Reflections on the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition: Emma Jardine

Byline: Musica Viva

After competing as the only Australian ensemble in the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition (MICMC) in 2011, the Streeton Trio has gone on to become one of Australia’s most internationally successful piano trios. Named after the Australian Impressionist painter, Sir Arthur Streeton, the trio has received great acclaim for performances in venues all around the world. We caught up with the trio’s violinist, Emma Jardine, to reflect on her own experiences with the Competition and hear how it played a defining role in the ensemble’s artistic development and success on the international stage.

What prompted you to enter the MICMC competition?

As an all-Australian trio, we had all grown up listening to MICMC and had been very much inspired by the ensembles of previous Competitions. I remember while I was at the VCA, having long conversations with friends about which ensemble we liked best, and a bunch of us all going along to watch the finals one year and being blown away by the incredibly high quality of playing, and the amazing communication between chamber music partners. It was definitely always a goal for us while we were young students to one day be at a level where we were able to compete in MICMC ourselves.

How did you find your experience of MICMC?

I can very clearly remember the day we got the letter saying we’d been accepted into the Competition. We were living in Geneva at the time, and we were literally jumping around the kitchen with excitement when we found out we were one of the eight piano trios from all over the world that had been accepted to compete in Melbourne. It had been a long process - first we’d had to send a DVD and lots of documentation just to be invited to audition, then for the next round, we took a train to Paris (I remember it clearly because it was snowing and SO cold!) and we did a live audition. Then there were many weeks of nail-biting anticipation until we finally received our letter of acceptance!

We were the only Australian ensemble to be accepted, in either the string quartet or the piano trio category, so we received a lot of publicity, with articles in all the major newspapers and lots of interviews and photo shoots. It was really a great launching pad for our trio, as we were relatively unknown in Australia until that point. There were many chamber music enthusiasts listening to the Competition live who liked our playing, and the whole Competition was broadcast live on ABC FM, so for us it resulted in many future invitations to perform at festivals and music societies around Australia and New Zealand.

What were the highlights of your experience?

One of the best things for us was the people we met through the Competition. MICMC had dozens of volunteers who were absolutely devoted to supporting chamber music and who were very generous with their time and energy. Some of those supporters have become our very good friends and have been wonderful supporters of our trio for the past 10 years. We also met young musicians from all around the world from the other ensembles who were in exactly the same position as us - all completely devoted to chamber music and working as hard as they possibly could to achieve the highest standard possible. After MICMC, we'd keep bumping into them at various international competitions around the world!

What opportunities did the competition open up for you and the Trio?

We decided to record a couple of CDs just around the time of the Competition - our first CD of Ravel and Brahms trios was recorded in Geneva before we left, and it was immediately picked up by ABC and all the other classical stations and received a lot of airplay leading up to the Competition. We have since gone on to record another three CDs and each of them have been featured a lot on the radio, which has been great exposure for our trio and has made our name known to audiences around Australia.

After all the publicity of MICMC, we started to receive a lot of invitations to perform at various festivals and music societies, and we started return to Australia three times a year for concert tours. Our reputation continued to grow, with success in other competitions, more CD releases and good reviews from concerts. In 2014 we decided to move back to Australia, and since then we have been based back in Sydney and have continued to perform all around Australia and New Zealand. 

What sets MICMC apart from other chamber music competitions?

It is a very well-run and generous competition. I know it was probably the most sought-after one for all our colleagues in Europe. Unlike other international competitions, MICMC provides ensembles with flights to Australia, accommodation, dedicated rehearsal spaces and fosters genuine collegiality amongst the competitors. It really allows the musicians to focus completely on delivering their best performances. This results in a really high standard of ensembles that apply, so I’d say it is probably one of the highest level chamber music competitions in the world.