Orange Chamber Music Festival: Gala
Melbourne Digital Concert Hall from Orange, NSW, April 8, 2021
Joy and expectation were in the air at the Opening Gala of the Orange Chamber Music Festival in the central west of NSW. Introductory speakers and live audience alike were visibly keen to be part of the inaugural festival, delayed a year by the pandemic. The delay did have one positive effect, as the sessions are available to a wider audience via the admirable and highly successful Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, the means by which this reviewer shared in the musical treats.
This opening concert featured all festival participants in a variety of configurations from solo player to combined orchestral forces. Beethoven’s Serenade for flute, violin and viola opened proceedings, with members of the Acacia Quartet Lisa Stewart and Stefan Duwe joined by flautist David Shaw in a work that is perfect for chamber performance: by turns jaunty and joyful, serene and secure, attractive and tuneful.
In two movements from Dvořák’s Terzetto in C, Stewart and Duwe were joined by violinist Alina Zborowski. There was a questing tenderness in the slow opening movement before the more recognisably Dvořák style of the final movement, folk-based and graceful. Following this, a moment of calmness and beauty dropped into the evening with an adaptation of Debussy’s Clair de Lune, performed by violinist Rachael Kwa and pianist Luke Moxey.
Australian Jessica Wells provided the highlight of the evening for your reviewer, with her work Sati, performed by Niels Bijl on soprano saxophone and Emily Granger on the harp that had provided a splendid visual focus on stage from the start. The instrumental combination is not one that immediately spring to mind as belonging together, but they shone in this piece, with the brightness of tone of the sax superbly balanced by the serenity and high plucked tones of the harp. The composer was present and took a bow from the audience, unfortunately not visible to the online watchers.
The short fourth movement from Jean Francaix’s Wind Quartet was great fun for players and audience alike. David Shaw again, Frank Giraldo on oboe, Lloyd Van’t Hoff on clarinet and Matthew Kneale on bassoon powered through this piece with great panache and a sprightly flourish at the surprisingly swift finale.
Matthew Orlovich’s characteristic tunefulness and relatability featured in his 2016 work Slipstream, effectively capturing the energy of the air currents capitalised on by competitive cyclists. The Nexas Quartet gave this a reading that provided a range of colours. There was brightness and great depth and everything in between, while the unexpected but familiar tones of a bicycle bell heralded the transition to a race for the finishing line.
The Larghetto from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet was given a sensitive and attractive reading by the Acacia Quartet with Lloyd Van’t Hoff. Then followed the World Premiere of Lyle Chan’s Entering the Palaces, commissioned for the Orange festival. The two resident quartets, the Acacia and the Nexas, did this work proud, with evident depth of involvement and an effective use of the combined forces to create a great variety of texture and layering. This work drew great appreciation from the audience.
Daniel Rojas entertained with a vibrant, high energy performance of Valdez’s Mambo Influenciado, which calls for passages of improvisation on the piano, at which Rojas excels. The evening was rounded off by gathering all artists and guests of the festival in Darius Milhaud’s La Creation du Monde. Conductor Joanna Drimatis led the players with a firm, crisp style and supportive communication, and the enjoyment of the players was evident from the start. Bright, exciting jazz elements contrasted with slower, quieter passages; fugitive hints of Gershwin appeared; and all sections of the orchestra had their moments of glory. The work was an excellent choice for the finale of this opening concert, where variety, enjoyment and collegiality were on show throughout and greeted with joy by the audience.