Australian concerts & recordings

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

Bel a cappella raised a toast to 2020 and its 25th birthday with a ‘Bel’issimo programme of music in store

December 1, 2019, “A Boy Was Born”.  What better way to ring in the festive season than with a bit of Britten? Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to sing in the final concert of Bel a cappella’s 2019 program,…

 
Farewell Huntington Estate Music Festival

November marked the 30th and final Huntington Estate Music Festival. It had become interwoven with so many parts of my life. My first festival was in 2007, when I was 33. I was terrified before that festival. The main theme…

 
Zelman Symphony Orchestra with guest “BaRock” star Alexandre Da Costa, presented two sessions’ worth of Stradivarius Magic

First Session, Beethoven Violin Concerto, Op. 61 in 3 movements Alexandre Da Costa strode on stage and took up his position, with an understated Rockstar vibe, standing before the audience resplendent in a subtly sparkling black coat and tie. He…

 
Bach Akademie Australia celebrated Christmas-time with Bach works of “Comfort & Joy”

Going to concerts usually involve some meticulous planning on my part. But this time, I was familiar with the venue of the Bach Akademie Concert: Christ Church St Laurence. I also know how much work had been done during its…

 
Consort 8’s sweetly jubilant program brought centuries-old music to life in the modern-day

As a sizeable audience took their places in the pews of Edmund Blackett’s Gothic Revival church of St. Paul’s Anglican in Burwood, a sole rousing drum marked the opening of this final concert for Consort 8 in 2019. Appropriately, the…

 
Willoughby Symphony Choir and friends’ massive undertaking of “Ode to Joy” was an impressive success!

It is really refreshing to attend an event featuring an amateur orchestra and choir performing with proceeds going to Indigenous education, and doubly so when the work chosen is none less than Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, a massive undertaking even for full…

 
The Seraphim Trio, joined by guest violist Martin Alexander, presented a high calibre performance of a most appealing program

There is always an air of anticipation when the Seraphim Trio visits North Sydney’s charming Independent Theatre, but this concert came with added expectations, as they were to be joined by guest violist, Martin Alexander. Over the pre-concert refreshments provided…

 
Led by guest violinist Midori Seiler, the Australian Haydn Ensemble dazzled with a season finale of Mozart & Haydn

On a cool overcast Sunday afternoon in Sydney, the Australian Haydn Ensemble, a leading period instrument group established in 2012, gave its final concert for 2019 under the guest directorship of well-known Baroque violinist, Midori Seiler, one of four sisters…

 
Australian Chamber Choir’s “Keys to Heaven” showcased their sumptuous sound

In the recently restored and now even more exquisite Christ Church St Laurence, the Australian Chamber Choir presented Keys to Heaven, a concert of music dating from the late 1400’s through to about 1640. The sumptuous sound of one of…

 
With their Classical Masters program, the Melbourne Musicians proved themselves to be masters of Classical

The Melbourne Musicians concert at MLC’s James Tatoulis Auditorium showcased an outstanding line up of local talents in a unique concerto extravaganza. Led by Artistic Director, Frank U. Pam, the chamber orchestra is laudable in its focus on providing a…

 
The Idea of North thoroughly entertained with their Prelude in Tea performance

The full house at the Independent Theatre indicated that an enthusiastic crowd knew it would be a great idea to see The Idea of North in North Sydney this sunny Sunday afternoon. After coffee and cake in the foyer, we…

 
Sydney Chamber Choir took audiences on an emotive journey through Time and Place

Warning: This report contains unashamedly gushing commentary.  If you like your reviews critical and scathing I would advise you to read no further. Sydney Chamber Choir is a truly excellent vocal ensemble. In a recent interview with Limelight magazine, Artistic…

 
Ensemble Trivium showcased chamber music with a French twist

Ensemble Trivium’s French Revelations concert was the perfect way to unwind on a Friday evening. Heritage-listed Old Government House, Brisbane, with its oak-panelled doors, high ceilings and chandeliers, was an intimate setting for chamber music. Ensemble Trivium is a collective…

 
Selby & Friends’ all-Beethoven performance was superb and essentially flawless

This is an interesting report for me to write because I suspect many of you have heard some Beethoven before now, and probably also heard Kathryn Selby and her Selby & Friends tours. Furthermore if you’re reading this on classikON,…

 
Soirées Musicales Quintette: Endings and Beginnings was a thoroughly enjoyable concert to end their season, and to look forward to beginning the new year

Perched on the Kangaroo Point cliffs, and overlooking the glinting sailboats on the Brisbane River, St Mary’s Anglican Church was a delightful setting for an afternoon soirée. Soirées Musicales Quintette: Endings and Beginnings was held on Sunday, with the setting…

 
The Willoughby Symphony and guest soloist Alexandre Da Costa ended their 2019 season with a bang

As a celebratory segue to the 250th Anniversary of Beethoven‘s birth in 2020, the final Willoughby Symphony Orchestra concert for 2019 began with the instantly recognisable Egmont Overture, Op. 84. Beethoven was commissioned to compose incidental music to Goethe’s heroic play,…

 
Sarah Grunstein’s programme was a fitting way to spend a Sunday twilight on Sydney Harbour

The Australian pianist Dr Sarah Grunstein has had an illustrious international career both as a performer and educator. She has two degrees from the Juilliard School in New York and held a teaching fellowship there for four years. We arrived…

 
Sydney Mozart Society presented an uplifting recital by the Enigma Quartet

We were privileged to be guests of the Enigma Quartet at Chatswood on a balmy Spring evening. The Quartet took shape under the Musica Viva “Rising Stars” program in 2012 and has gone ahead in leaps and bounds since. First…

 
Elysium Ensemble delivered a fresh take on JS Bach & sons

The afternoon of Sunday the 20th October saw the Bachian triumvirate – if I may so call them – of Johann Sebastian and his sons Carl Philipp Emanuel and Wilhelm Friedemann honoured through a performance of six pieces for harpsichord and…

 
The excitement for Jandamarra: Sing for the Country was rewarded, and it wasn’t the only captivating work on the night

Sydney Town Hall was absolutely packed to the rafters on Friday night and the excitement was palpable, as the crowd eventually found their seats and settled in for what promised to be a terrific night of music presented by The…

 
A Menagerie of Musical Delights: Evergreen Ensemble’s Baroque Birds and Beasts

Evergreen Ensemble’s evening performance in the beautiful, intimate setting of the Melbourne Recital Centre’s Primrose Potter Salon was both an aural and visual treat. In a program of early music and Scottish tunes which rarely surface in the modern music…

 
“Daughters” gives a hauntingly powerful voice to the victims of gender violence

The song cycle “Daughters” (composer: David Chisholm, librettist and narrator: Tammy Brennan) is an Australian/ Indian opera project and will premiere in New Delhi in January. The basis of the text is the violence in its multitudinous forms that has…

 
Susannah Lawergren’s SongCo farewell performance of Winterreise was exquisite

It was with a mixture of joy and sadness that I entered the Independent Theatre in North Sydney on Saturday afternoon to hear Susannah Lawergren and Bradley Gilchrist perform the latest SongCo SOLO, Schubert’s Winterreise. Joy because Winterreise is a masterful work…

 
Strelitzia Ensemble’s First Impressions impressed with its innovative & intriguing program of women composers

The concert in the visually delightful Melbourne Recital Centre Primrose Potter Salon by the piano trio Strelitzia showcased music by four women composers. This venue tends to emphasise bass sonorities but with violinist Lucy Warren leading there was never a…

 
Sarah Grunstein’s intimate recital showcased her passionate playing

The Utzon Room was filled to capacity when Sarah Grunstein introduced the sonatas she would perform in her recital this warm Thursday evening. She explained how Beethoven’s Sonata No.15 in D Major, Op.28 was the last piano sonata he wrote using…

 
Bach Akademie Australia didn’t disappoint with Bach’s magical concerti

If there was a star-spangled concert in Sydney’s Early Music scene, this would be it. Madeleine Easton, Neal Peres da Costa, Mikaela Oberg, Alicia Crossley and Aaron Reichelt represented the best in their chosen instruments and they didn’t disappoint. What…

 
SUSO & Pacific Opera cater for all senses with Hänsel und Gretel

“Once upon a time, on the edge of a great forest, there lived a very poor woodcutter with his wife and his two children, Hansel and Gretel…” What better way to begin a long weekend than inside a fairy tale! Eat, relax, and…

 
With Sara Macliver, the Australian Haydn Ensemble stunningly interpret the Delirium of Love

After a picnic lunch in the sunny Botanic Gardens, it was only a small step in the imagination to be transported to an eighteenth-century garden to listen to Scarlatti’s Concerto Grosso No. 3 from Six concerti in seven parts, which…

 
Sophie Rowell & Kristian Chong’s immaculate Sydney Mozart Society performance was thoroughly enjoyable

A packed hall at Chatswood Concourse welcomed violinist Sophie Rowell and pianist Kristian Chong, who are no strangers to the Sydney Mozart Society. Sophie won the ABC Young Performers Award in 2000 which gave her the opportunity to play as…

 
Bel a cappella’s 2019 Come & Sing Project was a super day of singing and camaraderie

It was with a light heart and high expectations that I boarded the Saturday morning ferry towards Cockatoo Island for the 2019 Bel a cappella Come and Sing Project. My expectations were high because this was the second such project…

 
“Netsuke and Inrō” a well put-together fusion of opera & theatre traditions

Netsuke and Inrō was a splendid fusion of noh and kabuki theatre traditions with Italian opera, which carefully selected from each while never being confused about what it was trying to achieve at any given moment. The setup was simple: a…

 
Australia Ensemble’s Heart*Beat was live music at its exhilarating best

Before the music started at this Australia Ensemble concert, Dene Olding gave thanks to the late Justice Jane Mathews for all her support to music in Sydney and that the evening’s music was dedicated to her memory. Jane loved attending…

 
Song Company’s “Mind Over Matter” was a unique and explosive chamber comic opera with strong performances

When I volunteered to write about The Song Company’s Mind Over Matter, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Billed as “a zany musical comedy surrounded by vocal arrangements of 1980s pop hits”, the only thing I was sure…

 
Kenny Broberg showcased his virtuosity in a multifaceted, impactful recital

Kenny Broberg is rapidly becoming a notable figure in the piano world. In 2016, he was a Grand Finalist in the Sydney International Piano Competition. The following year, he won the Silver Medal at the Van Cliburn competition in Fort…

 
“Schumann & the Woman” was delightfully presented by Ayşe Göknur Shanal & Ashley Hribar

With an impressive list of awards, prizes and accolades to her name, I expected great things from Ayşe Göknur Shanal and I was not disappointed. Also the program was much anticipated; it featured my favourite song cycles by Robert Schumann, Frauenliebe…

 
The inaugural Eastside Sydney Music Festival finale was an all-Baroque “Stravaganza!”

The final concert of the inaugural week-long Eastside Sydney Music Festival (ESMF), curated by Professor Neal Pere da Costa and supported by Sydney University, was an all-Baroque affair held at the Paddington Town Hall. It featured musicians from three groups…

 
Selby & Friends’ “The Game Changers” an intriguing and fascinating program of revolutionary composers

Elena Kats-Chernin’s Blue Silence for Piano Trio must be one of the most stunning introductory pieces to a recital. Written in 2006 for her son suffering from schizophrenia, the piece is an exquisite journey into meditation and peace. I defy anyone…

 
Ironwood opened the inaugural Eastside Sydney Music Festival to riotous applause

The rain momentarily eased in time to celebrate the opening concert of the inaugural Eastside Sydney Music Festival. Featuring Ironwood at the Paddington Town Hall, this was the first of 10 musical events in interesting venues around Paddington, to be…

 
Australia Ensemble’s “Cool Fire” a concert of contrasts

The newly refurbished foyer of the Sir John Clancy Auditorium provided a welcoming grand entrance for the Australia Ensemble’s fourth subscription concert of 2019, Cool Fire. The concert was themed around contrasts not only within the works themselves (especially the…

 
‘New Constellations’ a veritable showcase of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra

The Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra made its first, and very welcome, visit to Newcastle on the evening of Saturday 17th August, bringing its touring program entitled ‘New Constellations’ to the highly successful 2019 Newcastle Music Festival. Co-founder and clarinettist Nicole…

 
18th Bangalow Music Festival conducted conversations through chamber music

Set in the heart of the quaint town of Bangalow, Northern New South Wales, the A&I hall was an intimate venue for chamber music. Locals flock each year to attend the Bangalow Music Festival, an important event for their community.…

 
The Australian Youth Orchestra with Jan Lisiecki performed their interesting & ambitious program with excellence

It has been about 30 years since I have heard the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO). The maximum age of orchestra members is 25 years so that is longer than any of the present musicians have been alive! The program was…

 
Bel a cappella’s superbly sung concert beautifully balanced abstract with descriptive works

Entering the beautiful Cardinal Cerretti Memorial Chapel in the heights above Manly suitably prepared me for an afternoon of soaring voices and close harmonies from Bel a cappella. They began with their backs to the audience, singing John Cage’s ear…

 
The brilliance of the Sydney Soloists sextet was on full display in their program for the Sydney Mozart Society

Every programme given by the Sydney Mozart Society is carefully thought out in collaboration with the artists. Whether intentional or not, Friday night’s concert was notable for featuring music which to most listeners was to some extent unfamiliar. The performing…

 
Flinders Quartet brought to life a vivid picture of Shostakovich through the lens of his string quartets

Unfortunately it’s not often that you see concert programmes combining the spoken word with live music, but in regards to the life and music of Shostakovich, it seems only natural. A composer who often felt the full effects of Stalinist…

 
Willoughby Symphony’s “Enigma” a night to remember

There can scarcely be a piece of music about which more has been written and postulated than Elgar’s Enigma Variations, which gave the title to Sunday afternoon’s concert by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. Like so many famous works, it came…

 
The Jacobean Singers’ joy of singing was palpable in their “Dido & Aeneas”

On Saturday 20th July, the Jacobean Singers performed Purcell for a loyal audience in Vaucluse. The peaceful St Michael’s Anglican Church was a beautiful venue for the performance. The Jacobean singers is an established group of predominantly older singers with…

 
“Sounds of the World” showcased international young vocalists to conclude the inaugural Gondwana World Choral Festival

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I couldn’t make it to the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. However, thanks to the ABC Classic media partner, I was still able to listen to this fantastic concert, with the benefit of commentaries by Vanessa…

 
Ironwood presented divine & distinctive string quartets in their program, “Prussian Frogs & Bohemian Princes”

The Paddington Uniting Church provided the beautiful venue for Ironwood’s concert Prussian Frogs and Bohemian Princes. It was a cold night, and after extensive warming up of their period instruments, the members of Ironwood performed Haydn’s String Quartet Opus 50…

 
Soirées Musicales Quintette’s Governor’s Soirée an invitation to discover Brisbane’s musical history

Stepping into the warmth and intimacy of Old Government house was a relief from the brisk Brisbane night. With its rich, oak panelled doors, archways, high ceilings and chandeliers, it was a fitting venue for Soirées Musicales Quintette: A Governor’s…

 
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