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 performed in less than a week. Neal Peres Da Costa, the Artistic Director, and also a member of Ironwood, introduced the Festival as a whole.
Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 20 No. 2 was then introduced by cellist Daniel Yeadon. Written in 1772, this was one of the set of Op. 20 quartets, often known as the “Sun” Quartets, because of the picture of a rising sun on an early edition of the score. These, particularly No. 2, defined the string quartet as we know it today, where all the instruments play equal parts, rather than just supporting the violins. Daniel was particularly pleased, as the cello featured prominently throughout the work, even with a solo at the opening. His pleasure was evident as he smiled his way through the music, as was mine, whist I visually recorded this on paper.
The next piece was by lesser known French composer, Hyacinthe Jadin, who composed his String Quartet Op. 1 No. 2 only 23 years later, at a time when there were only private performances of chamber music in Paris. Ironwood’s enthusiastic performance was extremely well received, and I heard murmurings during the interval that some people preferred this to the Haydn.
After the Interval we were whisked forward into the mid-nineteenth century, complete with period piano. Neal Peres Da Costa introduced Saint-Säens’ Piano Quintet Op. 14, the composer’s first major piece of chamber music. It was quite unusual to write this type of music in France at a time when the main interest there was in Opera. Being the pianist in this piece, Neal Peres Da Costa explained the piece from the pianist’s point of view, with its exuberant introduction and “spooky” third movement (much like a Witches’ Sabbath), characterised by stormy interludes, particularly for the piano. In contrast, the period piano sounded almost harp-like in the lyrical second movement. The work concluded with a joyous finale, to which the appreciative audience responded with riotous applause and cheering – a wonderful beginning for what promises to be a great little Music Festival!
You can still attend the final concert of the Festival, entitled Stravaganza!, on Wednesday 4th September at 7:30pm. This concert promises to be “a feast of virtuosic Italian music for strings”, with Ironwood, Australian Haydn Ensemble, and the Muffat Collective joining forces. Don’t miss it!