Australian concerts & recordings

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

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…

 
Thoroughbass’s “Bach in Three” enjoyably contrasted the music of the Bach family

Thoroughbass presented once again a well thought through program of chamber music in their Bach in Three, which contrasted the work of the three biggest names in the Bach Family – Johann Sebastian (JS), Carl Philipp Emanuel (CPE) and Johann…

 
Queensland Baroque’s Radiance shone brightly through a drizzly Brisbane afternoon

Queensland Baroque: Radiance shone brightly through a drizzly Brisbane afternoon on Sunday. The concert took listeners on a musical journey, rediscovering the Baroque period. The lush melodies radiated through the historic church, as the sunlight struggled through the stained-glass windows.…

 
Tea with the Seraphim Trio – a perfect way to spend a winter’s afternoon

On a winter’s afternoon there is only one thing better than sitting by a sunny window with coffee and cake, anticipating a concert by the Seraphim Trio – the concert itself! Entitled Memories, the Prelude in Tea concert at the…

 
Twilight Musical Dialogues’ “Musical Kin – Husband and Wife” was a musical festivity of family in all its incarnations

On Friday June 21st, 2019, Twilight Musical Dialogues hosted the first instalment of “Musical Kin”; a musical festivity of family in all its incarnations. With an eclectic program of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leopold Mozart, Ami Williamson, Fanny Mendelssohn,…

 
UNSW’s Winter Gala program curated around women in love, life and musical creativity

I was pleased when the UNSW Winter Gala was moved from the Sir John Clancy Auditorium to the more intimate Tyree Room at the Scientia Building. This made for a convivial, cosy atmosphere, as rugged-up enthusiasts had the pleasure of…

 
Evergreen Ensemble’s Curious Caledonians transports to a different time & place in Australian history

Highland ceilidh, Regency quadrilles and Victorian parlour songs, the Evergreen Ensemble and partners’ programme, Curious Caledonians, draws on the collections of songbooks and sheet music housed in the Sydney Living Museums and the State Library of NSW. They were handwritten…

 
Sydney Chamber Choir provides food for thought on a wintry night

Just before the long weekend that celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, Sydney Chamber Choir put its Kings and Queens in a row with a concert exploring composers with the Royal seal of approval. On a dark and wintry Sydney night,…

 
Australian Haydn Ensemble with a French Twist

On Sunday June 2, the Australian Haydn Ensemble performed an interesting program with a “French Twist” at the Independent Theatre in North Sydney. This included works with a French connection by Mozart and Haydn, paired with works by little known…

 
Selby & Friends provided a vivid evening of Beethoven for the Sydney Mozart Society

The latest Sydney Mozart Society concert was cleverly timed to coincide with the opening of Vivid Chatswood but, fortunately, although the visual aspect was welcoming, we were insulated from the sound effects. On this occasion, Kathryn Selby continued her well-established…

 
Scots’ Church Choir & Melbourne Chamber Orchestra’s gift to the people of Melbourne

What a gift to the people of Melbourne – a free performance on Sunday 21st April by The Scots’ Church Choir and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra of one of the masterpieces of the Baroque era – J.S. Bach’s Mass in…

 
Danaë Killian is one of Melbourne’s piano treasures

On Saturday 20th April 2019, Dr. Danaë Killian gave a short piano recital which included fine performances of Mozart and Liszt and she championed the music of four composers of her city. From a star afar, a 2-minute miniature by…

 
Flinders Quartet 2019 Composer Development Program participants announced

Launching from a supremely successful inaugural composer workshop in 2016, Flinders Quartet’s (FQ) Composer Development Program is now an annual event, the quartet has invited six emerging composers from across Australia to participate in the 2019 program: Oliver Beard, NSW…

 
Yet again Josie & the Emeralds shone brightly and required no polishing

Concerts featuring Josie and the Emeralds are always a delight and this was no exception. Entitled ‘Fantasy’ and held in Glebe Town Hall on Friday 26th April, a crowd of regular devotees and many new faces were treated to Fantasias…

 
Australian Chamber Choir’s “St John Passion” an immersive, enthralling & transcendent experience

Disclaimer: The St John Passion by J.S. Bach is my favourite work of all time. I am in love with this composition. At nigh on 2 hours of music the St John Passion is a journey with the greatest composer…

 
Australia Ensemble’s concert “No Strings Attached” was a carefully crafted programme contrasting the familiar and the less so

Problems with light rail construction and venue renovations, as well as the Sydney Swans playing a home match at the SCG, meant that reaching the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the University of New South Wales on Saturday was problematic.…

 
Coro Austral presented a program of mainly Spanish music with some French & Australian for good measure

Coro Austral is a group of 13 (mostly) unaccompanied voices under the direction of Margot McLaughlin. In this concert they presented mainly Spanish music with some French and Australian for good measure. The first half of the concert focussed on…

 
Willoughby Symphony’s Eternity concert took the audience on a ‘rhapsodic journey’

The heart and the alternate reality In an inspiring Sunday afternoon at The Concourse, the epic ferocity of a symphony orchestra in full flight, a passionate and instinctive cello soloist and a magnetic contemporary choral requiem were brought to life…

 
Goldner String Quartet’s mastery was on full display throughout Sydney Mozart Society’s imaginative programme

Why is it that the sound of the Goldner String Quartet is so distinctive? Certainly there is their perfect timing and intonation but there is more than that. I feel sure that I could pick their playing from ten recordings…

 
Consort 8’s Eastertide programme delivered a diverse array of reflective music

It’s that time of the year when concerts abound around Sydney in the countdown to Easter Sunday, many of them featuring major works by JS Bach. Consort 8’s first performance of the year, timed with the end of the Lenten Season,…

 
Sydney Chamber Choir programme joyfully celebrated the power of the voice

Sam Allchurch took his audience to heart and taught them a thing or two about singing in his first subscription concert as Music Director for Sydney Chamber Choir in 2019. Music on Music was billed as a celebration of singing as…

 
Andrián Pertout’s monumental piano work ‘Luz Meridional’ is full of delights

Rarely do I hear a new work that is so strong and meaningful and as full of so many delights as Andrián Pertout’s monumental piano work Luz Meridional. This is singularly one of the most important piano compositions ever written…

 
Sydney Youth Orchestra’s performance gave enjoyment in spades

Sydney Youth Orchestras comprises no less than fourteen orchestras embracing ages from 6 to 25 years, with students progressing with experience and being directed to areas to suit their individual talents. They have provided this essential function in New South…

 
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