For a weekend, I based myself at Flinders, a beautiful little town on the Mornington Peninsula, with the opportunity to immerse myself in music. Festival Director Ben Opie has expanded the annual Festival to include thirty events spanning the first two weeks of January, and a wide variety of venues, including wineries, an art gallery and hot springs. There’s even a free musical promenade at Pelican Park in Hastings to conclude the musical fortnight. Although the Festival includes a wide variety of musical genres, I chose six concerts focussing on baroque, classical and romantic music played on instruments of or faithful to the period.
Godfather, Father & Son – Duo Foster-Browne
Friday January 4, 4pm.
On a 43º day, the Main Ridge Estate at Red Hill offered a sanctuary among the vineyards, eucalypts and pines. The tasting room, with vistas across the vineyard, was transformed into an intimate chamber venue, with a small raised stage on which sat the excellent Fred Bettenhausen (Haarlem) two manual harpsichord.
Georgia Browne (baroque flute) and Tom Foster (harpsichord) presented a fascinating program, highlighting three linked influential composers – Johan Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann being close friends, and respectively father and godfather of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Telemann was establishing the late baroque style, JS Bach was developing the period to its pinnacle, and CPE Bach was leading the way towards the Enlightenment which was to follow.
As Georgia Browne’s solo flute breathed life into one of Telemann’s 12 Fantasias, a single butterfly fluttered across the stage, the magical afternoon light playing on the trees outside as they danced in the hot wind. This mini “sonata” was played with great intelligence and musicality, and Browne’s choices of articulation, and technical facility allowed the phrases to sing, and the passagework to sparkle.
Browne also provided a confident, informative and entertaining commentary throughout the hour-long program, explaining that Telemann was a very enterprising musician who learned to typeset his own music, and print it for sale. He published monthly journals, for which he gathered subscribers who would receive a couple of movements of a work, and would have to wait till the following issue for the remainder of the work.
CPE Bach was employed for many years by Frederick the Great, an excellent flautist, for whom he wrote much music. CPE later succeeded his godfather Telemann as Kapellmeister in Hamburg.
The program included a very stylishly performed sonata for flute and harpsichord by CPE Bach, a “synfonie” by Telemann peppered with “Frenchness”, and arrangements of some of JS Bach’s Chorale Preludes, huge works for organ conceived on a symphonic scale, with the various voices heard in pedals and manuals. Harpsichordist Tom Foster had selected three sonatas suitable to be arranged for flute and harpsichord and his arrangement of them was very effectively performed, the chorale melodies swapping between voices, and the surrounding counterpoint shared by the two instruments.
While the Bach swirled around inside the intimate room, outside the trees began to bend more violently and the lorikeets darted between them as the cool change took effect.
The concluding Sonata in E minor was a hybrid piece, constructed by the duo with a first “allegro” movement by CPE Bach, an ‘andante’ by JS Bach, and a Telemann “vivace” to conclude. This was a wonderful way to demonstrate the similarities and differences of the three composers, and proved to highlight the artistry and skill of the performers. Throughout the concert, Duo Foster-Browne presented a stylish performance. Georgia Browne shaped phrases superbly and produced a thoroughly satisfying fullness of mellow tone. Tom Foster made the best possible use of the variety of sound colours available on the fine two-manual harpsichord whether as accompanying figure, or taking on a leading role.
This was a wonderful beginning to my weekend of music, and very enthusiastically received by an attentive audience.