ABC Classic FM’s Australian Music Blog: 3 Tim Matthies

Some Personal Reflections

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In the third of ABC Classic FM’s series of blogs on Australian Music, Musica Viva’s Director of Business Development, Concerts, Tim Matthies, celebrates and reflects on the diversity of composition that has resulted from nearly 50 years of commissioning by Australia’s oldest independent professional performing arts organisation.

As someone immersed in the music scene on a number of levels – administrator, performer, audience member – Australian Music Month is a time for both celebration and reflection.

What I’m celebrating is the great depth and breadth of the works being written and performed and how audiences are responding so positively to them. Two recent experiences come especially to mind: being part of the visibly moved audience at the Sydney Symphony and other forces’ performance of Nigel Westlake’s heartbreaking Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli last year; and witnessing how excited audiences across the country were by the Elias String Quartet’s performances of Matthew Hindson’s compelling String Quartet No. 2 earlier this year.

These two works come from very different places and take very different forms, yet share some commonalities – the composers have really pushed their craft in writing the works, outstanding performers have taken up the challenge of performing the works to the highest standard, and audiences have listened openly and deeply to them. In a culture that is sometimes accused of being only interested in quick and easy grabs, it’s terrific seeing thousands of people willing to engage at a deep level with complex music.

What I’m reflecting on is how there still seems to be a discussion required about the validity and importance of Australian music. Of course, this isn’t across the board and it’s a much more nuanced discussion than I have space to consider here, yet the fact that there is a still a discussion happening both bemuses and surprises me. What I find particularly perplexing is that for some organisations, Australian music doesn’t necessarily seem to be part of their DNA. In being like this, I believe, they do themselves, their performers and audiences a disservice.

I’m lucky enough in my role as an administrator to be part of an organisation where Australian music is at the very heart of all its activities. Since the company’s first two commissions in 1964 (Peter Sculthorpe’s String Quartet No. 6 and Felix Werder’sString Quartet No. 6), over 130 works have been created for Musica Viva’s public concert activity, with many more works created for the company’s award-winning Musica Viva In Schools program.

Every year sees multiple performances of both new and existing Australian works by a diverse range of composers placed on equal footing with other works, both old and new, from around the world. Musica Viva’s national audiences embrace this positioning, with many of them saying this is a key reason for them attending the organisation’s concerts. Similarly, the artists Musica Viva engages with are those who have a similar DNA and want to take up this opportunity across the country and then take the works onto other stages; such performers include the Takacs and Tokyo String Quartets, violinist Anthony Marwood and the Atos and Eggner Piano Trios. There is a shared belief that the best music of today is reflective of many voices and has to sit at the very centre of what we do.

– Tim Matthies

This piece was originally published on ABC Classic FM’s website on November 4th, 2013. Photo by Rusaila Bazlamit courtesy of Flikr.

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