09 April 2014

Hobart Baroque

Julia Lezhneva
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart
Sunday 30 March 2014

Leo Schofield is both inspired and lucky – or a brilliant manager.

He signed up the very young Russian soprano for the Hobart Baroque Festival of which he is director, more or less sight unseen. About two weeks before her Hobart concert she sang in the superb acoustics of Elizabeth Murdoch Hall in Melbourne and that concert was broadcast a day or so later by ABC FM. A sound bite of her voice was used to promote that broadcast. It was heard by a national radio audience and an international audience on-line. A few days later she was interviewed by Margaret Throsby of ABC FM. In a flash the brilliant Mr Schofield had a brilliant international promo for his festival.

Ten days prior is not enough time to get people to get to an interstate festival? Not a bit. We, wife and I, have been known to book ourselves into a concert tour of North America at ten days’ notice. The bloke organising it went a bit pale over the phone but he managed it.

We cut it a bit finer to hear Ms Lezhneva – a week. But it was worth the scramble.

The Festival, for us, was six days of concerts – one a night with the odd lecture and a superb tour of Bruny Island (see below). Every concert was an absolute winner, but Julia was an absolute stand-out. She worth every bit of the standing ovations she was given.

It wasn’t just her young-woman charm, her simple but striking dresses or the highly polished Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, it was her voice and her ability to use it. She chose pretty much standard baroque repertoire but every piece fitted her voice perfectly. She resisted what was almost certainly the temptation to hit an octave above rather than the octave below. She didn’t need to. She has a superlative voice. It is rich in her lower register and bright and perfectly secure in its upper notes. She sang the typical coloratura-style runs typical of Handel et al without the slightest tension that she would not hit every note in the middle.

Leo Schofied, Julia Lezhnevaand, Mikhail Antonenko, her manager-pianist and Jarrod Cartland

It was a simple case of, ‘sit back while I sing you some incredibly beautiful music and don’t even think about me not doing so with total assurance’.

Leo told me that when he found a wombat for her and her boyfriend to cuddle they behaved like kids.

Now, Leo, what’s your trick for next year?

Image reposted from:
The Culture Concept Circle,


Following the Dean String Quartet 1

As musicians, none of us have really ventured into composition. It does seem odd that we spend all our time interpreting others' music and ideas. One of the questions that we constantly ask ourselves in rehearsals is "how did the composer intend this to sound?" The benefit of a living composer is obvious, but more than just asking Paul Dean what he means by a certain marking. I am following Paul through the development of his first string quartet. (A task which daunted Brahms, and can make even the most accomplished composer break out into a cold sweat.)

Through Paul's conversations I will glean an insight into what goes into putting pen to paper for his first string quartet and just how Paul is going to follow the footsteps of masters past. It is not often that we can get into a composer's head - so here's our chance!

Paul Dean
The Artistic Director’s Office, ANAM
4 February 2014
The first in a series of interviews with Paul Dean.
First published in Flinders Quartet: April update 2014

Paul says, “Martin Bresnick, an American New York based composer said, ‘Make sure when you leave on the journey you’ve got your bags packed.’ Have your sketches, have your ideas, have your structure.”

OK, I’m actually writing a string quartet. I’ve got the Richard Pollock dedication here; how much of a role is that going to have? Am I thinking five movements? At this stage am I thinking three movements with a prelude, an interlude and a postlude?

Before I start I’m going to listen to three quartets for 24 hours non-stop: Bartok’s second quartet, probably Haydn around Opus 50 and probably Beethoven Opus 131. I’m going to immerse myself, not to look for musical direction or ideas, but to take a bath in the texture and the colour and the sound world. The Bartok will make my composition language just go. I’ll learn so much more by listening to Bartok’s Second. It’s music of another world. It really intimidates me – in a good way. It’s music of another dimension. It’s like getting a dose of fertiliser.

Paul Dean, composer, Director of ANAM

I first took the first movement of the clarinet quintet I wrote for Dame Elizabeth, called Cruden Farm to Stuart Greenbaum, my Masters supervisor. The advice I got was, ‘you’ve got to learn to stretch it. Let things grow and develop’. I learned to just allow things to happen. Let the listener’s ear attune to what’s going on before that comes in or bring that in and let it settle. You get to 28 bars let’s hear the last ten of those again, not repeated, but there’s a sense that things are happening on a slower scale.

I’ve got a file on my laptop called, ‘String quartet crap’. I like the idea that you have a bank of ideas written down in words or written down in notes. This opening idea of the G# and the violin coming in on the A; what am I thinking? The G# and the A becomes the basic idea for the prelude. The G# thing may never appear but it’s opened the door. I needed to hear the start in my head.

Of course it’s going to change. When you’re thirty seconds into it you’re going to say, ‘I like this, I want this to change or I want this to move quicker.’

Flinders Quartet: Over a skinny latté II

Helen Ireland
Tucci Brown, Brighton
3 March 2014

The second in a series of interviews with members of Flinders Quartet.

First published in Flinders Quartet: April update 2014

Helen settled for lemon and ginger tea and looked over my questions. She smiled so I asked when the viola discovered her. Their meeting was more or less accidental she said. It spoke to her when they met – and has ever since.

A primary school classmate was going to a music lesson so she went too. The teacher had a ¾ viola. Helen was taller than the other student so she could hold it. The stars aligned. She started lessons with the same teacher and studied viola through primary school and high school.

The two Helens played in a string quartet, busking and playing at weddings through high school. All four are now professional musicians.

Helen played with AYO in Year 12 and her deskie recommended Vince Edwards at Canberra School of Music so she left Adelaide at 17.

Helen Ireland

“I love my viola. It’s Australian, made by W E Smith in 1939. It belonged to Vince when he was my teacher and I’d always hoped I might end up playing it.”

“It’s a very beautiful instrument but it’s enormous. It’s got a very rich, very mellow tone – it’s verging on a cello – partly because it’s so big. It’s got a very warm, full bloom which I really love.”

“I discovered the world of chamber music at the Townsville Chamber Music Festival. I thought, ‘Wow. This is for me’. I went to concerts, page-turned and got involved in the education program.”

She had contracts with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, studied at Elder Conservatorium with Keith Crellin then enrolled at ANAM. First year was a bit difficult but in second year she met Zoe again. They’d worked together with TSO.

“She told me she was thinking of forming a quartet and she’d love me to be the violist. That was a really beautiful thing (she smiled). If it hadn’t been for that I might not be playing now.”

Seraphim Trio: Last Words

Seraphim Trio
Melbourne Recital Centre, 
Thursday March 27

This review says it all:

08 April 2014

Bruny Island Safari

Bruny Island


I’m a bit keen on echidnas. I used to work with one called Milligan. I saw his Bruny Island cousin the other day. He – Bruny, not the cousin – was fawn. Craig-the-Driver-Guide thought he/she/it was white. On inspection of its retreating arse it turned out to be pale brown covered in dust. I saw a beautiful brown and gold tiger snake’s retreating bum too – if snakes have them – but I’ve never worked with one of them. I saw dishes of oysters – pass! ‘all alimentary canal’ my Biology I lecturer called them – and huge, wonderful Hothouse Cafe scones – not as good as mine and not on the same dish as the oysters.

When you visit Hobart you must look at Bruny Island. I had two choices: career around (on the sea) is a yellow speed boat or take a leisurely drive (on land) in a twelve seater with free Minties. I was driven overland to look at the stringy bark-ish scrub – it changes from two-storey to three-storey with changing aspect and therefore rainfall – and beside the rockpools with Sooty Oystercatchers. Geology I (passed on a re-sit) told me the cliffs were basaltic – ‘dolerite’ Craig said – not surprisingly since the exposed hillsides around Hobart include columnar basal organ pipes. I would like to have wandered into a little patch of wet eucalypt forest. Next time.

Haematopus fuliginosus Bruny

The bloke in the front seat (not Craig) out-knew me on The Ring but I scored points being able to quote, ‘When German bands from music stands played Wagner imperfectly, I bad them go, they didn’t say no, but off they went directly…’ (Princess Ida, Gilbert and Sullivan!) Lunch at Hotel Bruny (the one that’s half inverted) was memorable because a. the grilled fish was superb; b. the bloke opposite lined all his chips parallel then apologised for his OCD but I have no idea why.

Craig-the-Guide knows the sea. He can spot the snout of a seal at 50 metres in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, and knows how to relocate them – the whole seal, not just the snout, and knows the island history because he lived in light stations there. He knows enough forest ecology to fool me (not difficult). He can tell the bum of an echidna from that of a tiger snake. He can drive on hilly roads (and that is something I do know about) and he knows about great cheese.