I was in Melbourne recently to catch some wonderful performances by the Eggner Trio. At the airport waiting to come home I ran into Sophie Rowell, first violin of the Australian String Quartet, and Irina Morozova, violist of the Goldner String Quartet. They were in transit between the ASQ’s festivals in Dunkeld (Vic) and Margaret River (WA), but also in the midst of working out how their schedules were going to look on the way back, leading up to the Musica Viva Festival in Sydney, in which they’re both performing.
Irina is also coaching at the Australian Youth Orchestra’s “Chamber Players” program attached to our festival. She will join the other three ‘Goldners’, as well as Finnish fiddler Pekka Kuusisto, the Takács Quartet and the Eggner Trio, to offer their collective decades of wisdom for the edification and inspiration of the 29 brilliant young musicians who are this year’s Chamber Players. The AYO has carefully chosen these young prodigies from all around Australia, and banded them into 5 string quartets and 3 piano trios to take part in 8 master-classes and 5 concerts spread through the festival, under the watchful, caring eyes of the master coaches.These “Rising Stars” concerts are peppered between the seven major “Festival” concerts, featuring not only the master musicians mentioned above, but another dozen flying in from around the world to generate a remarkable spread of repertoire and musical potency.
Chamber music festivals are vastly different animals from a series of subscription concerts dotted through the year. It is economically unviable to fly a mixed octet of musicians around the nation on a concert tour. But once you’ve assembled 57 musicians in one city, it is simply great fun to divide them into groups of widely differing ilk, from duos upwards, and delve into the great cache of less common chamber music possibilities.
My personal model for the audience experience of such a festival is “total immersion” – the space of a few days enclosing a concentration of musical activity that is not obtainable any other way. It will be possible at this festival to finish your breakfast, and step right into an unbelievable range of chamber music experiences running right through, almost to midnight, every day. Meals and refreshments are available on-site at the Conservatorium, with just enough time to digest a sandwich and peppermint tea before the next forum, class, demonstration or performance.
Fortunately, it’s not mandatory to attend every event, but feel free to join me if you think you can keep up. If you’re in Sydney at the end of April, and you’re fond of chamber music, you’d be mad to miss it.