We are now at the midpoint of Musica Viva’s 2011 International Concert Season. So we are also in the middle of Featured Composer Ian Munro’s contribution to the year’s concert enjoyment, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to reflect on what we have heard to date, and what is yet to come.
I was privileged to hear the Eggner Trio play Ian’s “Tales of Old Russia” on quite a few occasions in April. It was fascinating to hear how the work evolved over the 4-week course of the trio’s national concert tour, as those three ingenious Austrians continued to unfurl ever-finer intricacies hidden within the score.
I have yet to find out from Ian what kind of alchemy enables composers to make a series of sounds resemble a set of wooden carvings, or indeed any form of visual imagery. But that was precisely the impetus for his first string quartet, ‘From an exhibition of Australian woodcuts’.
Fortunately, my uncommon lack of visual response to musical stimulus was no impediment to enjoying the captivating sound images evoked by this music impeccably portrayed by the Brentano Quartet in May and June. Like most of Ian’s music it doesn’t confront or challenge as much as insinuate itself irresistibly into one’s field of perception. Like a beautiful butterfly flying peacefully along a path different to one’s own, but to which one’s attention is inescapably drawn.
In August and September we have the pinnacle of our Featured Composer’s year: a concert tour featuring composer as pianist. These will also be the only true premiere performances of the year, as Ian’s brand new (second) Piano Quintet is artfully assembled by Ian joined by the Goldner String Quartet. The birth of this previously unheard music will be celebrated in a lap of honour around the nation’s finest concert halls in the inescapable presence, as luck would have it, of the composer himself.
Ian’s last Musica Viva contribution for 2011 is his Clarinet Quintet, first performed at the Huntington Festival in November 2010. If you weren’t at Huntington, or you missed the later broadcast on ABC Classic FM, don’t miss the chance to hear this engaging work re-interpreted by one of the world’s great soloists. Masterful German clarinettist Sabine Meyer leapt at the chance to play some new Australian music, and together with the Paris-based Modigliani Quartet promises a quintessentially European slant on our internationally acclaimed Featured Composer.