For this week’s In Your Living Room: Classical Music column, Angus McPherson’s highlights include brand new guitar and flute recitals. He also explores a concert from the archives and finds out what happens when the stars of bands like Radiohead and The National rub up against Penderecki and Lutosławski in an adventurous Australian Chamber Orchestra program.
May 9 at 10:30am, AEST
With social distancing regulations still firmly in place, any new concerts recorded are, of necessity, intimate affairs, and often solo performances. Two such recitals are coming up, a solo flute recital by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Piccolo Julia Grenfell – as part of the ASO’s Virtual Concert Hall series – and a recital by Spanish guitarist Andrea Gonzalez Caballero as part of the Melbourne Guitar Festival’s online concert series.
Grenfell’s performance, which be available from May 9 at 10:30am AEST until May 16 at 12:29am AEST, will feature a set of variations called Les Folies d’Espagne (The Follies of Spain) by French composer and viola da gamba player Marin Marais, who studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully and performed in the courts of Louis XIV and XV. These variations are based on the Folia, a melody that has inspired countless variations and was in frequent use during Marais’ life. They were originally written for viola da gamba, but have since been transcribed for the flute.
May 10 at 3pm, AEST
Spanish guitarist Andrea González Caballero will perform a recital of Spanish repertoire for Melbourne Guitar Festival’s online series – which is ticketed, with proceeds divided evenly between the artist and MGF. In 2016 Caballero became the youngest guitarist to ever receive first prize at the XIII Alhambra International Guitar Competition in Valencia, releasing her first album with Naxos the following year.
For MGF, she will be performing music by Isaac Albéniz, Fernando Sor, Joaquín Clerch, Eduardo Sainz de la Maza and Joaquín Rodrigo. MGF Artistic Director Michael MacManus describes her as “a shining star on the international stage” saying: “Her fearless interpretations of classic Spanish repertoire is at the heart of her program. Evocative and boundless performances matched by an effortless technique. She is a true champion of the guitar and what music represents.”
May 9, 8pm AEST
Described by Limelight critic Harriet Cunningham as “an extended reflection on a fascinating sound world”, the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Indies & Idols concert of 2019 was a genre-blending performance, featuring music by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, The National’s Bryce Dessner, and American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens alongside composers like Karol Szymanowski, Witold Lutosławski and Krzysztof Penderecki. (Limelight’s Ben Wilkie explored such collaborations in-depth in the cover feature of the March 2019 issue, When Worlds Collide).
The ACO is revisiting this performance as part of its ACO Homecasts series, and it will be available on the orchestra’s Facebook page on Saturday May 9, at 8pm AEST. “The ‘Indies’ in the title are Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens and Jonny Greenwood, three composers writing music variously described as ‘crossover’, ‘indie classical’ and ‘undefinable’,” wrote Cunningham in her review. “The name doesn’t matter. It’s the sound, using the dramatic push and pull of film scores, the ear-catching pop of indierock, all informed by classical music and, in particular, the pre- and post-war modernism of Polish composers Witold Lutosławski, Krzysztof Penderecki and Karol Szymanowski. The works run together almost seamlessly, different voices speaking to each other across time and space with remarkable coherence.”
“At the heart of the program is the opening movement from Penderecki’s suite of three pieces in Baroque style,” wrote Cunningham. “Aria is a little piece of string perfection, given an immaculate performance by the ensemble. But we all know that achieving perfection is a rare and random phenomenon. The works before and after this still moment embrace the jagged edges of string sound: the dissonant, the wild, the messy.”
While the online format will no doubt lose some of the visceral experience of hearing this concert live, the ACO is offering more than a simple replay – Bryce Dessner himself will be available over the comments to answer audience questions (for those tuning in live) and provide commentary on the music.