What a privilege it is to attend a concert in a group’s 42nd season. The Melbourne Musicians were established in 1975 by artistic director Frank Pam and today presented a balanced yet varied program in St John’s Southgate.
Opening with little known Italian baroque composer, Antonia Francesco Tenaglia (c1610-c1661) settled the audience before cello soloist Molly Kadarauch joined the orchestra of 13 players for C.P.E. Bach’s Cello Concerto in A minor. A seasoned performer, Kadarauch, presented a stylish performance. The changes in mood were effective and the contrasts between lyrical lines and virtuosic passages and cadenzas held the audience’s interest. At times the choice not to use harpsichord as part of the basso continuo lead to a thin texture, particularly in the second movement, however the solo line was never overpowered. An encore of Bloch’s Prayer was extremely well received and provided a sensitive transition to the program’s second half.
Saxophonist Justin Kenealy is an up and coming soloist who is certainly worth watching out for. He seemed completely at home with Galzunov’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone (1934) as he gave a confident and clean reading. One of the first concertos written for the saxophone, this work actually seemed all too short. Kenealy displayed a rich tone that blended well with the strings and played with what I would describe as a sensible amount of vibrato.
Continuing with a Russian theme the concert closed with a String Orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.8. A powerful work, famous for the use of Shostakovich’s initials in the final movement. Special mention should be made of the beautiful and floating solo line played by leader Irina Grigoryan in the first movement.
The Melbourne Musicians survive without government or other official financial support. To have presented high quality performances to Melbourne audiences for 42 years is a huge achievement and they deserve our patronage. I look forward to hearing them again!