Australian concerts & recordings

Ambassadors write reviews on classical music concerts, books, releases, films and experiences.

Zelman Symphony had much to entertain, delight and move

This being my first time in this venue I was delighted to experience their still fairly new, state of the art performing arts centre which seats 850 and a stage big enough for a large orchestra and choir. In addition…

 
Richard Gill would have been proud of SYO’s Celebrating Strauss

Richard Gill was an immensely popular conductor and musical educator and the Sydney Youth Orchestra dedicated the last concert in this year’s cycle to him. The concert had another dedicatee, namely Richard Strauss who is generally agreed to be an…

 
Outlaw Opera was adept acting and singing, carried off in spades, and to a great reception

Christina Henson is nothing if not versatile, having trained in both opera and medicine, and she produced a show to wake up sleepy Avoca on a Friday night. Avoca Beach Theatre is a beautifully situated Boutique Picture House and plans…

 
Halcyon’s Shining Shores shows their energy supporting living composers is rewarding for audiences

For Halcyon, their last concert for 2018 could be considered something of a landmark for the vocal chamber group. Formed in 1998 by mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck-Chong and soprano Alison Morgan, the ensemble has been a leading light in the fostering…

 
Ensemble Three recording Despite Our Silent Elders shows directions in new music in Australia

The CD is named after the longest work on the recording, Elliott Hughes’ Despite Our Silent Elders. At just under 16 minutes this straightforward composition allows the stellar talents of Joel Brennan, trumpet, trombonist Don Immel and guitarist Ken Murray…

 
Sydney Mozart Society | The Streeton Trio was faultless and reflected the intense moods of the music

How exciting it must have been to be a music lover in Vienna in the early nineteenth century. If you had grown tired of Hummel and even the innovative but ageing Haydn, and were lamenting the premature death of the…

 
Duo Blockstix recording of Works for percussion and recorder

This recently released CD of Australian works is a pleasing addition to the recorded repertoire of local composers and is testament to the skills of the multi-talented and virtuosic performers Alicia Crossley and Joshua Hill. Blockstix Duo display not only…

 
Soirées Musicales Quintette get straight to the heart at Old Government House in a trip back in time

On 9 November 2018, an appreciative audience gathered at Old Government House to experience a recreation of a concert held in exactly the same location on the same date 112 years before, in 1906. The original concert celebrated King Edward…

 
[A]part: Ellen Kirkwood & Sirens Big Band is [A]part from the Crowd

As the Brisbane heatwave sets in like thick soup, an afternoon of lying under the fan, listening to music is a welcome reprieve. The volume knob has to keep being turned up, so the speakers can compete with the beats…

 
Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s Discovery was an exhilarating evening

I have a problem. I’ve heard the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra play now on five occasions and keep waiting for a wrong note, an error in tempo, or creakiness in the strings but they just don’t occur. Is there a better…

 
Thoroughbass: Bach’s Gamba Sonatas

Situated in lovely Mosman, “Bach’s Gamba Sonatas” presented by Thoroughbass displayed the depth and complexity of the music written for the viola da gamba and harpsichord spanning two generations. With nuanced interpretations and a rich command of each instrument, Througbass’s…

 
Flinders Quartet launch their 2019 season!

On a stormy Melbourne evening the Flinders Quartet gathered at a familiar venue, fortyfivedownstairs, for their 2019 season launch. The quartet played at the launch of the venue back in 2002, so it was only fitting it was used as…

 
Evergreen Ensemble’s Snow in Summer provided many colours

‘Snow is Summer’ pays homage to the windswept landscapes and islands of Scotland. The program drew together music from folk and art music traditions, moving between hauntingly beautiful melodies, toe tapping folk tunes and a contemporary Australian commission. The instrumentation…

 
Sydney Mozart Society presents Australian String Quartet

At 8pm on a rainy Friday evening in Chatswood’s Concourse Concert Hall, four of the country’s most respected musicians took the stage as the Australian String Quartet. The ASQ is something of an institution within the Australian classical music scene,…

 
Melbourne Composers’ League presents 19 new works at Montsalvat in two concerts

In the historic Montsalvat in the hills just out of Melbourne two concerts of 19 new works were presented by the Melbourne Composers’ League in just one day. The MCL is a rarity in Australia – a group of composers…

 
A journey through time; a seamless joinder of music, bird song, art and film

It was such a treat to attend the sell-out performance of “Where Song Began” – a musical celebration of Australia’s birds and how they shaped the world – held in the atmospheric wood panelled room at Cottesloe Civic Centre, in…

 
Halcyon’s From the Hungry Waiting Country is an expansive, dreamlike journey

The grey haze of clouds hangs over Brisbane. I watch the sky in distrust, waiting. I walk on dull, dead grass, and watch the angling, fat crows. An hour’s train ride, and then I’m home to my back yard, to…

 
Sarah Grunstein performs Fantastic Fantasies

It would be difficult to imagine a more suitable backdrop for a piano recital than the Utzon room at the Sydney Opera House with a gradual change from a James Jackson painting to a vivid night sky and sea transport…

 
Australian Chamber Choir sings complex music fearlessly and it thrills the listener

In the impressive Grand Court at the Art Gallery of NSW the Australian Chamber Choir presented one of the finest concerts in Sydney this year. Their perfectly chosen program ranged from the early baroque to music from our time and…

 
Around the sun with Song Company

As we take our seats and open up the program for The Song Company’s Four-Colour-Season concert at Darling Quarter we are immediately hurled into confusion. What’s this? There are song names and word extracts and names of seasons and months…

 
Ironwood’s Classical Lyricism and Fervour was an evening of warm weather, beautiful tones, and spectacular works

With a program featuring a composer known as the “Spanish Mozart”, it should seem fitting that Ironwood’s 3rd concert in this year’s season was accompanied by a beautifully warm evening at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Ironwood is a period-instrument…

 
Willoughby Symphony Orchestra with David Fung was full of passion

When is an encore not an encore? When it starts the programme, as Nicholas Milton explained after the orchestra had began unexpectedly with the “Trepak” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite. No one would be in the mood for an encore after…

 
Sydney Mozart Society presents Australian Haydn Ensemble

Probably the most welcome rainstorm in Sydney history put the Chatswood audience, which included eminent patrons Lauris Elms and Donald Hazlewood, in a relaxed mood for the latest concert by Sydney Mozart Society with The Australian Haydn Ensemble, were very…

 
Ana de la Vega’s Mozart Myslivecek Flute Concertos with English Chamber Orchestra

Recording the Mozart Flute Concertos is a bold move. Every professional flutist knows these works and they are the most commonly requested concerto for any professional orchestral audition. Likewise, they have been recorded superbly many times. Rampal and Nicolet gave…

 
Selby & Friends immensely enjoyed performing works by composers with troubled souls

I wonder what effect the title of Selby and Friends’ latest concert “Troubled Souls” had on readers? It certainly didn’t apply to the performers who clearly enjoyed the occasion immensely. They were; Julian Smiles well-known to all as, among others,…

 
Consort 8 was a joyful noyse with first-class playing and singing

With all the discordant noise coming out of Canberra these days, not to mention natural disasters around the world, an evening where one can push all this out of the conscious mind and sink into some ‘joyful noyse’ was most…

 
Soirées Musicales Quintette – sanctuary on a Sunday afternoon

As a winter wind whipped through Brisbane swirling leaves and dust, Saint Mary’s Anglican Church in Kangaroo Point provided a serene backdrop to a charming performance by Soirées Musicales Quintette. Founded in 2015, the Brisbane-based ensemble enhances the romantic classical…

 
Celebrating Ross Edwards’ 75th Birthday

Birthday invitations are not to be sneezed at and it was a privilege to be part of a celebration of Ross Edwards’ seventy fifth year at City Recital Hall. He is probably Australia’s best known contemporary composer with Peter Sculthorpe…

 
Bel a cappella showed unbounded enthusiasm for the carefully chosen music appreciated by a grateful audience

This was the second in Bel a cappella’s annual season and I was lucky enough to hear the first. Running since 1995, they have set high standards for an amateur group throughout. Sunday’s concert was held in the Catholic Church…

 
Flinders Quartet was perfectly balanced for the theatrical nature of the works

Two Australian composers were featured in the Flinders Quartet concert at Independent Theatre more as arrangers than presenting new music but highly successful nonetheless. Calvin Bowman’s The Curly Pyjama Letters with text by Michael Leunig presents 7 whimsical snippets from…

 
Rags, Bags and Tangos with Deborah de Graaff (clarinet) and Tonya Lemoh (piano) is carefully chosen pieces played exquisitely

There are so many wonderful things about this recording. It is played exquisitely. The ensemble between de Graaff and Lemoh is impeccable. The carefully chosen collection of pieces makes a great listening experience. And there is a nice balance between…

 
Backstage Music was an ideal way to finish the week

BackStage Music on Friday night was exactly what my brother and I needed. The week had been fairly crazy and we needed to mentally close the door, allowing the weekend door to open. For me, choosing what to do with…

 
Australian Haydn Ensemble joined by Simon Martyn-Ellis was an impressive delight

The AHE has been around now for about 6 years and it continues to be one of Australia’s premier early music groups. Often they present ensembles of a larger scale but in this concert it was decidedly “chamber” with the…

 
Wonderful surprises abounded at Consort 8’s Fratres.

I’ve been to enough Consort 8 concerts to know three things about them. Firstly, the standard of performance is tops – fabulous recorders, skilful playing of viols, lutes and theorbo, and where else are you going to get a gaggle…

 
Audiences exhilarated by Willoughby Symphony Choir’s The Seasons

While Joseph Haydn had a long and successful musical career, his personal life was not so great. He rarely saw his parents after moving in with his friend Johann Spangler as a teenager and he had a long but unhappy childless…

 
Michael Tsalka joins ThoroughBass – It was wonderful to hear such a virtuoso of the harpsichord

The Israeli harpsichordist Michael Tsalka was the featured artist at this concert at the Mosman Art Gallery, and what a coup it was for a small local group to perform with such an outstanding international artist. Thorough Bass, under the…

 
Superlative Chamber Music Making from the Australian World Orchestra

The Australian World Orchestra was formed in 2011 under the patronage of Sir Charles Mackerras, comprising Australian musicians playing in local state orchestras and overseas in international symphony orchestras. Sadly, the group only plays for one week a year in Australia, but has…

 
Wonderful musicianship from Bach Akademie Australia

The huge audience that attended the concert by the Bach Akademie Australia in the St Francis of Assisi Church Paddington are great supporters of the music of Bach and also enthusiastic for the success of this newly formed specialist group.…

 
Coro Austral hosted an exhilarating evening

What an exhilarating evening hosted by Coro Austral at St Augustine’s Church in Balmain. Coro is a Sydney based amateur chamber choir which specializes in music of Hispanic origin. Their bubbling director, Margot McLaughlin, kept us fully informed before each piece and clearly…

 
Bel a cappella performed JS Bach’s Chaconne with sensitive singing that captivated the listeners

The near capacity audience for Bel a cappella at the historic Christ Church St Lawrence were treated to a concert by an ever improving community choir singing repertoire that suits their skill set and creating a performance that shone. Musical…

 
Song Company’s Bryd Round Table at Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art after Hours

On entering the Art Gallery of NSW entrance hall on Tuesday evening the audience was seated around a small stage containing a table set with goblets, wine and candles. We are all invited, Artistic Director Anthony Pitts tells us, to…

 
Selby and Friends’ Beethoven by ballot was a great concert of audience favourites

Kathryn Selby put together yet another intriguing programme, on this occasion based on one composer’s works. She is, of course, an accomplished pianist in her own right and her reputation enables her to lure top class international and local performers…

 
The Opus Now concerts at Alpha Gallery are a treat

In a program with a new work by an Australian composer it would be easy to gloss over a Beethoven string quartet, the Razumovsky Opus 59/1, but the Opus Now concert at the small and very intimate Alpha Gallery in…

 
Anna McMichael and Daniel de Borah’s ‘In other words’

A new recording on the independent Australian label, Tall Poppies, showcasing transcriptions for violin and piano, is cleverly and most appropriately named “In Other Words“. Both violinist, Anna McMichael, and pianist, Daniel de Borah, are well-known and well-credentialled Australian musicians.…

 
Australian Haydn Ensemble’s Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 & 3

Forming part of a series of reconstructions, Peres Da Costa with the Australian Haydn Ensemble, performing all of Beethoven’s piano concertos, this recording of the 1st and 3rd concertos is remarkable for a number of reasons. Principal of these is…

 
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s spectacular Thomas Tallis’ England

I had been looking forward to reviewing this concert ever since the 2018 brochure appeared in my letterbox. English music of around 400 years ago is simply divine. It’s the music of Shakespeare’s time, and the music dramatic. Our program…

 
Ensemble Three was an adventure through nature

Ensemble Three played to a full house in the Salon at the Melbourne Recital Centre. An unusual ensemble of a trumpet, trombone and guitar, I rather anticipated something closer to swing or jazz. Instead the concert was an adventure through…

 
Sydney Baroque Music Festival: Musical Pilgrims

This was the culminating concert of a week’s summer school for young musicians from all over Australia and New Zealand, specialising in early music. The week was under the mentorship of The Muffat Collective. The tutors Rafael Font (violin), Anton…

 
Jennifer Eriksson produces two for the price of one – Marais Project and Elysian Fields in one concert

We have been following Jennifer Eriksson’s “Marais Project” since its inception. Marin Marais (1656-1728) was a prolific viola da gamba player and composer. He wrote many volumes of gamba music. In the year 2000 Ericsson set herself the ambitious task…

 
Peninsula Summer Music Festival: Bach Violin Sonatas

Three of Bach’s sonatas for violin and obligato harpsichord were presented in this concert, the C minor with its beautiful opening movement, B minor and the G major. No programme was given so we relied on the information mostly supplied…

 
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