It is the time of year when all and sundry make their bids for your subscription dollars. Today it is Musica Viva’s turn. Your correspondent will leave it to others to have their say on the detail of the 2017 program. The overall picture does however beg some comment.
In what is a high quality, yet fairly standard, MVA lineup for 2017 (you know them: Angela Hewitt, Takacs and Pacifica Quartets, Sitkovetsky Trio, Aleksander Madzar – this time with cellist Nicolas Altstaedt) there are two rare gems. Lovers of the contemporary will applaud the inclusion of Eighth Blackbird in the International Season. Theirs is the genre of music and performance more likely to be found in festivals. Your correspondent well remembers a wonderful concert at the Sydney Opera House a few years ago when Australian flautist Tim Munro was their co-artistic director. Energetic, intense, thought provoking in their variety are descriptors remembered from that occasion. If concert halls around the country do not have to put up “House Full” signs for this tour it will be a stark message about the nature of Australian concertgoers. The second gem is one cut from a very different stone. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, making its first “full tour” to Australia, will bring joy and anticipation to the hearts of Baroque music lovers and surely others if Gramaphone Magazine’s comment about Artistic Director Rachel Podger is to be believed: ‘There is probably no more inspirational musician working today than Podger”. Hyperbole aside, this ensemble’s inclusion in the program is yet another feather in MVA’s fairly feathery headgear.
2017 is also the year for another Musica Viva Festival. This promises to be another varied event drawing on some top international talent: think Amy Dickson, Pinchas Zukerman, Amanda Forsyth, the Elias Quartet and Lambert Orkis. Much stands out, but suffice it to make two comments. Young and early career musicians need to come and sit at the feet of Lambert Orkis. He is undoubtedly one of the great ensemble musicians around and, what’s more, he has the communication capability to pass on his skills in both masterclass and performance. He is yet another gem in MVA’s firmament. And how will the festival conclude? A big finish is always needed. Happily MVA have eschewed programming the ever loved Mendelssohn Octet, and passed the challenge to young South Australian composer Jakub Jankowski whose String Octet will get its world premiere on April 23 to conclude the festival. Congratulations to Jankowski who is not long out of the Elder Conservatorium and, interestingly, has not yet made it into the Australian Music Centre’s listings.
Your correspondent must conclude with a “more in sorrow than in anger” moment. MVA’s ensemble programming for the 2017 Sydney Coffee Concert series has been handed, once again, to the Goldner Quartet. It is not that they are not, arguably, Australia’s finest quartet, but they get a lot of airtime. Think Townsville, Huntington, MVA Festival, and Australia Ensemble for starters. In your correspondent’s view the joys of the Wednesday morning series in Sydney lies in its variety and the opportunity to hear less well known, often young, vibrant talent, like MVA have programmed for the Melbourne Coffee Concert series. Sure, the Sydney series has some repertoire variety and a smattering of Australian works. Piers Lane and Umberto Clerici are thrown into the mix. But for me, after my coffee and undoubtedly excellent cake, Wednesday mornings are not the time for Beethoven Opus 59 quartets or even the mighty Schubert C Major Octet.