As we draw towards the end of 2011, our International Concert Season picks up with a flurry of activity. The last concert tour of the year features the magnificent clarinet virtuosa, Sabine Meyer, accompanied by a vibrant new group from France, the Modigliani String Quartet. The words “divine wind” popped into my head as soon as I thought of Sabine’s extraordinary skill at blowing into a black conical tube, but then popped out again just as quickly when I remembered that this was the common translation of the Japanese term “kamikaze”. Still, you get the drift.
Child prodigies inspire admiration and awe, filling us with excitement at the unknown potential they may yet uncover. Developing musicians reaching virtuoso status can exhibit staggering stamina, and astonish with the complexity of their musical understanding.
However, great artists in maturity offer precisely everything denied to the young – technique burnished to a sheen so lustrous that it reduces to little more than a twinkle in the eye; life experience so rich with emotion, love and loss that endless layers of subtlety and depth become apparent in the nuance of every phrase.
I try to balance components of youthful vibrancy against those of mature mastery in every year’s concert season, to offer the most rounded experience throughout the year. At the close of this one, the combination of Meyer and the Modiglianis offer both at once, in great abundance.
After almost three decades in the spotlight Sabine Meyer is still considered one of the world’s greatest woodwind soloists, and is the player most often referred to in reverential terms by other clarinettists. At the other end of the scale, not even a decade old, the Modigliani String Quartet pulses with enthusiasm and dedication, certain of the seriousness of its endeavour, and committed to perfecting every performance.
Together they form a formidable team to tackle the quintessential clarinet quintets by Mozart and Brahms, as well as a new quintet by Ian Munro, our Featured Composer for 2011. This work, called “Songs from the Bush”, was written especially for these performers, and was commissioned for Musica Viva by John Sharpe and Claire Armstrong.
This will be our final glimpse of Ian Munro in his role as Featured Composer for 2011. Through the year we have been able to sample four of Ian’s recent works, including one world premiere, and had a glimpse into the rich inner worlds of an extraordinarily accomplished composer who is also one of Australia’s finest pianists. Ian keeps saying how thankful he is to have received so many fine performances. For my part, I’m eternally grateful that he has provided our national audience with so many memorable, thrilling and thoughtful musical moments all year.