It seems that part of Melbourne enters another realm every four years with the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition (MICMC). It is an intense time of immersion in some of the greatest music written for string trios and string quartets, and it would seem that an appetite for this repertoire remains strong.
This competition is only one part of the invaluable contribution Musica Viva Australia makes to Australia’s cultural life; the nurturing of young talent has been an integral part of an education and development program that fosters a love and appreciation of classical music. A range of initiatives ensures that careers are not only given much needed support, but that future audiences will be there to sustain them.
An ongoing component of the competition has been the inclusion of an especially commissioned works by Australian composers. Audience members who were present for Round Two at the Hawthorn Arts Centre this year were able to hear all quartets perform Lee Bradshaw’s Resolve for string quartet and Maria Grenfell’s Bitter Tears for piano trio. In the absence of any recordings, each quartet was free to interpret Bradshaw’s 12-minute work of three contrasting movements in what proved to be markedly different ways. Grenfell’s 11-minute work, commissioned by MVA in honour of Barry Jones’ 90th birthday, also inspired differing interpretations. It is not often that an audience has the opportunity to become familiar with a new work, hearing it with new ears once the musical concept as a whole has been revealed.
It is always a double delight when a home grown chamber group is part of the entrants selected to compete. Expectations were high when it was known that Melbourne’s Affinity Quartet had made the cut – perhaps adding a stressful extra pressure on them. But anyone who had heard recent concerts, whether online from London’s Wigmore Hall or at the Australian National Academy of Music’s Quartetthaus concerts would have been confident that they were in with an excellent chance – and not only for the Audience Prize.
As we waited for the adjudicators to make their final decisions, it was a special pleasure to see Dutch Australian violinist/violist Marco van Pagee, former Head of Orchestral Studies at the Victorian College of the Arts and founder of MICMC in 1988, being interviewed onstage.
The following press release from Musica Viva Australia gives further information regarding the outcome of what was a superb evening of chamber music.
AFFINITY QUARTET ANNOUNCED AS WINNER OF MUSICA VIVA AUSTRALIA’S
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER MUSIC COMPETITION 2023
“Musica Viva Australia has announced Affinity Quartet as the winner of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition 2023. Affinity Quartet, formed in Melbourne, has been awarded the Monash University Grand Prize ($30,000), the Robert Salzer Foundation String Quartet 1st Prize ($30,000) and the Audience Prize for String Quartet ($8,000).
“Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition (MICMC) is a week-long international chamber music championship open to string quartets and piano trios where all members are under the age of 37. It was one of the first worldwide music competitions bringing international competitors to Australia.
“Of the 13 competing Ensembles just six, three trios and three quartets, went through to the Grand Final, which took place on Sunday 9 July at Melbourne Recital Centre. The finalists were: Trio Orelon, Trio Pantoum, Trio Bohémo, Terra String Quartet, Affinity Quartet and Risus Quartet.
“Musica Viva Australia’s Artistic Director of Competitions and juror Wilma Smith said: ‘It has been a real privilege for all of us in Melbourne to welcome 13 extraordinary trios and quartets to our competition this week. They have given us exhilarating and moving performances, reminding us of the unique and important role this wonderful event fills in the life of our city. The support given to the groups by volunteer hosts, generous donors and by droves of passionate chamber music listeners – in the hall and around Australia and the world – gives MICMC a warm, extended-family feel which flows to the competitors too’.
“Musica Viva Australia’s CEO Anne Frankenberg said: ‘One of the dreams of MICMC’s founders was that it would lead to Australian groups competing at an international standard in their home country. It’s wonderful to see this vision realised so powerfully, with the Affinity Quartet’s sensational performance of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden on the stage of the Melbourne Recital Centre earning the coveted Monash University Grand Prize’.
“Affinity Quartet now travel to Canberra for two celebratory performances. The first (Tuesday 11 July, 1pm – 1.40pm) takes place in the marble foyer to Parliament House. The second (Wednesday 12 July) is hosted by the Belgian Ambassador Michel Goffin. Affinity Quartet will also engage in a series of engagements with young Australian musicians, coaching and inspiring the next generation.
MONASH UNIVERSITY GRAND PRIZE – $30,000 AFFINITY QUARTET STRING
1st Prize – Robert Salzer Foundation Prize – $30,000 AFFINITY QUARTET
2nd Prize – Patricia H. Reid Endowment Fund Prize – $20,00 TERRA STRING QUARTET
3rd Prize – $10,000 RISUS QUARTET
Audience Prize for String Quartet – $8,000 AFFINITY QUARTET
Quartet Commission Prize – Rowland-Jones and Immelman Commission Performance Prize – $4,000 RISUS QUARTET
PIANO TRIO PRIZES
1st Prize – Tony Berg Prize – $22,500 – TRIO ORELON
2nd Prize – In Memory of Paul Morawetz – $15,000 – TRIO PANTOUM
3rd Prize – Musica Viva Australia Victorian Committee Prize – $7,500 – TRIO BOHÉMO
Audience Prize for Piano Trio $7,500 – TRIO BOHÉMO
Trio Commission Prize – Barry Jones Commission Performance Prize – $3,000 – TRIO ORELON
Audience Prize for Piano Trio, $6,000 – TRIO BOHÉMO
“MICMC is presented by Musica Viva Australia with generous support from the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, and in conjunction with major partners Monash University, the Melbourne Recital Centre and the City of Boroondara.”