Continuing our reports from Josephine Vains at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition …
Everybody’s talking … (16 July)
The competition is nearly at the end of Round 2, and with the Finals in sight, Josephine has the company of an articulate 7 year old …
Audiences are healthy at this year’s MICMC and, as ever, Melbournians are generous, respectful listeners. Oh, and opinionated. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting next to many different people this year – old and new faces. Everyone loves to know what their neighbour thinks, animated language abounds. Here are some snippets.
“I love them! I don’t care if they don’t win, they’re fabulous. “
“That performance just left me feeling cold.”
“REALLY? I thought the exact opposite.”
“What is going on? Why is everything so fast? Why can’t they take time?”
It’s an aging population and overwhelmingly, I meet the same lovely people every year, an audience peppered with passionate amateur musicians, plus a handful of interested professionals. Noticeable in their absence this year are the tertiary students. What a shame given the student rush tickets are only $15. I wonder why the students stay away. They’re our professionals of tomorrow.
There’s been a regrettable reduction in ABC FM coverage (due to those savage budget cuts I expect), so it’s even more important to make it to the live performances.
I took my 7 year old son to string quartets yesterday. He sat up straight for Kurtag’s 6 Moments musicaux (2005). “Wow mum, No. 4 [In memoriam Sebök György] was really spooky. No.5 [ ..rappel des oiseaux..] did sound like birds. No.6 [ Les adieux in Janacek’s Manier] that was more calm and happy.”
Of the iconic Schubert Death and the Maiden his one word summation was “Awesome”, although it is a long piece and he got a bit jiggly. Children and adults alike allow their imaginations wander in concert, and at one point he said he was seeing Batman climbing down the ABC microphone guide rope. I wonder if a child finds it harder to get inside the emotional life of Schubert than say, the shorter movements of Kurtag or Ligeti with their extremes of dynamic and technique.
Round 2 concludes tonight, where the finalists will be announced. It’s not too late to book tickets to the Finals on Saturday 18th – Piano Trios at 2pm and String Quartets at 7pm at the gorgeous Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at Melbourne Recital Centre.
The Mozart Effect (13 July)
I’m just heading down to South Melbourne Town Hall for the final evening concert from Round 1 of the 7th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. Piano Trios tonight, including the all male Trio Palmer from France and the all female Allant Trio from Canada / USA / Korea. I’m also hosting the latter trio as part of the volunteer cohort at MICMC and they’re a lovely bunch of women, who have had a long 8 day wait to play since arriving in Australia from New York. I can’t wait to hear them play.
Four years ago I wrote a blog post “Who’s afraid of Mozart?” because I was curious about why most ensembles, given the choice in Round 1 between Mozart and Haydn, choose Haydn. This time again, the phenomenon continues, with none of the 8 trios and only 2 quartets performing Mozart (Giocoso and Noga String Quartets). Poor neglected Mozart! It gives a new meaning to the Mozart Effect.
In the right hands, Mozart’s chamber music can be a wonderful, complete work of art. Yes, it is tricky, and a common feeling amongst musicians is that the writing is exposed and harder to pull off. I disagree. Haydn’s music throws many, many curve balls, harmonic and metric riddles and above all, ample musical Rhetoric at the performer. So far I’ve heard some great Haydn trio and quartet playing, and look forward to more tonight with his famous “Gypsy Rondo” in the offing.
In stark relief, the 8 string quartets have shown their adventurous side in Round 1 with the own choice work, throwing us some 20th century greats in Bartok, Krenek, Ligeti, Britten and Webern. The trios have proven much more conservative choosing only Brahms, Mendelssohn and Ravel. Either way, it’s fascinating.
Do try and make it to Round 2 from Tuesday to Thursday, when the 16 ensembles perform anything they like, including a work written after 1995 (there are some intriguing titles such as Space Jump, Dark Vigil and Give me phoenix wings to fly).
Day 1 Round 1 impression (July 11)
“We have a competition!” Such were the words spoken by Chamber music Australia’s General Manager Ben Woodroffe on the fall of the final note this morning. We heard two piano trios, the Classicus Trio from Russia and Germany’s Trio Adorno who were both in fine form, with quality playing and few wobbles in a high pressure situation. The South Melbourne town Hall had a decent crowd this morning for the 11am concert, full front rows occupied by the Gold Pass ticket holders who get plush red armchairs, way back to the jury who overlook the hall from the stands.
I’ve played in this hall a number of times in the trio, and acoustically it feels great on stage – resonant and enveloping in a good way. Cellists have to be particularly careful with the balance (don’t we always?) and I was glad to see the Trio Adorno’s cellist Samuel Selle face his chair straight out, thus projecting his tone well.
As to the repertoire, more on that in a later post. However we were treated to two very different takes on a quirky E major Haydn Trio. This competition will give the listener ample opportunity to get to know some staple works from the literature. If you’re looking for a crash course in chamber music, MICMC is the place to be.
There was a golden moment during the slow movement of Ravel’s Trio when the rain started in, softly at first. Perhaps it was annoying for some, but at a shove we might just have been in Paris on a winter’s day 101 years ago as the low pedaled notes of Lion Hinnrichs piano melded into the weather outside.
And finally, perhaps the cold and wet is keeping some people away, but it’s warm and comfortable inside, tickets are reasonably priced, especially student tickets ($15 is a bargain!!). Get thyselves down to south Melbourne.
Eve of competition (July 10)
The 7th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition will be presented by Chamber Music Australia in association with Melbourne Recital Centre from 11-19 July 2015. Classic Melbourne is delighted to announce that its coverage of the Competition will be by Josephine Vains (pictured), Australian cellist, chamber musician and educator. Here’s her first post …
On the eve of the 7th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition I thought I’d take a look at what’s on offer over the next eight days over two inner city venues. Up there with Russia’s Tchaikovsky and Germany’s ARD Competitions, Australia’s premier music competition surely ranks amongst the world’s elite. This year MICMC (that’s “mickmick” to the locals) attracts top young chamber musicians from over 15 countries. One ensemble of three young men, the Linos Piano Trio, even lists its heritage from 5 countries -Thailand, UK, Brazil, Germany and France!
Late in 2014, 16 ensembles were hand-picked by a travelling Australian duo (stalwarts Ian Munro and Keith Crellin) in a multi-stop search for the cream of the chamber crop. MICMC is a rare event on the world scene –lovingly presented by Chamber Music Australia, with a loyal band of music-mad volunteers and a home town which gets behind all groups in a truly international spirit. Every year the cheering seems to ramp up concert by concert until the finals, which this year will be held on Saturday 18th July at Melbourne Recital Centre.
The brainchild of founder Marco van Pagee and Lin Bender, the inaugural MICMC in 1991 brought a new focus for youth-fuelled chamber music to this country. Held every four years, its evolution has been stellar. These days there are 3 rounds, and in a boon for audiences and players alike, there is no knockout stage until the Finals. That means we can hear our favourite groups at least twice, whilst providing players a chance to get rid of 1st round jitters. And there’s always the fabulously presented live broadcast and streaming on ABC Classic FM for interstate listeners.
It’s not for nothing that Melbourne is the chamber music capital of the region. This competition and its younger sibling, the Asia Pacific Chamber Music Competition has been responsible for a noticeable increase in the quality of Australian ensembles. This year Sydney’s Estivo Trio and Melbourne’s Patronus Quartet will be our representatives, as well as Melbourne cellist Sarah Kim who brings an Australian edge to Germany’s Trio Bonnensis.
Let’s look at the numbers for this year. 18 concerts over three rounds, 16 ensembles, 56 young musicians and importantly, 16 cellos safely strapped into their own airline seats! That’s dozens of hours of listening for the 7 member jury (and the non-voting chair who this year is Maureen Wheeler of Lonely Planet fame). With up to three sessions a day, the jury work hard with a bit of wining and dining in between, as the groups interpret great repertoire spanning the past 200 years.
So come in from the cold for an immersive chamber music experience at the South Melbourne Town Hall for Round 1 commencing tomorrow, Saturday 11th July at 11am.
About Josephine Vains:
A self- confessed chamber music junkie, Josephine has attended every MICMC since its inception in 1991! She won the inaugural National Chamber Music Competition (now the Asia-Pacific Competition) with Trio 3.0.3, and is also a laureate of the 3rd Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition.
A multi-faceted career has taken her to concert stages throughout Europe, North America, Asia, the Caribbean and Australia and includes performances with a number of award-winning chamber ensembles and orchestras. Currently performing with Firebird Trio, she was a founding member of Trio 3.0.3, Freshwater Trio and the Pacific Clarinet Trio, and has broadcast on ABC FM, 3MBS, DRS1 (Switzerland), NDR (Germany) and CBC (Canada).
Josephine’s love of music permeates her teaching, and she is currently on the staff at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at the University of Melbourne and Monash University. Her busy musical life also extends to adjudicating, examining, blogging, curating concerts and radio programs. She performs on a lovely old Thomas Kennedy Cello, London 1850.
Read more at www.josephinevains.com – and keep your eye on this page throughout the Competition for her news and stories!