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Australian bassonist Matthew Kneale has been announced as the winner of the 2017 Freedman Classical Fellowship. The $20,000 cash prize will allow him to undertake his proposed career-enhancing project: “an international concert tour that will shatter preconceived notions by presenting the bassoon as a brilliant solo and chamber entity in its own right.” Kneale’s proposed tour will include works by Australian composers Holly Harrison and Katy Abbott.
Kneale was one of three finalists who performed in a concert on Saturday night at the ABC's Eugene Goossens Hall (the other finalists were flautist Tamara Kohler and pianist Alex Raineri) which also featured a performance by percussionist – and 2005 Freedman Classical Fellow – Claire Edwardes. The concert was hosted by another former winner, pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska, and broadcast live on ABC Classic FM. The judges for the finals were Dr Stephen Mould, Senior Lecturer in Conducting and Opera Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Elaine Chia, CEO of Sydney's City Recital Hall and Kirsten Williams, Associate Concertmaster of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Bassoonist Matthew Kneale has won the 2017 Freedman Classical Fellowship
The bassoonist, who trained at the Victorian College of the Arts, the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and the Australian National Academy of Music, performs casually with Orchestra Victoria and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, as well as with chamber ensemble Arcadia Winds.
Previous winners of the Freedman Classical Fellowship, which is managed by The Music Trust, include oud player Joseph Tawadros, guitarists Karin Schaupp and Geoffrey Morris, recorder player Genevieve Lacey, didjeridu player William Barton, pianist Peter de Jager, percussionist Eugene Ughetti, violinist Kristian Winther, flautist Lina Andonovska and clarinettists Aviva Endean and Ashley Williams Smith. Last year’s winner was violist Stefanie Farrands.
“[Winning the Freedman Classical Fellowship] means everything to me as it is a catalyst in developing my classical music career as a solo and chamber music bassoonist,” Kneale tells Limelight. “This opportunity to put forward a proposal and play live on ABC radio is rare and what makes this competition and fellowship so special and important for the 21st-century musician. Particularly as a wind musician, having an opportunity to be part of any competition in Australia is very rare.”
“So it means a lot to have the opportunity to showcase myself as a musician,” he said. “But also to feature my wonderful instrument, the bassoon, in this way and to showcase great Australian solo and chamber music and expose it physically and digitally – the Fellowship is just an amazing way to see this come to fruition.”
Kneale’s programme for the finals consisted of three works, by Weber, Tansman and Stuart Greenbaum, which he performed with pianist Catherine Davis. “Choosing a programme like this requires a lot of thought,” Kneale said. “Having lots of variety, particularly in changes of mood, sound, activity and emotion is very important with an instrument like the bassoon. I also wanted the bassoon to really shine in all the works with lots of character and personality. I believe I really showcased this and having a featured Australian work helped create that balance of home and international classical music.”
“Whilst performing the programme I felt what went particularly well was the character of the bassoon being shown,” he said. “It felt as though all the different works complemented this and allowed all the different colours and sounds to really shine. This was so pleasing for me but also to work with Catherine Davis who is a wonderful chamber musician, creating chamber music and being able to communicate this to and with the audience was very special to me.”
What are Kneale’s plans for the future and the project ahead? “My hopes for this world tour are that firstly our wonderful Australian chamber music has a chance to be exposed overseas, enjoyed and programmed more often,” he says. “Secondly, it is really important that the bassoon has a spotlight chance of being featured as a solo and chamber instrument and for myself being the musician that champions this."
“Thirdly it is a wonderful way to network with many of my favourite and most respected musicians that I have had the privilege to work with and learn from through fellowship programmes such as the Musica Viva FutureMakers programme and the Australian National Academy of Music,” Kneale says. “I believe it is so important to continue, maintain and build on these relationships whilst adding to them, creating this sort of cultural exchange between Australia and the countries where this tour will go, being an musical ambassador.”