Townsville 2012: Day 1 - Opening Night Impressions

My first impressions of Townsville - and the opening night concert.

“So, Townsville”, they said.  “How would you like to spend 10 days in Queensland this July with only a handful of the world’s top chamber musicians for company?”.  “What’s not to like”, I said.  And so here I am on my hotel balcony on a sunny Friday afternoon, a pleasant 25 degrees, listening to a really rather good violinist practice in the room next to mine.

I’m not sure who my musical mystery neighbour might be but it's possibly Natsuko Yoshimoto, Concertmaster with the Adelaide Symphony and formerly a leader of the Australian String Quartet.  I suspect this to be the case as I’ve been informed that Wouter Vossen, the leader of the Dutch Storioni Trio, has damaged his shoulder and at relatively short notice, Natsuko has stepped into the breach.  It’s a pretty full programme as far as piano trio work goes so I feel a lot of respect (and rehearsal) will be due - and I’m rather hoping to be a regular party to it, albeit through the walls.

For anyone who has never been to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (or AFCM as I’ll be calling it), that is one of its draw-cards - the chance to encounter the artists in their natural habit or at least to bump into them in a hotel lobby or a local bar after a concert.  This is the 22nd Festival and quite clearly there are a great many visitors staying in the same hotel as me for whom this is an annual pilgrimage.  They come from all over Australia and most of them will do the full monty ie. three or four events per day including chat sessions with the musicians, masterclasses and the mysterious Reef Talk, of which more anon.

The artists themselves are an extraordinarily impressive bunch on paper.  The cream of Australian musical talent and a tempting array of international headliners who you would consider yourself privileged to see in Sydney or Melbourne, let alone a remote town of 190,000 in Northern Queensland.  Festival Director, Piers Lane is obviously a man of many charms as a glance at the programme will immediately reveal and I’m rather hoping to get some time with him and his excellent team to get an insight into the logistics of putting something like this on.  

Of particular interest to someone who has followed their recording careers are the presence of Lane’s Hyperion Records pianistic stablemates, Kathryn Stott and Jonathan Plowright, both heavyweight names by any standards.  Then there is the previously mentioned Storioni Trio from Holland as well as wind and string players from Canada, Norway and the UK.  The Australian performers read like a current who’s who: The Goldner Quartet, the Grigoryan brothers, the Tawadros brothers, William Barton, Karin Schaupp, Marshall McGuire, Katie Noonan - the list goes on...

Most of the concerts are being broadcast live on ABC Classic FM so hopefully you will be able to hear what I am hearing.  I’ll be blogging regular daily updates on performances and other Festival events as well as information gleaned from artist interviews.  I have been know to twitter about things as well (@clivepaget).  I’ll also be filing a couple of specific concert reviews and a Festival sum-up piece so please stay tuned.

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Clive Paget
The thoughts and roamings of Music Critic and Limelight Deputy Editor Clive Paget.
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