Musica Viva third festival a feast of delights
Steve Moffatt, Manly Daily
April 09, 2013
Music lovers have feasted for four days on a diverse range of material performed by leading international musicians, along with some of Australias best talent, as part of Musica Viva’s third festival which finished on Sunday.
On a more modest scale than its predecessors, it nevertheless featured some big names on the international scene and, as always, was a valuable opportunity for audiences to hear our next generation of players from the Australian Youth Orchestra and watch them being mentored.
The three concerts that this reviewer saw were top quality and packed to the rafters. Musica Viva deserves praise for bringing such depth and quality to audiences, not to mention filling the Conservatorium’s Verbrugghen Hall at a time when even Sydney Symphony has had to cut back by abandoning its 2013 overseas tour.
Concert 4The Goldners, our pre-eminent string quartet, showed elegant judgment and taste in their handling of Beethoven’s massive and complex Op.130 string quartet which closed this afternoon concert.
You don’t usually hear it played with the Grosse Fugue as the final movement, although that was what Beethoven originally intended.
This ferocious movement, the most challenging and relentlessly intense in the repertoire, is more often a stand-alone piece included to round off the complete cycle – something the Goldners did in their memorable Musica Viva tour in 2004.
But this performance showed that, following on from the gorgeous cavatina and the preceding four movements, there is rightness to its inclusion, even if 50 minutes is demanding on players and listeners alike.The program started with a delightful performance of Mozart’s short and very sweet Flute Quartet No.3, featuring Israeli star Sharon Bezaly and her 24-carat gold flute with members of the American Pacifica Quartet.
The first movement showed off Bezaly’s artistry with some graceful, fluid runs while the second, and last, movement – a set of variations on the andantino from the Gran Partita – built to a satisfying climax.
But the highlight of the concert was a knockout performance of Mendelssohn’s Piano trio No.1 featuring remarkable musicians representing three generations.
Leader was American pianist Lambert Orkis, whose flawless technique has made him recital partner of choice for cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and later violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.Young enough to be his grandson was the exciting 23-year-old US violinist Benjamin Beilman, making his Australian debut. In the middle, and a great favourite from his regular visits here, was the Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey.
This was a truly memorable reading of a work that features Mendelssohn at his sparkling best.
Beilman showed what an assured performer he is with a full-bodied tone in the evening concert 5 where he played alongside local pianist Ian Munro and french horn supremo Hector McDonald in Brahms’s Horn trio in E flat major Op.40.This represented a homecoming for McDonald, who was born in Toowoomba but has spent most of his concert career in Europe where his is principal of the Vienna Symphony.
Bezaly got the recital under way with Sydney pianist Tamara Anna Cislowska playing Lowell Liebermann’s flute sonata with its dreamy first movement and Flight of the Bumblebee-like last movement. At one point there was spontaneous laughter as Bezaly managed to turn pages on both her own score and Cislowska’s without missing a beat.American outfit Pacifica Quartet showed why in 2005 Gramophone magazine recommended it as “one of the new quartets you should know about” in an electrifying performance of Shostakovich’s String quartet No.3. Dynamic first violinist Simin Ganatra, hair flying and bouncing on her seat, led her exciting team of violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson, violist Masumi Per Rostad and cellist Brandon Vamos on their Australian debut.
The concert closed with Arnold Schoenberg’s arrangement of Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer featuring Queensland baritone Shaun Brown and a collection of homegrown musicians. The original premiere had a notice on the door “No Critics”, but fortunately Musica Viva didn’t enforce this for their concert and this version of the four-much loved songs, stripped of their large orchestral backing to 10 instruments, provided a new insight into an old favourite, as well as showing off Brown’s lovely voice.
Concert 7The final concert of the festival opened with a welcome announcement by State Governor Professor Marie Bashir that thanks to increased funding from the Berg Family Foundation there will be another festival in 2015.
Orkis and Beilman were back with a glorious rendition of Cesar Franck’s Sonata for violin and piano. Full of dramatic and emotional passages, this work saw both players on top form and brought the audience to its feet.Less transfixing, but enjoyable nevertheless, was Hungarian composer Erno Dohnanyi’s sextet for a mixture of wind and string instruments.
In what has become a tradition, the final work on the program was Mendelssohn’s irrepressible octet, featuring the two string quartets the Goldners and Pacifica.
Almost symphonic in its scope, and led by the Goldner first violin and Sydney Symphony concertmaster Dene Olding, this half-hour of joyful music set the seal on another first-class festival.
We’re thrilled with the responses we’ve been getting about the 2013 Musica Viva Festival. Here’s just a sample.“The first half definitely came to a head though with a remarkable Australian debut from 23-year-old violinist Benjamin Beilman in Brahms’ most reflective sonata, No 3 in D Minor. Masterfully accompanied by Ian Munro, Beilman gave a passionate, romantic account using a tonal palette of which many an older player would be envious. His highly effective use of a low vibrato piano in the first movement was haunting and the slow movement with its almost (Richard) Straussian whiff of Viennese nostalgia was rapturous. After a suitably spectral third movement he pulled out all the stops to give us a blazing, demonic reading of the finale.”
Read the full review here.
“The festival’s third concert was an entirely different experience. Alice in Antarctica is the result of a 2011 journey to the ice-bound continent by Australian harpist Alice Giles. Her grandfather, Cecil Madigan, was part of Mawson’s 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Exploration. Reading his unpublished diaries fired Giles’s desire to follow in his footsteps.
“Alice in Antarctica proved to be a compelling mix of live and recorded music, spoken extracts from Madigan’s diary, photos and video footage. The narrative arc was episodic rather than linear, providing a poignant insight into Madigan’s complex reactions to his Antarctic experience.
“Giles’s clever combination of traditional and contemporary music and stunning imagery conveyed both the extraordinary bravery of Mawson’s expedition and the sense of haunting mystery Antarctica embodies. Stimulating, moving and inspiring, this was an impressive creation.”
Read the full review here.
Read the full review here.
“Hector McDonald played Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E flat, K. 407 with the Goldner String Quartet with a rich sound and maturely finished phrases. Flautist Sharon Bezaly and pianist Tamara Anna Cislowska gave Prokofiev’s Flute Sonata in D major, opus 94 a finely chiselled performance of brilliant brittleness while the Pacifica Quartet, of the US, showed precision, warm balance and expressive intensity in Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 2 in A major, opus 68.”
Sydney Morning Herald
Read the full review here.
Can you believe it’s the last day of the Musica Viva Festival already? Why not start your day by trying something new? Emma Ayres hosts Try A Cello – have you always wanted to just ‘have a go’ on this lovely instrument? Well here’s your chance: Musica Viva believes it’s never too late to learn! Once you’ve had your turn, head next door to the Meet the Makers Q&A where you can get advice from a panel of instrument experts on all manner of instrument related matters.
Our morning concert features Francesco Celata, Tamara Anna Cislowska, Alice Giles, Benjamin Beilman, Geoffrey Collins, Jess Ciampa, Sharon Bezaly, Sophie Rowell, Kirsty Hilton, Sall Boud, Howard Penny, Pieter Wispelwey and Lambert Orkis in works by Debussy, Hindemith, Bach, Takemitsu, Foote, Ginastera and Schubert.
In the afternoon the AYO Chamber Players perform works by Mozart, Elgar, Carter and Nielsen. Carl Vine is In Conversation with members of the Goldner and Pacifica Quartets.The afternoon concert features Benjamin Beilman, Lambert Orkis, Hector McDonald, Sophie Rowell, Sally Boud, Howard Penny, Francesco Celata, Ian Munro, and the Goldner and Pacifica Quartets in works by Franck, Dohnanyi and Mendelssohn.
Wrap up your Festival experience by mingling and chatting in the Conservatorium atrium with the artists, the AYO Chamber Players, ABC personnel and fellow audience members following this final performance. Any paid Festival or VIP Guest ticket entitles you access and a free beverage at this event.
The Musica Viva Festival gets off to a busy start today! This morning’s AYO Chamber Players masterclasses are presented by Pieter Wispelwey, Sharon Bezaly and Hector McDonald. Students and Faculty of the Sydney Conservatorium present a varied program of works by Brophy, Lalliet, Stanhope and Edwards. And over in the Music Café you can hear Festival artists in performance and in conversation with Andrew Ford in a live broadcast of ABC Radio National’s Music Show.
AYO Chamber Players present two concerts today featuring works by Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, Britten and Shostakovich. In the evening catch Carl Vine in conversation with Pieter Wispelwey and Benjamin Beilman.Our afternoon concert features Sharon Bezaly, members of the Pacifica Quartet, Lambert Orkis, Pieter Wispelwey, Benjamin Beilman, and the Goldner String Quartet in works by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. The evening concert features Sharon Bezaly, Tamara Anna Cislowska, the Pacifica Quartet, Hector McDonald, Benjamin Beilman, Ian Munro, Shaun Brown, Geoffrey Collins, Francesco Celata, Neal Peres Da Costa, Jess Ciampa, Sophie Rowell, Kirsty Hilton, Sally Boud, Howard Penny and Kees Boersma in works by Liebermann, Shostakovich, Brahms, and Mahler.
We begin day two of the 2013 Musica Viva Festival with a live broadcast of Classic Breakfast on ABC Classic FM hosted by Emma Ayres. Early risers should head to the Music Café from 8am!
Next on the calendar are AYO Chamber Players masterclasses, presented by Pieter Wispelwey and Lambert Orkis. Then students and faculty of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music present Kurt Weill’s Little Threepenny Music followed by Paul Hindemith’s Konzertmusik for piano, brass and harps, op 49.
The afternoon presents a rare opportunity to hear pianist Lambert Orkis reflect on his decades at the pinnacle of chamber music performance. Lambert is perhaps best known for his partnerships with Mstislav Rostropovich and Anne Sophie Mutter, but did you know he is highly regarded for his performances on period instruments, and has also premiered a range of works by contemporary composers such as George Crumb?
At 3.30pm Lespets and Camden host a concert featuring some of the instruments from the Treasures of Cremona violin exhibition. This afternoon’s AYO Chamber Players concert includes works by Haydn, Mozart, Dvorak and Ravel. Carl Vine then interviews Sharon Bezaly and Hector McDonald in the Music Café.The evening concert features Hector McDonald, Neal Peres Da Costa, Shaun Brown, Sophie Rowell, Kirsty Hilton, Sally Boud, Melissa Barnard, Benjamin Beilman, Ian Munro, Sharon Bezaly, Tamara Anna Cislowska and the Pacifica Quartet, in works by Beethoven, Butterworth, Brahms, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
Acclaimed harpist Alice Giles then presents a special multi-media performance commemorating the Centenary of the First Australasian Antartic Expedition of 1911-1914, of which her grandfather Dr Cecil T. Madigan was a member. Works include sentimental favourites mentioned by Madigan in his diaries, and music by Australian composers Larry Sitsky, Martin Wesley-Smith, Nigel Westlake, Jim Cotter and Joshua McHugh, as well as sounds of the wind through the harp in Antarctica, woven together with words and song into a seamless, full-length program.
Our Festival musicians and the AYO Chamber Players have been in Sydney preparing for the Musica Viva Festival for a week already, and today the Festival begins in earnest. First on the program are two AYO masterclasses, presented by Pieter Wispelwey and Masumi Per Rostad.
In today’s Con Showcase, students and faculty of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music present William Walton and Edith Sitwell’s fascinating and unconventional Façade – An Entertainment for ensemble and reciter.
In the afternoon Ironwood presents a lecture-demonstration ‘A Different Sort of Brahms’. Ironwood specialise in historically informed performance and have recently been investigating how Brahms might have expected his work to be played. In this seminar they will examine Brahms’ Piano Quartet no 1 in G minor using period instruments. The same work is performed in tonight’s concert on modern instruments. It’s not a question of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but it should make for fascinating listening all the same.In the AYO Chamber Players concert AYO ensembles present works by Haydn, Mozart, Brahms and Debussy. Then why not join Carl Vine in the Music Café In Conversation with Ian Munro and Alice Giles.
The evening concert feautres the Goldner Quartet, Hector McDonald, Benjamin Beilman, Sharon Bezaly, Ian Munro, Lambert Orkis, Sophie Rowell, Sally Boud and Melissa Barnard in works by Mozart, Ysaye, Schubert and Brahms.
One of the talking points of Sabine Meyer’s tour with the Modigliani String Quartet has been Ian Munro’s clarinet quintet Songs of the Bush. Inspired by Australian folk music and Australian indigenous music, Ian weaves in tunes of his own devising, while also highlighting “a link and a sympathy between the two cultures in ways that words can struggle to, and history might tend to deny.”
Although written with Sabine and the Modigliani’s tour in mind, the quintet was in fact premiered at the Huntington Estate Music Festival in 2010 by Cathy McCorkill and the Goldner String Quartet. Here Cathy shares her insights from performing music by her friend and colleague Ian Munro.
There are just two concerts left in the Goldner String Quartet & Ian Munro’s tour. The group performs in Adelaide tonight before heading to Perth where they will also present masterclasses at the University of Western Australia. In fact it’s a rather auspicious day for UWA students, with Carl Vine also presenting a class for the composition students.The Goldner’s tour with Ian has been tremendously well received. It’s been a busy year for the Goldners with recordings and performances in London followed by appearances at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, not to mention performing and tutoring at the Musica Viva Festival and AYO Chamber Players earlier this year. All this hard work is paying off with fine performances of Beethoven and Szymanowski, not to mention the well loved Brahms and Dvorak Quintets with Ian.
Ian has also had a busy year, composing, teaching, performing with the Flinders Quintet and Australia Ensemble, and touring for Musica Viva both as performer and Featured composer.
None of these musicians are the type to shy away from a challenge, however. As the Goldners said in the lead up to this tour:
“Two of the greatest piano quintets ever written, the excitement of a new work by our friend and colleague Ian Munro, the chance to revisit two of our favourite quartets and the opportunity to play them many times. If that’s not exciting we would have a problem!”
It’s certainly been a busy tour for the Goldner String Quartet and Ian Munro. After a concert in Coffs Harbour last night the group is now on its way to Melbourne where they will perform tomorrow night. Tomorrow’s concert will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM from 8pm so you can either relive the performance or experience it afresh if you haven’t had a chance to hear them live. Tomorrow’s concert feature Szymanowski’s String Quartet no 1, Brahms’s Piano Quintet, and of course Munro’s own Piano Quintet no 2.
The group also appeared on Radio National’s Music Show discussing Ian’s Quintet and the Goldner’s recent recordings. If you missed it you can listen to it by clicking here.Next week the group heads to Adelaide, then Perth for the final two performances of this tour. In Perth, the Goldners and Ian will also give masterclasses at the University of Western Australia. And in Adelaide they will all participate in a Q&A after the concert hosted by Simon Healy. Our post-concert artist chats are a great way for you to gain an insight into the lives and performances of our artists. On this tour, for example, people have wanted to find out more about Ian’s Quintet, particularly the percussion instruments used.
The Goldner String Quartet and Ian Munro perform in Coffs Harbour tonight as part of Musica Viva’s CountryWide series. This is the sixth concert in their tour so far, with concerts in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth still to come.
Ian Munro’s Piano Quintet no 2 has generated much discussion so far. A reworking of his single-movement piano concerto Dreams and his orchestral tone poem Drought & Night Rain, it is inspired by the poetry of Judith Wright, although not programmatic. Munro happily acknowledges his influences, both musical and otherwise, however this work also explores a musical language all Ian’s own.Ian’s new work explores some unusual techniques for a piano quintet. The string players at time branch out into percussion, while Ian at one point reaches inside the piano to strum the strings. This created a talking point even before the tour began! Many venues have restrictions around touching piano strings – while a piano may look large and sturdy, natural oils from human fingers can tarnish the materials inside. Fortunately, in some cases after lengthy discussions, consensus was reached and Ian has not had to modify the composition!