Congratulations to Craig Land of Gulliver who was announced 2012's best young critic! Runners up were Katy Frewen-Lord and Alan Junior.
Craig Land, 16 yrs
Many people, sadly, now view chamber music in the same way as politicians; stagnant, and still harping with the same tunes. From Katy Perry to Kate Bush, popular music is now so prevalent in society that it’s easy to wonder whether chamber music still has a place. Can Beethoven or Ravel remain exciting in such a flooded market? But the Australian Festival of Chamber Music’s opening concert, The Archduke, showcased just how exciting this branch of music can be, providing a diverse celebration of chamber music.
While not as well-known as other items on the program, the gorgeous Phantasy-Trio in A Minor, by 20th century composer John Ireland, was perfectly chosen to open the concert. The work instantly defies contemporary expectations of chamber music with its soaring, lyrical melodies, creating a dynamic piece which instantly drew the audience in. The balance between the instruments was excellent throughout, and the overall effect was one of beauty. Nigel Westlake’s Sonata for Two Guitars, meanwhile, showed the value of experimentation in chamber music. The guitar is not an instrument one normally associates with chamber music, yet this piece showed just how flexible an instrument it is, stretching its range and tone as far as possible. And while the piece’s quiet, discordant opening left some audience members scratching their heads, I found later sections very moving, particularly the third, ‘Nara Inlet’;a lonely dialogue which passes between the two guitars. However, the constant retuning between each movement tended to detract from the performance.
The third item of the night, Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro for Harp, displayed the skill needed to perform exciting chamber music. The work was commissioned to show off the harp, and it successfully fulfils this purpose with its impressive virtuoso passages. The intonation and style of the supporting ensemble was superb, providing a convincing performance of an interesting work. The second half of the concert then brought the item everyone had been waiting for; Beethoven’s ‘The Archduke’. All the intricacies of Beethoven’s greatest piano trio were brought to the fore by the Dutch Storioni trio, ending the concert on a note which shows that classical music still has something to add to the contemporary music scene.
The Australian festival of Chamber Music continues to celebrate the diversities of chamber music over the next 9 days. This opening concert has set a high standard for the festival, and the most exciting elements are perhaps still to come.
Katy Frewen-Lord, 23 yrs
Towsville’s Civic Theatre was nearing capacity Friday night with classical music lovers from all walks of life eager to be a part of the opening of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (Winner “Best event” at the Limelight Awards 2011 and 2010).
The Audience included locals and those who had travelled nationally and internationally. There were also a number of VIP’s including Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley AC and Townsville’s Mayor Jenny Hill. Music lovers unable to attend were provided with the option of tuning into the live broadcast on ABC Classic FM.
Chamber music is, by definition, is music to be played in a room (ie. chamber) as opposed to music written to be performed in a concert hall. The genre requires only a small number of musicians and the intended small setting results the music often possessing an intimate feel.
The Townsville Civic Theatre is an ideal venue for public chamber music. Its design allows for a reproduction of the intended intimacy with minimal amplification required. Given its size, even the farthest seat from the stage is inclusive. To quote the late Roy Shearer, one of the theatre’s original engineers: “there is not a bad seat in the house.”
The instant the first piece began, the quality and professionalism of the performers was apparent. It was a depth of excellence sure to be detected by even the least discerning of concert goer.
It was a bold move by Artistic Director, Piers Lane, to begin the program with a relatively lesser known work. It is a reflection that the enthusiastic festival audience possess a broad appreciation of music.
The classical guitar duo, Leonard and Slava Grigoryan, provided a serene change of pace as they performed the world premiere of Sonata for Two Guitars. The work was developed specifically for the Grigoryan brothers by Australian composer Nigel Westlake.
Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro was written in 1905 to feature the expressive qualities of the harp. Its impact was certainly not lost, as it is a rare treat to have a harp performance in North Queensland.
After interval was the Beethoven’s “Archduke” Piano Trio. The poignant work was composed in honour of Archduke Rudolph of Austria, a dear friend and former pupil of Beethoven. It is the final and arguably greatest of Beethoven’s piano trios and is a prominent work in its genre. The three performers exerted phenomenal energy in order to deliver the passion the Beethoven himself would have demanded.
Notsurprisingly, the conclusion of the concert inspired rapturous applause from the audience.
The opening concert sets the bar high for the remainder of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music which continues until August 4, 2012.
While arts funding is a perpetual hot topic and budgets are under constant review, it is refreshing to note that the Australian Festival of Chamber Music is supported by all three levels of Government.
Alan Junior, 24 yrs
At the end of a working week, Friday night, patrons of chamber music filed into the Townsville Civic Theatre to unwind and appreciate one of the finest opening nights to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. The Archduke was a great variety of classical music, but also mixed with some more contemporary work like Sonata for two guitars – Nigel Westlake, providing something for everyone.
Phantasy Trio in A minor put the audience into a mellow mood as the notes poured from the strings of the instruments like honey into warm milk. Piers Lane certainly knows how to prepare an audience for things to come, arranging the night’s performances in such a way that he must be a man of great empathy for the devotees and aficionados alike.
Sonata for Two Guitars was a world premiere from this year’s composer-in-residence, Nigel Westlake. Perhaps the most notable work of the night, Westlake’s composition was created especially to be performed by Slava and Leonard Grigoryan. When listening and even watching the artists perform, the reason becomes evident. The Grigoryans are synchronised and know exactly where the other is at all times, taking cues through non-verbal communication. Even watching their anatomy and posture provokes a sense of gratitude for their playing, the composer, music, and humanity in general. The movements contain motifs of an exploration, sand, and the beach – matching how Westlake describes the work himself.
Before interval we heard Introduction and Allegro (Maurice Ravel) performed by seven artists – the fullest stage of the night. The stand out of course is the harp played by Marshall McGuire, not because of it’s stage presence, but the way it is included in the work, including a brief, blissful solo. The harp did not overshadow the violins or flute however, which leant a lot of drama to the work. The clarinet was very subtle, only somewhat present.
The night ends with a signature piece ‘The Archduke’ (Ludwig van Beethoven) performed by an amended Storioni Trio (Violin, Cello, Piano). Replacing Wouter Vossen on Violin was Natsuko Yoshimoto. It was perhaps a little evident she wasn’t part of the trio, yet the performance as a whole was not lacking. This more classical work was an appropriate conclusion to the opening night of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, wetting the appetite of guests for the week to come.
Applications for the Young Critics Award 2013 will open in July 2013.