Musica Viva has announced its 2019 season, with a swathe of first-time artists and the return of the Emerson String Quartet after almost two decades. Next year will be Vine’s penultimate season as Musica Viva’s Artistic Director – he finishes up at the end of 2019, after programming the 75th anniversary season for 2020 – but this hasn’t affected his programming for next year’s International Concert Season.
“Each season stands unto itself,” he tells Limelight. “And I still try to make every season unlike any of those before it.”
This season will be even more unique in that only two of the groups have toured for Musica Viva before. “It’s actually a very daring year,” Vine says. “We’re really asking our patrons to have faith.”
The season opens with British cellist Natalie Clein and pianist Katya Apekisheva (who was in Australia earlier this month for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville) in February/March. “It was time we had a cello recital on tour and it was really, we didn’t want to look at the normal suspects for cello,” Vine says. “I was particularly looking at [Clein’s] recent recordings, and she’s really dedicated to this sonata by Rebecca Clarke which dates from the 1940s, and her recording of that is coming out soon. It’s fantastic, it’s got such passion and life in it.”
Natalie Clein. Photo © Keith Saunders
“The natural balance is to have a new work by Natalie Williams in the program as well, and Natalie Clein didn’t even hesitate – she said, ‘Yes, absolutely’,” says Vine.
Clein and Apekisheva will play two programs, featuring works by Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Kodály, Vaughan Williams and Bloch, in addition to the Clarke and Williams.
Piano four hands duo Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi – ZOFO – tour in May. Vine met the pair years ago when they played his Sonata for Piano Four Hands. “It had been played a couple of times in Australia and I don’t know how they found it, but they did, and they sent me a recording of it that was simply perfect – it was absolutely perfect,” he says. “This is the best piano duo I’ve heard since The Labèque Sisters. They are just extraordinary – they’re virtuosic players and they play with one mind and one heart.”
ZOFO will play a program consisting of 15 works they commissioned, from 15 composers all around the world, each based on a painting from their own country. Vine is one of them. “That’s how I found out about the program,” he says. “I chose a painting by James Gleeson, the Australian surrealist.”
“Every composer of course has a vastly different choice of artist but also a different approach to interpreting the painting,” Vine says. “It’s a fascinating program.”
Doric String Quartet. Photo © Keith Saunders
While the Doric String Quartet, who tour in June, have been to Australia before for the Musica Viva and Huntington Festivals, this will be their first national tour. “They are the most exciting young quartet in Britain today,” says Vine. “They have had a meteoric rise.”
Part of that rise, he explains, has seen them working with Australian composer Brett Dean. “When we asked them if they would be interested in some Australian music they immediately said, ‘Yes, Brett Dean’.”
But that’s not all. “They’re one of these quartets that play Haydn magnificently,” Vine says. “Haydn is very hard to bring off in a concert hall. So we’ve got a couple of Haydns, Beethoven, Schubert and the new Brett Dean work written especially for them.”
Returning in July and August is the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, in what will be Director Stephen Cleobury’s final concerts as Director after 37 years. “So this is the end of an absolute era at King’s College,” Vine says. “The last time they toured for us, I think it was about five years ago, and at that time Steven said, well, that’s going to be my last tour, how about it? So we jumped on that.”
The program will include choral repertoire from Bach to Finzi, as well as the world premiere of a new piece by Ross Edwards and an Australian premiere. “I’d spoken to Ross and he’d been working on a series of vocal pieces and this fit beautifully into the series,” Vine Says. “They have a new work by Judith Weir, so it balances that work on the program as well.”
Emerson String Quartet. Photo: supplied
Also returning, after an absence of 19 years, is the Emerson String Quartet in September, performing programs of Mozart, Dvořák, Shostakovich, Haydn, Bartók and Beethoven. “Classic Emerson,” as Vine puts it.
“The Emersons are one of the legendary ensembles of chamber music in the world, and possibly the last of the truly great string quartets, up there with Amadeus Quartet and those that we knew through the end of last century. 42 years, they’ve only had one change of personnel. So it’s an extraordinary coup to have them back again.”
Touring in October is French period instrument ensemble Nevermind (unrelated to the 90s grunge album of the same name). “I wanted as usual to have something baroque in the program, that was completely unlike Tafelmusik that we had this year, or any of the other recent baroque music we’ve had,” Vine says. “This ensemble, they’re extraordinary virtuosi, but they play with such tenderness and focus – they really are an extraordinary group to hear. And they have a very specific window on the baroque period that you don’t get to hear all the time.”
Skride Piano Quartet. Photo © Keith Saunders
Capping off the year is the Skride Piano Quartet – Baiba and Lauma Skride, Lise Berthaud and Harriet Krijgh – touring in November. “These are four superstars,” says Vine. “Baiba is possibly the best known and has done the most concerto performances in Australia – she also ran a duo with her sister on piano for a while. The other two, Harriet Krijgh and Lise Berthaud are no slouches either – all four of them have substantial solo careers. Lise Berthaud, the violist, was actually at the Huntington Festival two years ago and she’s a delightful person and wonderful musician.”
The Quartet will play Mozart, Strauss, Brahms and Beethoven, as well as a world premiere by Graeme Koehne. “I gave them a few options,” Vine says, “and they said ‘No, we don’t like any of those options, how about Graeme Koehne?’ I’m perfectly happy with Graeme Koehne and fortunately he said yes! They were very specific – they wanted Graeme.”
In addition to the International Concert Season, Musica Viva will be presenting Coffee Concerts in Sydney at The Concourse, Chatswood, and Morning Masters concerts at Melbourne Recital Centre. 2019 will also see the return of the Musica Viva Festival in April at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, which will feature double bassist Edgar Meyer, the Dover and Goldner string quartets, violinist Tessa Lark, pianists Andrew Tyson and Konstantin Shamray, flautist Adam Walker, and cellist Timo-Veikko Valve. “The big coup for the festival is to get Edgar Meyer, who has been in Australia only very rarely,” Vine says. “So we’re expecting an influx of bass players from all around Australia to come and stand at the feet of the master.”
With five out of the seven groups touring nationally for Musica Viva for the first time, the 2019 season will be “a very exciting year,” Vine says. “I don’t think we’ve ever done that – I think we’ve maybe had four out of seven but not five out of seven.”
“They are unknown artists in Australia,” he says. “They are, however, quite fabulous.”