these Last Night events, you might just as well leave at interval because the second half is as processed as a ham-and-cheese roll from Coles.   The pre-Brexit chain-rattling of imperial reassurance will echo across the decades with the usual Elgar/Wood/Arne/Parry predictables.   Before this prolonged excuse to roll out the Union Jacks, patrons get some familiar works and a handful of unknowns.  Violinist Lu Siqing, the MSO’s Soloist in Residence, will vault through Saint-Saens’ rollicking Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.  And then, presumably, go home.  Soprano Greta Bradman has more to do, beginning with two operatic favourites: Una voce poco fa from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, and poor Leonora’s D’amor sull ali’ rosee just before the Miserere in Verdi’s Il trovatore.   The MSO Chrous will be given the chance to animate Parry’s Blest pair of sirens where Milton comes in for the Pax Britannica treatment.  Bradman returns with an odd brace in Horn’s Cherry Ripe juxtaposed with a work by the singer’s grandfather: Sir Donald’s Every Day is a Rainbow Day for Me which stems blamelessly from the Victorian music hall – melodious and four-square.   To conclude the interesting if scrappy first half, Michael Hurst’s Swagman’s promenade offers a medley of Australian tunes (among the Irish and English ones that have been smuggled past customs) calculated to make you nostalgic for the brain-dead Menzies era.


Sunday July 14


Victorian Opera

Hamer Hall at 5 pm

What’s so heroic here?   Well, primarily, the music is most taxing and not the kind of thing we hear from any organization.   The first half is all-Rossini and he is also a main contributor to the program’s second part.   It looks like the company is preparing for a production of Semiramide: we hear the Overture, Arsace’s Eccomi alfine in Babilonia, the heroine’s Bel raggio lusinghier, the mother-and-son Ebben . . . a te; ferisci duet.  Intertwined with these four will be two scraps from Ciro in Babilonia, the lesser-known of the composer’s two Lenten operas: Avrai tu pur vendetta for the tenor role Arbace, and Chi disprezza gl’infelici from the mezzo confidante Argene.   As well, we get a reminder of the company’s recent essay at Guillaume Tell with Arnold’s famous Asile hereditaire.  After interval, the composer’s massive catalogue gives us two arias from the delicious L’Italiana in Algeri – Isabella’s Act 1 cavatina, Cruda sorte! and the slightly later Ai capricci della sorte – and the night ends with the concluding trio and finale from Le comte Ory.  Bellini scores one guernsey – the overture to Norma –  and the company offers four Donizetti pieces: the heroine’s entrance from Linda di Chamounix, O luce di quest’anima; Deserto in terra from Dom Sebastiano (the same as the eponymous hero’s Seul sur la terre from the original Dom Sebastien); O mon Fernand, Leonore’s big self-sacrifice from La favorite which so accurately prefigures the work’s final curtain; and Livorno. dieci Aprile from Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, a dramma giocoso about which I know nothing – but one of this night’s singers will be an expert: soprano Jessica Pratt recorded the work 8 years ago for La Scala.  The other singers will be mezzo Daniela Barcellona, tenor Carlos E. Barcenas, ‘and guests’.  Richard Mills conducts what one hopes will be an evening of revelations.


Sunday July 14

The Melbourne Musicians

St. John’s Southgate at 3 pm

Out of the regular MLC series, this program takes the Musicians back to their former seat of operations.  To say its appeal is catholic is an understatement.  Frank Pam conducts two Bach violin concertos: the A minor BWV 1041, with Anne Harvey-Nagl as soloist; then the E Major BWV 1042 in a transcription featuring Justin Kenealy’s soprano saxophone.   Mozart’s bracing, magnificent Sinfonia concertante partners Harvey-Nagl with violist Sally Clarke.  But the fun comes with tenor Lorenzo Iannotti and his bracket of Caro mio ben, Schubert’s Ave Maria, and O sole mio.  In fact, you can find nothing to argue with in most of this afternoon’s work.  The Bach works are spiritually cleansing, although you’d have to have reservations about Kenealy’s timbre in this close space.  You’d hope Pam will supplement his strings with pairs of horns and oboes for the majestic Mozart.   As for the Italian/Latin songs, I’m predicting a popular success, even though the tenor is an unknown force to me


Sunday July 14


Corpus Medicorum

Melbourne Recital Centre at 5 pm

An orchestra of medical people  – practitioners and auxiliaries – that I’ve heard once before.   It’s conducted by Keith Crellin who occasionally revisits his trademark viola but is now more firmly linked with the baton, directing this and other orchestras in Adelaide.   The program involves only two works and one of them is calculated to stroke the plumage of a certain  kind of patriotism: Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony No. 3 with its broad-bosomed chauvinism serving as an advantage throughout an atypically happy construct.   Preceding this, violinist Markiyan Melnychenko and cellist Michael Dahlenburg front the Brahms Double Concerto which has suffered a poor critical reception for many years but I can’t see why.   Mind you, my affection for it sprang from a long flight leg many years ago during which the classical audio channel got stuck so you had access to a few works only: excerpts from Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette and this concerto were the recurring highlights – hour after hour.  Whatever the abilities of the orchestra itself, I can speak highly of the two soloists’ professional skills.


Thursday July 18


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

The city performances marry a concert-hall cliche with a bourn undiscovered outside the pages of text-books.   Sir Andrew Davis revisits the work that, in 1913, re-defined serious music; after The Rite of Spring, nothing was even potentially the same again and those ignorant enough to dismiss Stravinsky’s chef d’oeuvre in the following decades by pursuing the traditional paths have suffered the fate of all those who stand in the doorway and block up the hall.   The rhythmic changes remain compelling and abrasive, the melodies superbly apposite (now that Taruskin has revealed to us that most of them are folk-tunes), but the orchestration must have shown the composer’s peers how much they still had to learn.   Davis draws on the MSO Chorus and two children’s choirs to present the 1934 melodrame Persephone to a Gide text.  As for principals, his Eleusinian Mysteries originator Eumolphe will be American tenor Paul Groves; the narrator is Lotte Betts-Dean who I’m supposing will not follow commissioner Ida Rubinstein’s lead and dance as well (the four other dance roles are not mentioned on the MSO site).  At the Geelong performance, Persephone disappears (as she does every year), replaced by Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and the 1919 suite that Stravinsky fabricated from The Firebird – the one that we all know and which makes us comfortable.

This program will be repeated – well, half of it – on Friday July 19 in Costa Hall Geelong at 7:30 pm and, in its original format, back in Hamer Hall on Saturday July 20 at 2:30 pm.


Saturday July 27

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Hamer Hall at 7 pm

The famous choir is back again, moving into a large space that can host its many admirers.  While it may be singing in Melbourne twice, it will sing the same works on each night; unlike Sydney, which will enjoy an almost completely separate menu at its night/matinee performances.   We will be treated to some all-too-familiar repertoire staples – Gibbons’ Hosanna to the son of David, Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols (really?), Byrd’s Laudibus in sanctis.   The singers will work through an off-shore bracket with Bach’s Komm, Jesu, komm, Monteverdi’s settle-down motet Cantata Domino, and the four-part Salve Regina by Cavalli.   The remainder is solidly British, for the most part: Loquebantur variis linguis by Tallis, Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir’s setting for last Christmas’s Nine Lessons and Carols in Cambridge of Wesley’s O Mercy Divine (this calls for the assistance of Sydney Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Umberto Clerici); Vaughan Williams’ setting of Bunyan sentences in Valiant-for-Truth (who’s going to supply the organ-or-piano intro? Probably harpist Alice Giles who’s involved in the Britten Christmas collation).   Erollyn Wallen’s 6-minute PACE suggests novelty – so far.  Like the Weir, a new work by our own Ross Edwards will enjoy its Australian premiere.  Singing the Love currently retains its mysteries, including the origin of its text, but we can hope for an outpouring of Maninyas ecstasy to brighten up what looks like a by-the-numbers event.


This program will be repeated on Tuesday August 6 at 7 pm in the Melbourne Recital Centre.

June Diary

Monday June 3

Kirill Gerstein

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

A pianist who sits on the uncomfortable fence between jazz and classical, Gerstein is yet another new name to me, although his career so far as been peppered with significant accomplishments.  He’s centred in America and Europe for the most part, with a few side-trips to Japan and China (Republic of).  He might have hit these shores but I can’t recall it.   His program is all things to all men: Liszt’s Eroica Transcendental Study (Gerstein recorded the lot three years ago) and the Funerailles from Harmonies poetiques et religieuses; a Debussy brace in the late Elegie and Les soirs illumines par l’ardeur du charbon, the composer’s last piano work written in gratitude to his coal supplier; something a tad more mainstream in Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin; Janacek’s political protest Sonata From the Street; Beethoven’s Variations and Fugue in E flat, another gloss on the Eroica finale theme; the Berceuse from Thomas Ades’ 2016 opera, The Exterminating Angel; and a blast from the Armenian past in Komitas Vardapet’s Shushiki Vagarshapat and Unabi of Shushi, both from the composer’s Six Dances.  All that should keep the mental cobwebs at bay


Tuesday June 4


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Tognetti and troops persist in their fascination for the over-lauded abilities of Peters Vasks; on this program, they are giving the Australian premiere of the composer’s Viatore for 11 solo strings.  The work depicting a traveller in the infinite has two themes, one for the person him/herself and the other for infinity, a theme which, according to the composer, ‘does not change’ – metaphysicians, rejoice.  More earth-bound are the Overture and a few dances from Handel’s Alcina, once the national company’s solitary Baroque offering in the good old days when it had sopranos willing to, and capable of, singing the main role.  The third in the set of three Ancients Airs and Dances by Respighi ups the poressure quite a bit, including that wonderful Roncalli Passacaglia that exposes each of the string lines – well, first violins, violas and cells – with some slashing quadruple stops; let’s hope the players take it at a respectable pace, not dead slow as seems to be the norm whenever the direction Maestoso comes up.  The local content comes in Meale’s Cantilena Pacifica, an arrangement of the fifth movement from the composer’s tedious String Quartet No. 2.  And the night’s best music comes last in Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; what a genius the young man had at 23 and how few were the flashes that surpassed it in his later career.


Friday June 7


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

You know just by the title that the night’s focal entertainment will be Ravel’s long crescendo and study in orchestration, especially if you have only one theme to deal with.  And, if Slava Grigoryan is involved, the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez won’t be far away, either.  Filling out the corners of this popular Town Hall menu come Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat Suite No. 2 – Neighbours’ Dance (simple but inspired), Miller’s Dance, Jota – and Boccherini’s Ritirata notturno di Madrid in the Berio arrangement where you get four pieces superimposed for the price of one, but at least the tune is immediately recognizable thanks to Russell Crowe’s impersonation of a musical master and commander.   Also inserted in there somewhere is the Rapsodie espagnole by Ravel which gives you a better Hispanic soundscape than you get from the hysteria-promoting Bolero.   Benjamin Northey will conduct what looks like being a sold-out event.


Tuesday June 11

Doric String Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

The group, founded in 1998, is represented as ‘the leading British string quartet of its generation.’  No, I don’t know who wrote/said this; some fatuous fan, I suspect  .  .  .  or probably some under-inspired promotional people.   Anyway, taking everything with a grain of salt, I find no fault in these just musicians – at least, until they get here.   At the core of their two programs sits a new work by Brett Dean; so far untitled, but you’d have to suspect that the form will be quadrilinear.   On this night, the musicians begin with Haydn’s The Joke in E flat and end with the big-boned Schubert in G, the composer’s last.

The Dorics will present their second program on Saturday June 15 at 7 pm. As well as Dean’s new work, the ensemble offers another Haydn –  B flat from the same set as The Joke, Op. 33 – and another weltering masterwork in Beethoven’s C sharp minor that focuses on one of music’s great slow movement/variation constructs.  After this, we’ll be able to see if the publicists/fans had it right.


Saturday June 15


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7 pm

This is a War Requiem for Peace, according to composer/soprano Deborah Cheetham.   In it, she is attempting to memorialise and put to rest the spirits of victims in a resistance war that ran from 1840 to 1863 around the Eumerella River running from Port Fairy to Portland.   I know nothing about this history, but I’m a product of my class, race and time; which also means that I can understand the composer’s need to speak of the war’s devastation on Aboriginal history and people, especially the Gunditjmara, and their descendants.   As well as Cheetham, the singers involved will be mezzo Linda Barcan, tenor Don Bemrose, the Dhungala Children’s Choir (celebrating its 10th birthday), and the MSO Chorus.   Instrumentalists come from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and Melbourne Youth Orchestras – as well as, I presume, the MSO.   In charge of this assemblage is Benjamin Northey who can turn his hand to anything and everything.


Saturday June 15


Australian National Academy of Music

South Melbourne Town Hall at 7:30 pm

By all means, let us celebrate one of the musical heroes of Theresienstadt who died under peculiar circumstances at the age of 24 in the last year of World War Two.   ANAM director Nick Deutsch and MSO principal clarinet David Thomas head a group of Academy musicians in this observation of the composer’s birth year centenary.   They will perform some of the Czech writer’s last compositions – the Piano Sonata of 1943 and the same year’s Wiegenlied.   From pre-camp times come the Woodwind Octet of 1940 and a Duo for violin and cello of 1941 that I believed he left unfinished because of his arrest.  Pointing clearly to his more traditional influences, a wind sextet will perform Janacek’s chameleonic Mladi.  And the night reaches even further back to Dvorak’s  Serenade for Winds, which boasts a mutable cast: two each of oboes, clarinets and bassoons, plus three horns.  There’s also an ad lib contrabassoon part, if you have a player to hand.   And/or there are parts for cello and double bass to reinforce the score’s lower textures.  Of course, every Czech writer has to take these great names into account but I hope their formidable chamber music pieces don’t cause us to forget the program’s shorter pieces by the talented and tragic young man who admired them.


Thursday June 20


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

Was it last year that we heard this overwhelming masterpiece?   Or am I confusing it with the Verdi?   Perhaps it was another body entirely than the MSO that presented its sober, brilliant strophes.   Whatever the truth of the matter, here is Mozart’s last unfinished important work, turned into grippingly dramatic material by Forman’s Amadeus film of 1984 even if a few improbable myths were not only heightened in the process but turned into meta-history.   Here, it is paired with Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite for reasons that might become clear on the night, but I doubt it.   All the soloists are familiar and welcome: soprano Jacqueline Porter, mezzo Fiona Campbell, tenor Andrew Goodwin, bass James Clayton.   The novelty comes with conductor Jaime Martin, a Spanish musician currently working with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, among other positions.   You’d assume that, despite all the experimentation and clever alternatives currently available, this performance will use the Sussmayr completion.  But what is the night’s shape?  Everybody in for Ravel’s fantastic fairyland, then out for interval drinks?   Back you come for Mozart’s sombre setting and forget what’s happened up till now?

The performance will be repeated on Saturday June 22 at 2 pm.


Friday June 21


Duo Chamber Melange

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6:30 pm

This association of violinist Ivana Tomaskova and pianist Tamara Smolyar is presenting another series (albeit a short one) in 2019 of unexpected works from repertoire fringes.  On this night emerges a work that many of us will not know: Ravel’s A Major Violin Sonata.   In one movement and dating from 1897, the score is a subtle complex showing the harmonic and formal influence of Faure and Franck but the vocabulary has a powerful individuality.   The other historic oddity comes in Medtner’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in B minor which you will be pressed to find on any chamber music program in Melbourne over the past half century, despite the unremitting advocacy of Geoffrey Tozer.   In line with the Melange’s predilection for the outre, we will hear Jane Hammond’s mint-new Noisy Friarbirds in the Silky Oaks which explains itself, you’d think.   And, to ground the audience at evening’s end, we’ll hear Saint-Saens’ Danse macabre; Smolyar will have to work hard at the transcription (whose?) of the composer’s brilliant orchestral effects.


Friday June 21


Australian National Academy of Music

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

In one of the year’s four major concerts from ANAM at the Recital Centre, the context leaves the orchestral for once and goes vocal with a vengeance.   Thanks to a visit by the British ensemble VOCES8, the Academy appears to have what you could call basic vocal resources to tackle this long foundation work.   Currently, the group has two sopranos, an alto and a counter-tenor, two tenors, a baritone and a bass;  two more sopranos (locals) have been added to these forces – Susannah Lawergren and Amy Moore, both Song Company survivors.   It all brings back memories of the ridiculous performance mounted by Jonathan Mills in St. Patrick’s Cathedral to open a Melbourne Festival many years ago where the vocal numbers were about the same as in this performance and the strain of discerning what was happening wasn’t worth the pain.   Anyway, the ANAM organization will have much enjoyment on determining which authentic and/or modern-day instruments will be used.   Conducting is Benjamin Bayl, a Sydney-born musician who has worked for Opera Australia (but here?  I think not) and who will bring lashings of scholarship to the exercise; let’s hope he also has an equal amount of discernment with regard to the work’s volume levels – nothing worse than watching those open mouths during the Sanctus and hearing nothing.


Sunday June 23


Trio Anima Mundi

St. Michael’s Uniting Church at 2 pm

Back where they started off?   The Anima Mundi players open with Haydn in C Hob XV/27 which lasts about 20 minutes if you stretch but is one of those flawless scores that leaves you trailing after the composer, rushing to keep up with the fluency of every page, and I don’t just mean that rapid-fire Presto finale.   Carl Reissiger’s output includes 27 piano trios; the Anima Mundi will play his first one in D minor, which demonstrates the musician’s high reputation, not least in succeeding Weber as Kappellmeister of the Dresden Court.  If piano-heavy in its concentration, the score leaves the  two strings a wealth of melodic interest between the bravura moments.  This also is not impressive in length, even if you observe the first movement repeat.   But it’s quality, isn’t it?   And this organization is back on track again after an administrative hiccup.    You’ve got to admit: the recital’s title isn’t calculated to startle an observer into a fever of high anticipation.


Sunday June 23 


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 2:30 pm

OK: prepare for a mind-expansion flight, courtesy of Richard Tognetti’s link-suggesting program that sits on a Polish tripod of Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Szymanowski, at the same time moving into a parallel triad of works by Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead, Bryce Dessner from The Nationals, and Sufjan Stevens from America.   Dessner and Greenwood have collaborated, as have Stevens and Dessner.   Have all three thrown in their lot at any one time?   Don’t know.   This is the intended procedure: the ACO plays Lutoslawski’s Overture for Strings from 1949, Bartok tropes all over the place; then we hear Dessner’s Reponse Lutoslawski (here enjoying its Australian premiere performances) which I thought was an answer to the Polish master’s Musique funebre for Bartok.   Does it make much difference?   We’ll see.   Stevens’ suite from Run Rabbit Run was based on an earlier work which was handed over to a group of composers to arrange for string quartet; at least, that’s what I understand happened about a decade ago at the instigation of Dessner.  You’d think that, with Michael Atkinson designated as the arranger, we”ll only get through five of the album’s 13 tracks; the others fell to different hands.   For reasons beyond me, the ACO then plays the Aria, No. 1 of Penderecki’s Three Pieces in Baroque Style which might just as well be a Respighi arrangement because of its lush reminiscence of an ancient air and dance.   Greenwood’s suite from the film There Will Be Blood – all six movements, presumably, with the requisite ondes martenot – precedes the Szymanowski String Quartet No. 2 in Tognetti’s transcription: an ACO favourite since the ensemble recorded it nearly 17 years ago.   What connection it has to either of the three contemporary composers is not clear – yet.

This program will be repeated on Monday June 24 at 7:30 pm.


Tuesday June 25

Vadim Gluzman

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Another in the Recital Centre’s series of Great Performers, Gluzman is a completely unknown quantity to me; not surprising as most of his activity has been European and American.   A brilliant light, I’m sure, but flickering on the horizon.   He has a reputation for promoting contemporary composers, although you have to wonder about his offerings on this one-and-only recital here.   Of course, there’s Bach’s D minor Partita and its pendant Chaconne.   And he’s offering Beethoven’s Kreutzer as another slab of more old-fashioned roughage.   In the modern field, we hear Part’s Spiegel am Spiegel – 10 minutes of F Major piano arpeggios and a slow-moving diatonic violin melody.   Some find it moving and enlightening; I want to scream.   And Lera Auerbach, another Gluzman favourite, is represented by her par.ti.ta for solo violin, here enjoying its Australian premiere.  Auerbach offers 10 short movements, probably tendering splintered Bachian perspectives if the syllabically punctuated title is any guide.   Not that this is really new: Auerbach wrote it for Gluzman back in 2007 and he has recorded it alongside tonight’s D minor Partita.  Daniel de Borah accompanies.


Thursday June 27


Victorian Opera

Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne at 7:30 pm

Possibly, I’m one of the few people of my generation who has never seen this Sondheim musical.    But then, I saw the Bergman film it was based on at the start of the 1960s and a few times since, always content with its trans-generational interplay.   Still, this production promises a good deal.   Nancye Hayes returns to play Madame Armfeldt; Ali Macgregor sings her daughter, Desiree; Sophia Walsey rounds out the family as Fredrika.   The warring unfaithful Malcolms are Verity Hunt-Ballard and Samuel Dundas.   As the mis-matched Fredrik and Anne Egerman, we see Simon Gleeson – whom I do know – and Elisa Colla – whom I don’t.   Henrik, not long for the seminary, is Mat Verevis who starred in that competition without substance, The Voice.   Alinta Chidzey has the part of Petra, Anne’s servant.   The promotional material also mentions Paul Biencourt, Kirilie Blythman, Michelle McCarthy and Juel Riggall as ensemble members – possibly contributors to the Chorus-type Quintet.    Stuart Maunder directs, as he has so often for this and other companies.   Phoebe Briggs conducts.

The musical will be repeated at 7:30 pm on Friday June 28, Saturday June 29, Tuesday July 2, Wednesday July 3, Thursday July 4, Friday July 5 and at 1 pm on Saturday July 6.


Friday July 28


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Hamer Hall at 7:30 pm

Welcome back to conductor Jakub Hrusa, an MSO favourite with performers and audiences.    He’s starting tonight with a little-known orchestral poem by his distinguished countryman, Dvorak: The Wood Dove.   It’s a substantial piece with a gloomy underpinning story but has a splendid tapestry for listeners to experience.   The night’s soloist will be Vadim Gluzman, fresh from his Great Performers recital at the MRC, ready to take on the night’s titular work.   Here’s hoping that this violinist gives us a reason or six to be subject to yet another experience of this warhorse.    Hrusa finishes with Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s suite for piano, Pictures at an Exhibition.   This is the earliest composed of the night’s works which all fall within a little over a 20-year range.   Of course, this temporal ambit is expanded by the Frenchman’s orchestral transcription which dates from 1922 and is one of the great transformations of its kind.   Still, it makes for a lop-sided night: the poem and concerto come in about 54 minutes, while the suite rarely cracks half an hour.

This program will be repeated on Saturday June 29 at 7:30 pm and on Monday July 1 at 6:30 pm.