In the lead up to Lent and Easter we are very privileged to have the Brandenburg’s glorious performances of Handel’s THE MESSIAH, enthusiastically led and directed by Paul Dyer with the magnificent Brandenburg Choir, four soloists and a striking, very unusual and effective staging by Constantine Cosi.
Handel’s Oratorio on the life of Christ is divided into four ‘scenes’ : Darkness to Light , The Dream , Shame and Mourning, and Ecstatic Light.
THE MESSIAH follows the story of Christ from birth to crucifixion and resurrection, but it also examines Israelite history, exploring the prophets who preceded the Messiah (especially Isaiah) and looks forward to the birth of the Church. There is no single dominant narrative voice and little use is made of quoted speech.
Above: Composer Ben Hoadley, whose Clarinet Quintet ‘Broken Songs’ was premiered in the concert. Featured Image : violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto.
The first Master Series concert for the Omega Ensemble this year was a standing-room-only event at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room. ” The crowd was treated to exciting versions of masterpieces for string quartet and clarinet quintet, as well as the premiere of Ben Hoadley’s new clarinet quintet, Broken Songs. ” A capable backbone for all items on the programme was the assembled string quartet of Natsuko Yoshimoto, Ike See(violins),Neil Thompson(viola) and Paul Stender(cello)
In general across all works this quartet securely delivered playing of precision and sensible dramatic depth. We were given an introduction to newer works on the programme and rediscovered well-known ones. A scintillating blend of individual expression resulted from this quartet’s balanced playing. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE-HAYDN AND MOZART @ THE UTZON ROOM→
This was not your standard Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) concert, but as always it featured absolutely superb playing by the ACO who were in inspired form and dynamically led by the charismatic, bouncing, at times close to dancing guest violinist Pekka Kuusisto, who has taken the place of Richard Tognetti, who is currently in residence at the Barbican in London. (The ACO will play at the Barbican next month).
The concert was divided into two halves,as befits the concert’s title. There was a fascinating blend and contrast of blues grass folk songs sung and played on guitar and banjo by guest artist Sam Amidon, with a turbulent, passionate Janacek piece (his first string quartet, The Kreutzer Sonata, as well as a dazzling version of a John Adams work entitled, Shaker Loops (1947) .
In the first half, Murder, the turbulent , at times quite spiky Janacek piece was magnificently played by the ACO. The wprk was inspired by the Tolstoy novella of the same name. At one time there was a stormy argument between sections of the orchestra tensely, breathlessly played, and this was contrasted with more melancholic and reflective sections .
Amidon’s folk songs, played in both halves, appeared at first to be simple tunes but then proved to be more complex. In the first half, in the work Way Go Lily, there were rippling flowing rhythms. How Come That Blood featured a fluid, clip clop almost galloping rhythm – Amidon on banjo , the orchestra accompanying him, and there was an interesting use of pizzicato.
For the first half the songs were arranged by Nico Muhly. Amidon’s rough hewn, sincere vocal style gave his retelling of these folk songs a powerful punch. Amidon’s raw playing contrasted with the more refined tomes of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
The Redemption set opening the second half was a selection of songs performed by Amidon and Kuusisto alone, in a delightfully intimate yet casual and relaxed manner. This contrasted with, and allowed some relief, from the darker subject matter of the program’s first half.
Kuusisto treated his violin more like a folk fiddler, and occasionally joined his voice to Amidon’s in a delightful performance that also included a showy violin solo.
This half also featured an acapella like, haunting and powerful version of Brackett’s Simple Gifts, (the most famous hymn of the Shaker sect) as sung by Amidon.
John Adams work Shaker Loops was rich and multi layered and featured an aching ‘centre’. At times, the piece evoked the ‘music of the spheres’, shimmering and delicate, at other the playing was strident, with bubbling violins and cellos rumbling underneath.
This was a dazzling concert with a running time of two hours and ten minutes.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s toured the concert MURDER AND REDEMPTION nationally between the 2nd and 14th February.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra in Murder and Redemption was on national tour February 2 -14
Over the years Sydney Arts Guide has keenly followed the progress of this eclectic group. Next Sunday, The Marais Project begins its 2017 season with the concertIT TAKES TWO : A VIOL SPECTACULAR, the first of three very diverse events in its 18th year of fine, distinctive musicianship.
Since its founding by Jennifer Eriksson in 2000, The Marais Project has released 5 CDs, three of which have been selected as “CD of the Week” on ABC Classic FM. A 6th CD will appear in 2017. The group regularly features in national and local studio broadcasts and radio interviews. They have performed across Eastern Australia and as guest artists in New Zealand.
The Sydney Baroque Music Festival’s fourth venture will take place at the beautiful Glebe Town Hall. The festival is an entirely student-driven initiative bringing together young musicians from all over Australia who share a passion for early music. The musicians will be working intensively through the week of January 16-20th, to present the concert NOBLE YOUTH.
This was the Australian Haydn Ensemble’s (AHE) final concert for the year. The concert focused on the ‘Sturm and Drang’ movement of the 18th century, this concert was a treat in every way. The Sturm and Drang movement was characterised by drama and passion with sudden shifts of dynamics and rhythm. The four works presented in these concerts delivered these in spades.
You can tell it’s Christmas with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO) are performing this year’s version of Noel!Noel! their marvellous Christmas concert which is also touring to different cities and venues. Several performances have already sold out.
The atmosphere was as if we were transported to Europe and whisked to a huge Tudor mansion. At others it was as if we were in a huge cathedral.
With the magnificent Brandenburg choir and stunning guest soloist delightful soprano Madison Nonoa from New Zealand, this was a terrific concert.
Join the Australian Youth Orchestra as they showcase the raw energy and exceptional talents of the next generation of Australia’s classical musicians. Brought together from around the country and under the deft baton of accomplished English conductor Andrew Gourlay, hear as these talented young players bring a popular selection of orchestral works to life.
Experience a diverse repertoire of classics from Rachmaninov’s triumphant Piano Concerto No.2 to Elgar’s beautifully moving Cello Concerto, performed with masterful skill of internationally renowned guest artist and cellist, Li-Wei Qin.
This very special concert takes place in the Australian Youth Orchestra’s 60th anniversary year.
Thursday 16th February 2017, 7pm at the Sydney Town Hall.
The Sydney Chamber Choir launched its 2017 season at an inner city function. Founded in 1975, the Choir has forged a reputation as one of Australia’s leading choral ensembles.
Highly regarded for its interpretation of Renaissance and Baroque works, it is also a champion of contemporary Australian choral music, having commissioned and premiered scores of works by many established and emerging Australian composers.
In 2017 the Choir will be singing music by Hildegard von Bingen, Monteverdi, Buxtehude, Purcell, Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruckner, Schoenberg, Britten and others. Cantatas, opera, lyric scenes and chant will be heard resounding throughout the Great Hall at the University of Sydney, a perfect venue for this remarkable ensemble of musicians to display their talents.
As is the Sydney Chamber Choir’s tradition most of the soloists will come from the Choir. However Richard Butler will sing the role of St Nicolas in the eponymous Britten cantata. The N.S.W Public Schools senior singers, under the direction of Elizabeth Scott, will join Richard Butler and the Choir in this work.
Featured pic – Lorenza Borrani. Pic by Edwina Pickles.
Under the excellent direction of guest director and violinist Lorenza Borrani, who clearly had a great rapport with the Orchestra, we were treated to a superb performance by the ACO.
The SCHNITTKE Sonata for violin and chamber orchestra was a striking, most unusual work in four movements that made us sit up and prick our ears.
The opening was questioning, sharp, spiky and emphatic. The second Allegretto movement was dance-like in atmosphere. The orchestral ensemble was very focused and driven. There was a use of pizzicatto. Sometimes the music felt like the whirling and turning of the spheres. The third movement was emphatic with ominous deep double bass. Borrani was amazing in her solos, fiery and hypnotic yet tender and liquid as well.
The latest and last in this year’s series of Live at Lunch concerts was based on the idea of the spirit world /the occult and the magic of nocturnal love . Hence the title THE VAMPIRE DIARIES which Jane Rutter also announced had allusions to the very popular Harry Potter series.
Rutter was extremely Gothicky-elegant in a glittering black out fit with a cloak around her shoulders and a white scarf cravat around her neck. Guest artist Simon Tedeschi was stylish in a smartly cut dark suit.
Featured image: Artistic Director Sarah-Grace Williams conducts TMO.
The final concert in TMO’s Met Series for 2016 was as diverse and rich in entertainment value as all others this year. Two exquisite and challenging orchestral favourites were programmed alongside a recent Australian work featuring TMO’s Andrew Doyle as basset clarinet soloist.
Acacia Quartet’s most recent concert, Harbour Light, flowed with luminous success around an appreciative audience in the Utzon Room space. The audience were given no less than two commissioned world premiere works by Australian composers. The concert’s title work, Harbour Light, was performed for the first time in a shiny new intimate guise for string quartet, pared down from its original orchestration for larger string ensemble.
The innate skill of Acacia Quartet to create and convey layered atmosphere came to the fore to unify the programme of six diverse works. The sprawling concert sequence evolved with successive and separate styles of light. Works with extra-musical hues and unique structures were finely wrought by the quartet. Regardless of compositional character, the communication to the audience was clear, beautifully balanced and evocative.
On a daylight-savings evening so close to our beloved Sydney Harbour, Australian composer Nick Wales’Harbour Light was a textural treat linking us to our immediate surroundings with which to start. As we listened, sitting close to the water, the piece shimmered, shone, moved fluidly and offered much in the way of colour and compact sentiment. In the guardianship of Acacia Quartet, it did not suffer in the process of reduction from larger forces.
Compact sentiment and exquisite minimalist rendering followed in the quartet’s interpretation of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No 2‘Company’. Well nuanced and never overplayed, it was an accurate salute to Glass’ aesthetic and intricacies of revolving thematic minutiae.
Prior to interval, we heard Acacia Quartet present two very distinct voices in contemporary Australian composition. The world premieres of two Australian compositions were effectively juxtaposed with the individuality of Philip Glass. The new works were as arresting for their sonic effect as well as the impact on a concert environment in the way Glass introduced listeners to a new concert experience.
A highlight of the evening was the premiere of Sally Whitwell’s String Quartet No 1, the rewarding local soundscape with the subtitle ‘Face to the Sun’. Each of the four movements sketches aspects of Australian flora. Time periods which once inspired emblematic transfer of these qualities to people’s names, such as in the time of Whitwell’s grandmother, named Beryl Boronia, are celebrated via this fine musical illustration.
This clever writing draws on a legacy of lush quartet sound from yesteryear as well as effects from the very modern arsenal of string playing. Both styles of playing were capably offered up by Acacia Quartet, as the shapes and character of banksias, boronias, everlasting daisies and gumnuts were brought to life via charming and exciting vignettes from shifting time periods.
In a real shift of character prior to interval, the second premiere work was by the Australian-born Joe Twist. It was an exciting caricature and romp through stock standard musical styles. Spongebob’s Romantic Adventure continued the crescendo in boldness and momentum of colour which this concert programme’s first half was providing. Melodrama, stylistic tongue-in-cheek proximity and ultimately an hilarious hoedown variation of the Spongebob TV theme were played vibrantly, ensuring the work’s impact in a formal audience setting. The piece has many future performance possibilities for the quartet. Families and children would love it.
Following interval, larger works from American composers brought the listening experience into a new dimension with evocative music from Gershwin and film score composer Bernard Hermann. These sustained works were a satisfying way to conclude the evening’s diversity. Lullaby (1919) by George Gershwin goes a long way past its original purpose as an exercise in harmony for the student.
From its opening, the challenging and delicate exchange between quartet members created a seamless fabric under a high but hushed first violin. The inclusion of this piece was an extension of the calibre of string quartet blend and atmosphere heard in the rest of the concert. It also introduced the beautiful work and Gershwin’s output in this genre to many.
The sprawling and fantastic Echoes for string quartet by Bernard Herrmann led us through filmic, intense and purely beautiful soundscapes which filled the Utzon Room space. The complex and segmented work with shifting inflection and mood was well negotiated by Acacia Quartet.
The excited reception of this and all works from the audience was proof of Acacia Quartet’s effective gifting on this night to us of delicate narratives, intensities, colours and shapes found in compositions for the string quartet from last century to now.
For the latest concert combining the marvelous talents of the Willoughby Symphony and Choir, the concert hall at the Concourse was packed to the rafters and we were privileged to hear some ravishing, glorious playing and singing.
The program opened with a delightful , somewhat boisterous rendition of the Brahms Academic Festival Overture Op.80. Written for the University of Breslau, the piece was given a brisk, dynamic reading. Rather lighthearted, Brahms develops and expands the melodies of four well known student drinking songs and the piece features triumphant horns.
This was a marvelous, exuberant concert by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra as led by Paul Dyer AO and featuring the Israeli superstar of the mandolin Avi Avital who dazzled in a bravura performance .
Dyer emphatically led from the keyboard of his harpsichord. The Orchestra, for this concert trimmed to ten players, was in golden form, giving a performance which featured some lush, delicate playing and some finely nuanced phrasing.
Beethoven could not have imagined a more glorious backdrop to his music than we experienced on Saturday 15th October! Not the cherubs and ornate cornices of the Viennese concert halls but the heavenly vista of Sydney harbour seen through the panoramic windows of the Utzon Room at Sydney Opera House.
We listened to a most interesting rendering of Beethoven’s 4th piano Concerto in G major and his Second Symphony, both transposed for a chamber ensemble and performed by the talented and enthusiastic Australian Haydyn Ensemble.
The latest delicious offering in the Live At Lunch series this was a wonderful short concert celebrating Italy in music.
Rutter was elegant in black slacks and a lacy top combined with red shoes. She was joined for this concert by Giuseppe Zangari on classical guitar and Marcello Maio on piano and piano-accordion. Rutter mostly used her favourite gold flute but also the piccolo depending on what was required and at times both she and Maio changed instruments mid piece.
The opening Sonata in A Major for Flute and Guitar by Giulani was charming and sprightly with the flute darting and swooping.
Drigo’s fluid Serenade from Les Millions D’Arlequin followed , with is circular melodies and was played with wonderful timing and phrasing (as were all the works selected).
Next came a crisp, sparkling yet lush version of Michel Peguri’s Bourrrasque.
A dynamic infectious performance by Maio on accordion followed.
One of Australia’s most cherished musicians, David Helfgott, is set to return to the breathtaking Sydney Opera House Concert Hall this October with a special performance of popular romantic works for piano.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of SHINE, the film that catapulted Helfgott to worldwide fame. In a poignant celebration of the film’s anniversary, Helfgott will once again grace the stage of the Sydney Opera House for this incredible once-off solo concert.
This was the final concert for 2016 for both the Sydney Chamber Choir and the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra (formerly known as orchestra seventeen88). The combination of these two groups, both under the direction of Richard Gill, delivered a wonderful evening’s entertainment to a large audience.
The concert opened with Ross Edwards’ Mass of the Dreaming ‘Missa Alchera’. This was performed a capella by the Sydney Chamber Choir. As a first time listener to this work, I was blown away by its beauty and, as always with Ross Edwards’ work, its deep roots in Australian culture.
The opening Kyrie used the basses to great effect to draw on the drone sound of a didgeridoo, which set the scene, and this led to a dialogue between the male and female voices. The Gloria set a strong rhythmic pace with sonorous syncopation which was very effective. The Sanctus and then the Benedictus captured our minds with sonorous yet delicate harmonies in a beautiful canon. Continue reading NELSON MASS (MASSES FOR DREAMING AND TROUBLED TIMES) @ CITY RECITAL HALL→
The Jerusalem Quartet: Kyril Zlotnikov-cello, Sergei Bresler-violin, Alexander Pavlovsky-violin and Ori Kam-viola
This string quartet concert dazzled with smooth synergy and clean unity of attack whilst preserving spontaneity in the performance. The opening work in the programme, String Quartet Op 64 No 5 ‘The Lark’ (1792) by Haydn was a fine example of this.
Seamless Haydn is a test of any string quartet’s proficiency. The test was passed with flying colours by the Jerusalem Quartet. This work unfolded with clear intensities of structure. Balance shifts across and between the individual strings ensured engaging conversations were always present.
This Haydn quartet’s opening movement themes were freshly defined. The tension and resolution of the melodies in later development unfolded with finesse and fine interplay. The remainder of the work’s narrative continued in this capable vein. From the eloquent adagio second movement to the bristling final vivace, this work was an entertaining start to the concert event. Continue reading MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS THE JERUSALEM QUARTET@ CITY RECITAL HALL→
Above: Shunske Sato in rehearsal with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Featured image: Sato in concert with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Photo credit: Kitt Photography
SATO AND THE ROMANTICS is a perfect example of how a concert following historically informed performance (HIP) guidelines can both thrill and train the audience at once. In this latest Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s tour of Sydney and Melbourne the listener’s pleasure and education comes from hearing historical instruments play 19th century works imbued with Romantic ideals by Mendelssohn, Grieg and Paganini.
Guest violin virtuoso Shunske Sato leads the Brandenburg in Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No 3 in E minor MWV N 3 (1821) to open the concert. The first movement starts with crisp and arresting unison. The warm drama of the gut-stringed instruments is matched by intricate, well-articulated sensitivity as fugal tensions are intelligently resolved. Shunske Sato’s energetic, clear and commanding direction of the string group from his place in the first violins is rewarding to witness. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA PRESENTS ‘SATO AND THE ROMANTICS’ @ ANGEL PLACE→