Composing music is a lonely business. But in the end, it is entirely reliant on others, and not just the performers. The upcoming concert tour by the Goldner String Quartet and Ian Munro provides perfect examples.
Consider Szymanowski. He came from a wealthy family and his natural musical talent could at first expand freely, helping him travel extensively through Europe in the early twentieth century. But at several times in his life personal tragedy intervened and he was unable to compose for years at a time. We will never know what masterpieces may have emerged if Mozart had lived even a few years longer, but the same reasoning applies for this less renowned, less obvious example of artistic expression at the mercy of private misfortune.
At the other end of the scale, in 1809, when three patrons banded together to provide him with an annual stipend for life, Beethoven embarked on one of his most prolific compositional periods, writing a deal of music that includes the 'Harp' quartet played on this tour by the Goldners.
Although Brahms dedicated his piano quintet to Princess Anna of Hesse, the real ‘patrons’ of the music are probably Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim, who provided the composer with indispensable and caring guidance as he struggled to bring the work to life. Dvorák’s gorgeous piano quintet similarly owes its existence to the enthusiasm of English audiences for the composer, resulting in music that we can all enjoy, sitting today in concert halls on the other side of the world. By buying tickets to his concerts and sheet music of his compositions, the public provided Dvorák with artistic license to escape the political pressures of Middle Europe and enjoy a productive, and moderately lucrative career.
This tour also provides a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge the patrons and supporters of our own time. Ian Munro’s Piano Quintet, to be heard here for the very first time, was kindly commissioned by Julian Burnside AO QC. Julian has spoken eloquently elsewhere about the vital need for effective patronage of the arts, and backs up his soundly philosophical philanthropy with direct, and greatly appreciated, action.
It is fitting that the first concert of this tour is a tribute to one of Musica Viva's greatest supporters, the late Ken Tribe. It is hard to imagine the condition of musical life in Australia if it had been denied the advocacy, intelligent leadership and generous patronage that he gave so freely throughout his life. The entire organisation of Musica Viva is somehow infused with the values and credo that Ken espoused, and I am proud to play some small part in his legacy. This is also a fitting moment to celebrate, with much pleasure, the appointment of Tony Berg as the new official Patron of Musica Viva Australia, a title given in recognition of his own thoughtful and long-sighted generosity, advice and encouragement.