With all the talk of borders increasing in the lead-up to the Election, it’s good to find the Team of Pianists’ next concert is all about crossing them – at least within Australia. The reputed Melbourne-Sydney rivalry has no place at the next Twilight Chamber Music at Rippon Lea concert, when Melbourne-based Team partner Robert Chamberlain (piano) collaborates with sisters Marina Marsden (violin) and Justine Marsden viola, both far more likely to be found playing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
It isn’t that the Team of Pianists couldn’t find worthy string players in Melbourne! But Chamberlain and the Marsdens have been collaborating for many years. The pianist and violinist have even recorded together in the 1990s for Tall Poppies, including a recording of Margaret Sutherland’s seminal Sonata for Violin and Piano (and the pair also edited a critical edition of this work for Currency Press). With violist Justine, they have presented a number of acclaimed recitals at Rippon Lea, in 2014 featuring Dvorak’s Dumky trio arranged for this combination of instruments plus Reger’s massive Trio in B minor Op 2 in Slavic Romance, and in 2012 with a Romantic-inspired program Fantasy and Fairy Tale based around Brahms’ B major Piano Trio, complemented by works of Schumann, Fuchs and others.
There’s a nice synchronicity between this music-making and friendship, as the inspiration for this program, Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, saw the composer involving his friends in a number of the works. Traditionally the 48 or so Songs without Words have been given titles – most of these by various editors and publishers – but with others deriving from Mendelssohn’s circle of friends, and only five original titles from Mendelssohn himself.
The original piano versions of these popular pieces, including Venetian Boat Song and the famous Spinning Song, are best known. But there are also arrangements of other numbers for violin and piano, viola and piano, and violin, viola and piano. Chamberlain comments: “Mendelssohn’s spontaneous, lyrical tone-pictures lend themselves to this treatment by various instruments, with appealing melodies, textures and varied and subtle moods”.
The title of the concert has a wider reference to works distinguished by their musicality, according to Chamberlain. The four-movement Trio Suite by German Romantic composer Hans Koessler (1853 – 1926) is a rarely heard gem for the unusual combination of violin, viola and piano. Composed when Koessler was 66, it is both tuneful and grand, especially in the first movement. There is a sentimental and emotional Romanze as the second movement, a charming Gavotte and a lively Finale. While it has been also been performed in the standard piano trio format of cello, violin and piano, the audience on June 19 will hear the original viola, violin and piano version, with the unique textures and tone colours that these instruments bring.
Staying with the concept of works that communicate with the audience like a harmonious song, Songs without Words will continue with a passionate arrangement of Glinka’s Three Russian Songs, pieces of great expression and beauty, and the Mozart Duo in G for violin and viola, which brings Classical elegance and charm to the program. The recital finishes with a touch of tango – Piazolla’s Oblivion will feature the mellow tones of the viola and Gade’s Jealousy allows a display of violin virtuosity, along with its infectious harmonies and rhythms.
Sydney will have its chance to hear this program on Sunday May 29 at 4pm, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, 9 Currie Rd, Forestville.
Whichever city is the host, this is a concert with a lot to celebrate, with simply beautiful and appealing music at its heart.
More about the three performers
Violinist Marina Marsden is currently the Sydney Symphony’s Principal Second Violin, having joined the orchestra in 1995 as Assistant Concertmaster. She has recorded CDs for Tall Poppies, Move Records, Wirripang Publications and ABC Classics labels. In 1999 she received an Australian Music Centre National Award. In 2011 she appeared as a member of the inaugural Australian World Orchestra and in 2013 undertook advanced study in violin playing and mentoring in Europe, assisted by a Sydney Symphony Michael and Mary Whelan Trust Scholarship. In 2015 she appeared as soloist with the SSO and performed in the AWO Southern Highlands Chamber Music Festival.
Justine Marsden has been a member of the Sydney Symphony since 1990, on occasion acting as Associate and Assistant Principal Viola. She has also played as a casual member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 2004, she returned to Germany for further study and research on a Sydney Symphony Friends and a Michael and Mary Whelan Trust Scholarship. As a chamber musician, she has been a member of the Novalis Quartet and Ku-ring-gai Virtuosi and has recorded for Tall Poppies and most recently for Wirripang. In 2013 Justine travelled to London and North Germany for further study and research on musicians’ health and performance-related matters.
Robert Chamberlain, representing the Team of Pianists on the stage for this night, has recorded on around 16 CDs for labels including Tall Poppies, Naxos, Move Records and VoxAustralis. Concert engagements have taken him to Turkey, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand and Canada as well as to festivals, concerts and broadcasts around Australia. He is on the piano faculty at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University in Melbourne, and also adjudicates frequently for piano competitions around Australia and in South-East Asia.
The Team of Pianists provided the information for this collaboration with Classic Melbourne.
Details for your diary
Songs without Words, features Marina Marsden (violin), Justine Marsden (viola), and Robert Chamberlain (piano).
Where: Rippon Lea Ballroom, 192 Hotham St, Elsternwick, (Melway 67 E2)
When: Sunday June 19 at 6.30pm
Tickets: $40 (full), $35 (Government pensioners, National Trust members), $20 (Students).