11 August, 2017

Singing with pride, at home and abroad

Choral conductor Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith recently co-founded Pacific Pride Choir with her wife Melanie Penicka-Smith. The choir has just returned from its first tour encompassing Berlin, Krakow and Warsaw, organized by KI Concerts. In ten days they rehearsed together for the first time, gave five performances, and enjoyed the extraordinary energy of the host choirs in each city. Monday 10 July Excited members of Pacific Pride Choir arrived at Sydney airport this evening, bound for Berlin. This was the first time that many of us had even met each other. Coming from most of Australia’s major cities as well as New Zealand and Germany, this scratch choir of unauditioned choristers welcomes all sexualities and genders. Our plan is first to rehearse and perform in a friendly city before heading off to a country where homosexuality is legalized but not fully recognized. As well as performing public concerts, the choir has organised to work in partnership with local LGBTQI organisations and individuals to help create visibility, solidarity and recognition through the uniting power of music. Wednesday 12 July In the morning the choir began rehearsing its mixed repertoire of music, including songs in Australian and New Zealand indigenous language, pop and Polish. Our…

28 July, 2017

Bach to the Bush Diaries Part 2

Sydney performance just announced! Sunday August 27, 3pm, Glebe Town Hall. Tickets available here.  Bach to the Bush is my solo tour of the east-coast of Australia. Many of my friends and colleagues have been keen to know how all of this has come about. Limelight has been so generous as to allow me to share a diary of impressions with you as the tour continues through July and August. This tour is a social experiment: can a young musician turn up in regional Australia and find an audience? Thus far the answer is a definitive yes. In the last three weeks I’ve performed ten additional concerts on the tour in regional Victoria and NSW at locations including Canberra, Healesville, Olinda, Warranwood, Melbourne, Girgarre, Beechworth, Adelong, Mount Beauty and Singleton. As on the first leg of the tour, I’ve ‘discovered’ some incredible venues, a few of which had not hosted a classical music performance in living memory. The efforts of my local heroes in making the concerts successful have been amazing, and the viability of regional touring for young classical musicians (without government support) ever more apparent. In Part 1 of these diaries I briefly described how the tour came about and…

30 June, 2017

Bach to the Bush Diaries: Part 1

Bach to the Bush is my 30-concert solo tour of the east-coast of Australia. Many of my friends and colleagues have been keen to know how all of this has come about. Limelight has been so generous as to allow me to share a diary of impressions with you as the tour continues through July and August. This tour is a social experiment; can a young musician turn up in regional Australia and find an audience? Thus far the answer is a definitive yes. I spent last week on the road playing the first concerts in Wollongong and Clifton (between performances with Pinchgut Opera) followed by Ballarat, Warrnambool, Mount Gambier, Port Fairy, Cororooke and Lorne. These initial experiences have given me a strong sense of the hunger for culture in regional Australia and the generosity with which local arts networks are prepared to embrace and facilitate the success of a regional tour. Bach to the Bush #1 A post shared by Anthony Albrecht (@anthony.albrecht) on Jun 17, 2017 at 1:31am PDT Back in 2014 when I first began Bach to the Bush, after returning to Australia as a graduate of Juilliard, I enjoyed the humbling experience of walking the streets…

14 June, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Ravel: Daphnis and Chloé (Les Siècles, Ensemble Aedes/François-Xavier Roth)

Ravel called his glittering score to Daphnis et Chloé a ‘Symphonie choreographique’: essentially a ‘symphony with dance’, the perfect description for a work of such majesty, where the music really is centre-stage. The score is usually segmented into three suites for concert performance, making a hearing of the full version all too rare a treat. Thankfully François-Xavier Roth with period instrument orchestra Les Siècles and Ensemble Aedes deliver the full ballet on this recent release with Harmonia Mundi, with the most stunning results. The exact date of inception of Daphnis et Chloé is somewhat disputed, but the original commission came from Diaghilev, for the prestigious Ballets Russes. The composition was fraught with challenges, mainly due to creative differences between Ravel and the choreographer, Michel Fokine. After numerous revisions and a delayed premiere, the ballet finally opened in June 1912, almost a year before Parisian audiences would be scandalised by the riot over Stravinsky’s vicious Rite. Underscoring the ancient Greek tale of a pastoral romance between a shepherd and shepherdess, Ravel’s music is languorous and enchanting, shimmering with lush orchestral colour, and worlds away from Stravinsky’s pulsating nightmare. The beginning and third part are mostly relaxed, dreamy episodes, framing the dramatic…

11 August, 2016

Playing the Goddess in Tannhäuser

Sarah Sweeting on how she came to discover a more sensual, seductive expression of Venus. Wagner’s operatic masterpiece, Tannhäuser, begins in the magical and erotic realm of the Venusberg, where the Goddess Venus resides. Here, love is celebrated freely and with wild abandon through all manner of sensual and sexual expression. Venus is discovered in the opening scene entwined around our central character, Tannhäuser, a man who comes from a world of chivalry, knighthood, religious order and a life of service to God. Essentially, Wagner’s opera is an epic tale of the inner torment and struggle of a man caught between these two worlds, each seemingly opposing the other, yet both being true expressions of the one powerful force: love.  As a singer the role of Venus has its own challenges, not only is it musically and vocally tricky at times, but how is one meant to convey ‘The Goddess’? During rehearsals, our director Suzanne Chaundy called on me to bring a more earthy physicality to the role rather my somewhat ethereal interpretation. I believe that it was due to this collaboration, experimentation and continually examining my understanding of the character, what emerged was a more of a sensual and altogether seductive expression…

8 August, 2016

On tour with the AYO: Culture Shock

Perhaps explaining how a contrabassoon makes noise via smartphone translation is not so odd. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. The AYO had just come from Europe, the birthplace of classical music. Now we were in Shanghai, a sprawling, towering, gridlocked, gleaming, sweaty, emphysematous, beautiful and enthralling place of paradoxes and contrasts. It was a city much more populous than our country. Very few people whom we encountered could speak English, but luckily some of our Chinese-speaking orchestra members helped us to feel more at home. The rest made for some great comedy, like when we were waiting in suspense to see whether we had ordered 16 dumplings or 16 orders of 6! It’s true that China was quite a huge culture shock coming from Europe, but I realised that we might be bringing a culture shock of our own. Just as I thought that restaurant workers casually hosing down crayfish on the street next to our hotel was crazy, I realised that these people would find my instrument, the contrabassoon, equally foreign. I imagined how ridiculous I might sound through a smartphone-translation app trying to explain how this hunk of wood and metal that makes odd…

8 August, 2016

Surprise guest caps off the AFCM

Composer Elena Kats-Chernin was flown in for the Festival Farewell. After nine days of music-making at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, the final concert typically has a carnival atmosphere, the stage full of performers and the repertoire festive – and this year’s sold-out Festival Farewell was no different. The concert opened with German husband-and-wife team violinist Indira Koch and cellist Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt performing Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen’s Passacaglia in G Minor on a Theme by George Frideric Handel, before baritone Roderick Williams joined the Goldner Quartet on stage for a set of Mendelssohn songs. The concert really caught fire, however, with pianists Piers Lane and Finghin Collins facing off across two pianos for Dave Brubeck’s bluesy ballet suite Points on Jazz, which prompted laughter and excited applause after several of the movements. The audience was given the mysterious instruction to remain in their seats at the end of the concert’s first half. Flown in especially for the concert was Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin, whose Three Dancers was commissioned for the festival’s 25th anniversary last year. In celebration of Lane’s tenth anniversary as Artistic Director of the Festival this year, the organisers had a surprise for him – a…

4 August, 2016

Youth of Bellingen to shine in annual music festival

It may only be small, but Bellingen Music Festival certainly packs a punch. This year’s Bellingen Music Festival looks to be another outstanding musical experience in this, it’s seventh year. It is a small festival by many standards, in tune with the small town of Bellingen, but certainly packs a punch. A festival review in Limelight claimed that “Bellingen is the perfect place in the world to have a classical music festival… just about the best setting.”  Performers say that Memorial Hall has the most fantastic acoustic. As in previous years, the programme is an intriguing mix of traditional and contemporary classical pieces, performed by both acclaimed and novice performers. Celebrated recorder virtuoso, Genevieve Lacey, whose extraordinary versatility has seen her playing for the Queen in Westminster Abbey, on an oval on Thursday Island alongside Indigenous colleagues, in a shearing shed in north-west Tasmania and at the opening night of the London Jazz Festival, will headline the festival teamed up with pioneering classical accordionist James Crabb. Both Genevieve and James are soloists with a passion for chamber music and imaginative collaboration. Their repertoire ranges from medieval and renaissance treasures, through Bach, Vivaldi and Sammartini, via Scottish folk tunes, to contemporary classics by Piazzolla…

1 August, 2016

On tour with the AYO: Second Helpings

The halfway, the Het and the hiccup: cellist Julia Janiszewski fills us in on the latest from abroad. The plane whirs in activity and begins to make its steady way across the airstrip of Amsterdam’s international airport. A large number of young Australians sit with their seat belts at the ready, waiting to buckle them in sync with the safety demonstration video (the appropriately-named “seat belt game” – a sure mark of a touring group finding every little gimmick with which to pass travel time). The video, however, glitches for the merest fraction of a second at exactly the required moment, resulting in a entirely imprecise smattering of clasps coming together and a collective groan/chuckle. Next time, then.  For there will be a next time. Despite feeling as if we’ve spent most of our lives enjoying Europe in its stunning summer splendour, the Australian Youth Orchestra has only just etched over the halfway mark in its month-long international tour, and has said goodbye to Amsterdam (and indeed Europe) after last night’s performance in the king of concert halls, Het Concertgebouw. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After four concerts, there is a great deal to talk about – and I’ll…