30 July, 2012

Townsville 2012: Day 3 – Reefs, Sunken Cathedrals & All Things Debussy

This year marks 150 years since the birth of Claude Debussy and like most musical organisations the AFCM is keen to celebrate.  Most days have a work or two but day 3 is definitely ‘Debussy Day’ with numerous performances as well as a biographic special event. We kicked off with an annual Townsville event, a Reef Talk, where marine scientists are set the challenge of telling us something about the unique aquatic culture of the Coral Sea that links in with an ensuing musical programme.  In this case it was rather an easy one as Debussy’s La Cathédrale Engloutiewas pretty much ripe for the picking.  If I had a criticism it was that an informative half an hour on ‘sea mounts’, ‘coral cathedrals’ and the need for conservation could have been enlivened with a few more underwater images, or better still, film. On the musical front, Marshal McGuire gave us a charming little aquatic harp piece entitled La Source(The Well-Spring) by Adolphe Hasselmans.  Friendly and upbeat, McGuire is here for the duration of the festival which contains an impressive array of works that include harp. Nigel Westlake’s Entomologyfor six players and tape followed, pretty much upstaging everyone with pre-recorded…Continue reading…

16 July, 2012

What’s in a festival? The art of programming

I’m off to Hobart to record concertos by Malcolm Williamson with the Tasmanian Symphony for the Hyperion label in London. My partner in crime will be Howard Shelley, the British conductor and pianist of surpassing natural musicality and intelligence. It will be a week of intense concentration, culminating in a public performance of the second concerto on Saturday night. The following day, overseas artists for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music will start to arrive in Australia. Some won’t arrive until Wednesday the 25th, the first day of rehearsals. As always, they’ll somehow cope with the crazily demanding schedule of rehearsals and performances – but those who can, and who know what jetlag means, will get here as early as possible! Williamson’s Second Concerto will feature in the Governor’s Gala concert on the first Saturday evening of the festival. It is orchestrated just for strings, so it qualifies as a “chamber” concerto and will complement a second half of zany and attractive Aussie pieces by Nigel Westlake and Matthew Hindson, with the Goldner String Quartet and the Camerata of St John’s hotting things up in Hindson’s The Rave and the Nightingale, where disco meets Schubert! That’s not a bad representation…