Above : ‘Live At Yours’ creators Eleanor Lyons and Vladimir Fanshil. Featured image: Ben Adler Quartet in Mecca Coffee Alexandria- Ben Adler (violin), James Larson (cello), Beth Condon (viola) and Caroline Hopson (violin). Photo Credit-both images: Hellene Algie.

Live at Yours is the brainchild of conductor/pianist Vladimir Fanshil and wife, opera singer Eleanor Lyons. Courtesy of the pandemic the duo were unable to return to their adopted home of Vienna,
following Eleanor’s successful debut as Donna Anna in Opera Australia’s production of Don Giovanni in pre-COVID-19 Sydney.

The couple, determined to preserve the inimitable spark of live music performance from being lost to the ether and the internet in streamed events, searched for a safe way to keep the music they and so many others needed to hear and perform through late 2020 and beyond.

The couple’s lockdown planning of a concert series for 2021, with some mimi trial runs is now paying off. The 2021 Live At Yours launch concert, Thursday March 4 at the Mecca Coffee Roastery and Café in Alexandria, featured a programme of over an hour with interval by the dynamic Ben Adler  Quartet.

This string quartet’s ensemble energy and  interpretation could endear any listener of any  classical music experience level  to love live music of any genre with healthy freshness.

There was an air of celebration about being together on a weeknight Thursday somewhere other than formal, large-capacity venues. This event’s directness of salon-style intimacy was also paired with talented kitchen staff from the venue supplying a stream of four contrasting share plates of food.

Above : One of the four tasting plates supplied by chefs at  Mecca Coffee Roastery and Cafe. Photo credit : Hellene Algie

Audience members enjoyed this hospitality, coupled with the chance to complement the quality snacking with wine from Vivaldi’s birthplace of Veneto, Italy. By the time the string quartet started playing in the front corner of Mecca, there was a warm,
receptive, excited and satisfied vibe from the well-fed and watered crowd.

And on what was explained as being Baroque rockstar Antonio Vivaldi’s 343 rd birthday, the Ben Adler Quartet launched into an eloquent performance of Vivaldi’s super well known Summer movement from ‘ The Four Seasons’.

This music is full of programmatic twists and turns. Here it was given unique breaths or space between contrasting sections, as well as  considerable expressive lingering over delicately drawn gesturing.

Ben Adler as soloist inspired us to love this concerto anew as he and colleagues familiarised us with it in fresh, bold voice. The internal structure and seasonal colourings of this excerpt were vividly brought to new life before us.

In this bouncy café acoustic, the broad strokes of this popular music were further divided and gems of phrases and their subtle  ingredients were  brought unhurriedly to our attention, as more delicious morsels came for us to enjoy.

The contrast here to frequently heard relentless and sometimes unfortunate motoric motion for Vivaldi’s music was very welcome.  We were enticed to feel the soul at a nice pace of discovery within this beautiful reading. Having said that, the faster sections of the Summer portrait were filigree full of the requisite tight  Vivaldian verve and exuberance.

Preceding the short interval, Eleanor Lyons in fine voice emerged from the middle level of three tiers of happy audience to deliver an operatic aria with excellent string quartet accompaniment, conducted by Vladimir Fanshil, This interlude supplied an engaging and special salon feel for those familiar with opera or quite new to it live.

Above : Ben Adler Quartet cellist James Larson chats with some of the crowd at Mecca Coffee Alexandria venue. Photo credit : Hellene Algie

Following interval, Vladimir Fanshil’s introduction to the genius and precocity of Mendelssohn was intoxicatingly enthusiastic and clear.
The pin-drop anticipation from the Mecca Café crowd was rewarding with a nicely nuanced, well-tempo-selected reading of Mendelssohn’s freight-train, powerhouse score.

All quartet members shone in this performance of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No 3 in D major Op 44 . Thanks to Mendelssohn’s virtuosically powerhouse orchestration and this quartet’s solid layering of string statements, the four instruments sang with great balance and sounded like many more string players were assembled.

Ben Adler once more led his group with care and luminous fresh approach through the slow movement, which was beautiful Song-Without-Words-style prolonged sensitivity. The constant
reiterations of comfort and calm had nice effect here.

The fluid bravura passages also demanded by this successful composer at many of his own lush salon concerts bristled impressively in this space. They rocketed about  the responsive acoustic and excited, grateful crowd.

An encore of Danish folksong music morphed into a staggeringly beautiful piece plus a delightful Q and A interaction completed the successful, intimate evening and concept.

Several Live at Yours programme packages and styles are available to book in private homes, galleries, food venues and other public spaces.

On March 17, music by Shostakovich for piano trio and also for
voice will further delight fans of this format. The unmissable live music event will be further enhanced by the experience of visual art, fine wine at the Billich Art Gallery in Sydney’s Rocks area.

All photography by Hellene Algie.