How and when did you get together with Lucy Price and Meredith Beardmore and decide to form The Muse’s Delight?
We met in 2016, over a shared love of folk and early music at the Boxwood Folk Festival. The Muses’ Delight was our flute player Meredith’s brainchild – she emailed Lucy (cello) and me (viola and occasional violin) early the next year and asked if we’d like to be in a group to explore some early classical-era repertoire! Lucy and I had studied at ANAM together and we both knew of each other’s interest in early music. We had been meaning to get together to play chamber music for a while, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to do that! We bonded over rehearsals, a startling number of cups of tea, and a debut concert in the beautiful Athenaeum Library with some of the few works written for our peculiar combination, and from there have branched out into baroque, early romantic, and folk music.
Lucy Price, Meredith Beardmore and Katie Yap. Photo supplied
Why did you decide to focus on early music?
All three of us had a strong interest in early music before we met, and we find the nature of this style of music to be incredibly engaging for both performers and audience. Classical music is often referred to as a ‘museum piece’, but on the contrary I have always found that a historically informed approach to playing early music brings it to life! The sounds of wooden flutes and gut strings are ones that we don’t often hear in modern western life, and the subtly spoken but temperamental nature of these imperfect instruments lends colour and excitement to early music performances. That combined with the spontaneity that is so much part of a historical approach means that going to an early music concert is always a true live experience – each performance is unique to its performers and audience.
Where did you get your current period instruments?
We have a range of instruments in the group – some are originals from hundreds of years ago, and some are modern replicas. My baroque viola is the most newly made instrument in the group, made by the Polish luthier Jan Pawlikowski in October last year! Meredith’s flutes were made by the Austrian flute maker Rudolph Tutz and are modern copies of late 18th century models. Lucy has a beautiful old cello from the 1700s that nobody knows very much about, and the newest addition to our collection is a curiously wonky-looking violin that I bought a few months ago, from possibly the late 1600s!
How did your collaboration with violinist Natalia Harvey come about?
Natalia is a long-time collaborator with us, as a dear friend and wonderfully diverse violinist. As our trio line-up is pretty esoteric (flute, viola and cello), there’s not a lot of repertoire written specifically for us! So, we often get Natalia in to join us, enabling us to program flute quartets, string trios, and any number of duos! Her playing is so beautiful, serene one moment and fiery the next – so we’re stoked to have her join us for [our upcoming] program of Mozart and his friends.
Can you tell us about your choice of repertoire for your upcoming concert, The Muses’ Delight play Mozart, and the way you have shaped it around the Mozart Flute Quartet?
Meredith is our main programmer and is uncannily skilled at finding links between composers and digging out hidden gems that history and our classical canon has unfairly left behind. So I’ll let her answer this question:
“This program started from a desire to play a Mozart Flute Quartet because it’s such a core part of any flautist’s chamber music repertoire. I also wanted to know a little more about how Mozart came to write these pieces, as no doubt flute players will tell you that they’ve heard the rumour that Mozart didn’t like the flute!
The major flute works by Mozart were all written from the same commission. So I set out to read his letters from around that time, and it’s true, he seemed to struggle to complete the commission (and in fact, didn’t quite meet the requirements of the original commission). There was a lot going on in Mozart’s life during that time, so his difficulty in completing the commission can’t just be tied to his dislike of the flute – I think it’s more nuanced than that. Mozart’s friend, Johann Baptist Wendling, initiated this commission and was a long-standing friend, though as in many aspects of Mozart’s life, this relationship was a little complicated. In any case, Wendling was an excellent flautist and his skills as a musician were very much revered by Mozart. So that led me to find a little more about Wendling and like many 18th century musicians, he composed as well performed. And his flute quartets are great! You hear the similarities with Mozart, but you also hear snippets that sound like some of the popular French flute players as well as hints of CPE Bach. So that’s how he made his way onto the program!
We’ve also included a piece by Pleyel as we wanted to give our cellist, Lucy Price, an opportunity to leave her basso duties for a moment and take a melody. We know that Mozart thought quite highly of Pleyel because he wrote to his father that “it will be a lucky day for music if, when the time comes, Pleyel should replace Haydn”. This idea of a musical or inheritance was definitely alive and kicking in the 1780s.
While this program revolves around Mozart, we wanted to explore some of these connections and show how he interacted with other musical trends. Mozart is often held as being representative of the Classical period; it’s hard not to, he was so good at it and was incredibly fashionable! But there were a lot of other stylistic things happen, even in his immediate sphere.”
What future plans do you have for the trio?
Next year is shaping up to be a big one, with our usual series of three or four programs that we play throughout Victoria, including a debut concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre with guest fortepianist Donald Nicolson with a program celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday! This year we undertook a seven-concert tour of New South Wales and Victoria, bringing baroque and folk music to places like the Blue Mountains, Sydney, Kangaroo Valley, Melbourne and Daylesford. Though it was a huge learning curve for three musicians to become arts administrators, tour managers, a marketing team and roadies, we loved the experience and are planning to tour again in the near future – so keep your eyes peeled!
The Muses’ Delight play Mozart is at St Peter’s Memorial Church, Kinglake, VIC on August 31 and The Oratory, Abbotsford Convent, Abbotsford, Vic on September 1