Musica Viva has launched its 70th Anniversary Season. Unlike some larger organisations who have to consider attracting a conservative audience base Musica Viva has eschewed, in the main, the bland populist approach and brought together an eclectic selection of ensembles and individual musicians which cannot fail to find favour with a wide range of audiences. And there certainly can be no quibble about quality. You like Baroque? Tafelmusik returns. It may be hard for them to repeat the incredible impact of The Galileo Project so impressively performed on their last visit. But their planned “House of Dreams” project, taking audiences on a tour, musical and visual, of the worlds of Bach and Vivaldi sounds impressive. It will take great skill to raise such a performance above the mundane of a European tour video. Tafelmusik has the artistic clout to do this.
Did your correspondent mention quality? How about Steven Isserlis, this time with Associate Artist Connie Shih? Or Paul Lewis? Isserlis will play some Ades along with more popular fare by Saint Saens, Faure, and that old favourite Franck Sinatra (sorry, Sonata). It may not have been written for the cello, but it sure sounds like it should have been. Lewis will play standard repertoire: Beethoven and Brahms. Sorry, contemporary piano music fans. This does seem to be unimaginative programming, but piano lovers are funny people.
Two quartets underline quality further: Goldner and the Modigliani. Both will play Beethoven, while the Goldner, bless their hearts will open with Ligetti and a newly commissioned quartet by Paul Stanhope. The Modigliani, not to be outdone, will play some Westlake for Australian flavour. The two Haydn quartets announced, from Op 50 and 54, are perhaps not amongst the most often programmed. Which is excellent. But your correspondent must beg your indulgence on this. He is away and without his usual cribs.
The Eggner Trio returns yet again. These three Austrian guys are known crowd pleasers, and their programming tends towards the popular on this visit (the “Dumky” yet again). (Memo MVA: Dvorak did write other works. His Piano Trio in F Minor Op 66 is a beauty.)
The newcomer in next year’s line up is “a cappella” group Il Fagiolini. This continues Musica Viva’s long history of bringing the best vocal groups to Australia. This started with the Deller Consort so far back not many of us can remember. Il Fagiolini’s repertoire will include a new commission by “Schultz”. One assumes this is Australian composer Robert Schulz. The MVA program pages do not run to first names, and your correspondent, having dropped off the MVA press list, has no media pack to consult.) Talking of first names the Eggner will play a work by Hollan, or alternatively Holland, depending on which program list is referred to on the MVA website. Again one is left to assume this is Dulcie Holland. She did write a couple of works for piano trio. The longest runs about 15 minutes so it is a pretty slight obeisance at the altar of Australian music, but we should be thankful for small mercies.
There does not appear to be a featured Australian composer next year. This is a pity. There is little enough music by living Australians being played and that MVA initiative was one to be applauded. Perhaps it will return next year.
There is a Gala Special next year to mark the seventy years: virtuoso violinist Maxim Vengerov will play a program of finger breakers including Kreisler, Ysaye, Wieniawski and Paganini with a little Bach, Prokofiev, Brahms and Dvorak besides. You’ve picked it already. This is the short form programming style much loved in the early 20th century, but now most appropriate for galas (that almost came out as Galahs) and drive time radio. You can buy a cocktail party with your ticket should you feel the need for a drink after all those notes.
To round out a full year, the Musica Viva Festival also returns in April. This is a happy blend of chamber music with a stellar cast of Australian and international musicians. It is run at the Sydney Con in association with the Australian Youth Orchestra whose players get tutoring from some of the best in the world. You can take it as you wish: a program of concerts of international standard, watch the young AYO talent in masterclasses, or take in the lot. It is full on, but for chamber music lovers it is a feast of dreams.