Musica Viva Festival reviewed by Manly Daily

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 Australia’s 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 4

Goldner String Quartet

Goldner String Quartet

The 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.

Sharon Bezaly

Sharon Bezaly

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.

Pieter Wispelwey

Pieter Wispelwey

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.

Concert 5

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.

Hector McDonald

Hector McDonald

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.

Pacifica Quartet

Pacifica Quartet

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 7

Benjamin Beilman

Benjamin Beilman

The 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.

Lambert Orkis

Lambert Orkis

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.


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About Musica Viva Australia

Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

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