9 June, 8pm

The Marais Muse

The world of the viola da gamba is quite a small one. Compared to the fiddle family, for instance, gambaists are small in number, and those who make the instruments even fewer. When the great gambaist Wieland Kuiken toured Australia some years ago, he did so without his viol, and made arrangements to borrow instruments in all the cities he visited. In Sydney, he had arranged to use Jennifer Eriksson’s, and when he picked it up and tried it he was struck by its quality. Well, it was an Ossenbrunner, and Kuiken was astonished to find one of these celebrated instruments in Australia. Since then, it has been joined by another, purchased by Daniel Yeadon. Both Eriksson and Yeadon are principal members of members of the Marais Project, a Sydney band dedicated to celebrating the music written for and around the viol family of stringed instruments.

The viols are fretted instruments, and although they resemble the violin family in appearance, they are in fact quite differently constructed. The greater power of the fiddle eventually saw it eclipse the viol, but not before a considerable body of work had been written especially for its particular sonority. Much of that music was written by Marin Marais (1656-1728) a Parisian violist, and his instrument’s foremost composer. He was a true Frenchman, disdaining the usual terminology of his craft and giving his pieces idiosyncratic names.

In Live and Local, on 9 June, The Marais Project pay due respect to their eponymous muse, with three dance pieces from one of his many books of viol music named, in typical Marais fashion: Mennet Musette (plus gai), Muzette (gracieusement et doux) and Double. To conclude the program, Elaine Siversen has included a Fine Music recording of Marais’ Variations on Les folies d’Espagne.

Sunday Night Concert

12th June, 7pm

If Beethoven was the master of the symphony, Haydn was incontestably its father. He picked it up as a short three movement work, ancillary to a theatrical production. In his hands, and aided by the unusually lavish orchestral resources made available by his aristocratic employer, the symphony grew in stature, along the way acquiring a fourth movement, and altogether outgrowing its adjunct status.

Beethoven was fastidiously respectful of the skills of masters such as Handel, Bach, Mozart and Haydn, and of the forms they bequeathed to music. But he had an equal belief that his duty as an artist was to stand on his predecessors’ shoulders, not merely to emulate their work. He set out, not to supplant the traditions of music with shocking novelty, but to inhabit them more fully than any predecessor, and to take them as far as his prodigious musical imagination would go.

The trajectory of the classical symphony thus reached its apogee with the 7th Symphony of Beethoven. Never before, not even in the heroic 3rd, had audiences heard such orchestral forces perform music of such outrageous vigour. Never before had Beethoven’s ability to make carefully-crafted music sound extemporaneous, restless and rough-hewn been so felicitously employed. This Sunday Evening Concert offers the contrast of an early Haydn symphony – Symphony in G, Hob.I:8, subtitled Evening – with the mighty 7th, the latter courtesy of Nicholas Harnoncourt, a conductor whose interpretations of Beethoven have earned widespread acclaim. The two symphonies book end a delightful violin concerto by Beethoven’s contemporary and respected friend Louis Spohr, a fine composer whose career had the misfortune to coincide with that of the greatest musician of all time.

Artist of Choice – Crispian Steele-

Diversions in Fine Music

28 June

The trumpet is an instrument with a convoluted history. Like all members of the brass family, it started off as a plain tube, able, in principle, to play harmonics only. Various ways were tried of liberating the instrument from this rather arpeggiated existence. Simply doubling its length gave access to the much smaller pitch steps of the upper register, and with prodigious skill at pitch-bending, virtuosi could achieve quasi-chromatic results. Slide trumpets were apparently made, but these initiatives led to the trombone, and the trumpet didn’t get a fully chromatic voice until the advent of valves in the late 18th century.

The valve trumpet was embraced with understandable enthusiasm, and the skills of the natural trumpet player fell into disuse. The historically-informed performance movement of the latter half of the 20th century brought a revival of interest in the older trumpet forms, and in the timbral character of the older instruments which the modern trumpet struggles to emulate. The English trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins has done much of the heavy lifting in this project. With a collection of over 100 historic trumpets, he has assiduously studied his instrument’s past through its music. In Diversions, Rebecca Zhong has collected performances which include the ground-breaking Hummel concerto and Steele-Perkins’ signature piece, his performance with Kiri te Kanawa of Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim.

– Tom Forrester-Paton

This article appeared in the June edition of Fine Music Magazine – you can subscribe to our monthly magazine and have it posted to your home or business or click the link here to read online.


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