Chamber music – 2012 in Sydney

Chamber music is the focus in the continuing overview of Sydney’s 2012 concert agenda.

Australia’s flagship chamber ensemble, the Australian Chamber Orchestra continues its innovative and classy programming performing classics as well as thinking outside the square. They’re bringing to Sydney guests artists whom one would otherwise need to travel the world to hear.

Chief amongst these is Melbourne born soprano Danielle de Niese, who recently appeared at the Met in the new Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Isle. She joins the ACO in June to perform a new work by Carl Vine with text by Patrick White, commissioned for her professional debut in Australia. Alongside this, de Niese will sing Mozart’s solo motet Exultate Jubilate, with the orchestra performing Mozart’s Symphony No 196/121 La finta giardinera, Schubert’s String Quartet No 14 Death and the Maiden and Richard Meale’s Cantilena Pacifica.

The ACO’s other guests are no less illustrious. The Hilliard Ensemble who join the ACO in March, are 4 voices who specialise in medieval and renaissance music, and contemporary works. Not surprising that one of the works they will sing is Ah, gentle Jesu a a very early four part carol by Sheryngham, an English composer about whom little is known except that he was active around 1485-1500. Also in their line- up, contrasting interpretations of the incantation Veni Creator Spiritus, in Gregorian Chant, in a French medieval setting, and by Ross Edwards.

In July there is The Reef , a cutting edge visual and acoustic presentation in which the indigenous sounds of the didgeridoo are combined with images of the landscape and music by Ian Grandage

The Choir of Clare College Cambridge join the ACO in August for Beethoven’s 9th symphony – not a work expected from chamber musicians, but much anticipated nonethless – and his cantata A Calm Sea and Prosperous voyage. The choir performs Brahms’ Geistliches Lied, while the instrumentalists will claim the stage for Messiaen’s Prayer of Christ ascending towards his Father from L’Ascension.

Conductor Richard Egar, director of the Academy of Ancient Music conducts the ACO in October in a programme of luscious Baroque and early classical music. Biber’s at times burlesque Battalia a 10, and Mozart’s piano concerto No 12 which Egarr will direct from the fortepiano are certain to attract.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra enters a new era with the presentation of its very first opera, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. German tenor  and early music specialist Markus Brutscher will sing the title role in this 1607 setting of the Greek myth. Venice Secrets in late February/early March sees the return of Italian violin virtuoso and period specialist Federico Guglielmo, in an all Vivaldi programme that transports you to Baroque Venice.

In May, the Brandenburg Choir joins the orchestra in Bach Eternal performing choral and instrumemtal excerpts from cantatas, extending to Bach’s contemporaries Zelenka, Telemann  and Handel.  Trumpeter extraordinaire Gabriele Cassone has been the soloist of choice for Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Ton Koopman in their performances of Bach.  In July-August Dazzling Virtuoso Gabriele Cassone showcases his virtuosity in early classial music when he performs the music of Haydn and Hummel on the keyed trumpet. There are more period instruments on show during October/November in Beautiful Minds when solo works by Mozart are performed by ABO principal artist Craig Hill ( the Clarinet Concerto in A K 622) on the basset clarinet, and guest concertmaster Madeleine Easton ( the Violin Concerto no3 in G major, K 216). The ABO wraps up its year with its traditional programme of seasonal music Noel Noel, now in its 14th year.

In 2012, the landscape has changed for two chamber ensembles. The Australian String Quartet have a brand new line up after the departure of two of its founding members. Violinist Kristian Winther and violist Stephen King have taken over from Sophie Rowell and Sally Boud who have left to pursue independent careers. The ASQ presents 3 concerts this year. In each concert, they will be joined by a  guest artist to explore some of the quintet repertoire. Pianist Daniel de Borah joins them in March  playing the Piano Quintet opus 57 by Shostakovich. Brett Dean performs in June with his own Epitaphs for Viola and String Quartet as well as Brahms String Quintet in G opus 111. Clarinest Paul Dean is the ASQ’s guest in September performing Clarinet Quintets by Wilfred Lehmann and Weber.

Selby and Friends farewelled its short-lived but memorable ensemble TriOz, but maintains an intense and innovative programme with 5 tours through the year. As always, Artitic Director Kathy Selby performs at the piano. Her collaborators this year include Ex-ASQ violinist Sophie Rowell, cellists Cancy Newman, Julian Smiles and Emma- Jane Murphy, clarinetist Catherine McCorkill, violinists Elizabeth Layton and Natsuko Yoshimoto and violist Glen Donnelly. Amongst the classical giants (Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ Trio, Mendelssohn’s D minor piano trio opus 49), watch for the unusual – Neils Gade, John Cage, Paul Schoenfield and Andrew Schultz. Watch too for their daytime offerings at the City Recital Hall – “A Little Lunch Music”.

Cellist Rachel Scott once again presents her series Bach in the Dark in March, June, August and October. Scott’s repertoire is based in the music of JS Bach. Drawing on the wealth of Bach inspired compositions and adaptations, she collaborates this year with fellow cellist and her former teacher David Pereira, soprano Jane Sheldon and harpist Genevieve Lang, accordionist Anthony Schulz and percussionist Ben Sibson.

The Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra is carving a niche for itself in the inner west with its concerts in Leichhardt and Balmain. This year it is venturing to the lower north shore with a series at the Independent Theatre in North Sydney. Presenting a ‘Met Series’ of six orchestral concerts and an ‘Indy Series’ of  four chamber concerts, their programming is more traditional, and replete with popular classics.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In the coming days we’ll look at highlights from Music Viva, the Utzon Series, and some of the musicians who are touring Sydney independently.



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