Musica Viva Australia’s 2020 season is chock full of “A-Grade” artists, plenty of Australian content and “a great swag of newly commissioned music”, Carl Vine tells Limelight. Next year is the organisation’s 75th birthday, but it’s also Vine’s final season as Artistic Director after a tenure of 19 years, so he’s pulling out all the stops.
Garrick Ohlsson. Photo © Dario Acosta
“That’s how we finished up with, in the one season, Garrick Ohlsson, Cho-Liang Lin, Les Talens Lyriques, Siobhan Stagg and Chanticleer,” Vine says.
It is American pianist Garrick Ohlsson who opens the season, touring programs of Beethoven, Prokofiev, Chopin and Brahms in February and March (in association with the Perth and Adelaide festivals) before Musica Viva’s second tour of the year, in April, celebrates yet another anniversary: the Goldner String Quartet’s 25th. “That has been in the pipeline since they celebrated their 20th,” Vine laughs. “Just been waiting for the next milestone.”
The Goldners will perform Elgar, Brahms and Korngold Piano Quintets with Piers Lane, as well as Dvořák’s ‘American’ String Quartet No 12, and a brand new quartet by Jakub Jankowski, one of five newly commissioned works on the 2020 program, by “five of my very favourite composers,” Vine says.
He has commissioned Jankowski twice before, with Aspects of Return for cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and pianist Aleksandar Madžar in 2017, and an Octet for the combined forces of the Goldner and Elias String Quartets at the Musica Viva Festival that year. “They were fighting over who was going to get to premiere his first quartet, and the Goldners won,” Vine says. “He’s a terrific writer for strings. So that was a no-brainer, I was always going to have Jakub this year doing a string quartet.”
Cho-Liang Jin and Jon Kimura Parker. Photo © Lynn Lane
In fact, Vine describes all of the new commissions as obvious choices. He commissioned Paul Stanhope, “one Australia’s leading composers, now,” to write his first Violin Sonata for Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien ten years ago, and he will now write his second for renowned American violinist Cho-Liang Lin and his long-time duo partner Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker. Lin and Parker will perform the Stanhope alongside music by Dvořák, Lutosławski, Foss, Brahms, Beethoven, Prokofiev and Liszt, in their first recital tour of Australia, in May and June.
American male vocal ensemble Chanticleer will also be making its first Australian tour in July, with a program called Trade Winds that brings together ancient and modern music from Europe and the Americas, as well as Pacific nations. They will also perform a new commission by Clare Maclean. “In the world of choral music she is a star,” says Vine. “When we asked Chanticleer if they were interested, they were delighted, they knew her work and so this was, once again, a very obvious conclusion.”
Another group making their debut Australian tour is the Goldmund Quartet, who won First Prize in the String Quartet division of last year’s Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. In August, the quartet performs Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 20, No 5, Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet, Debussy’s String Quartet and Mendelssohn’s Sixth String Quartet, alongside a new work by Elizabeth Younan. Younan, whose Piano Sonata was premiered by Joyce Yang on tour for Musica Viva last year and went on to be selected as a finalist in the 2019 Art Music Awards, was a student of Vine’s at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. “I think she has enormous potential,” Vine says. “She’s still only in her mid-20s, and this is a second quartet.”
Diana Doherty. Photo © Christie Brewster
The three brothers of the Eggner Trio will return to Australia in September, for a tour with Australian oboist Diana Doherty. “We haven’t had the Eggner Trio for a while now, they’ve been very popular throughout this century and Diana Doherty is one of the great oboe players in the world,” Vine says. “So this was a very fascinating partnership with an unusual program.”
Alongside music by Beethoven, Martinů, Smetana, Arensky and Schumann, the four musicians will join to premiere a new work by Perth composer Lachlan Skipworth, who Vine describes as one of Australia’s most promising “mid-young” composers. “He’s in his 30s now, but every time he creates a new piece of music it surprises me in some way,” Vine says. “I think he has potential he doesn’t even know about yet, so I’m really excited.”
Skipworth has also been commissioned by Musica Viva in the past, and a recording of his Piano Trio, which was written for the Sitkovetsky Trio at the 2015 Musica Viva Festival, has just been released on Navona Records.
Siobhan Stagg. Photo © Todd Rosenberg
Rounding out the year – which will also feature the newly announced National Chamber Music Championship – is the French period instrumental ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, performing the music of Handel, Lully, Leclair, Montéclair and Scarlatti, with none other than Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg.
Vine will make way for incoming Artistic Director Paul Kildea once he has finished launching the 2020 season on tour with the Emerson Quartet, passing the baton at the end of a succession strategy four years in the making.
While there are notable exceptions, such long tenures in artistic leadership positions are rare these days, but Vine explains that one of the things that kept him going was the ongoing challenge of the role “It was very satisfying, rewarding on many levels,” he says. “In the first couple of years, it literally restored my faith in music.”
“I’m delighted that Paul Kildea has come on board,” Vine says. “He has a big job ahead of him – he has many more tasks than I do because he’s taking on much more of the organisation than I did.”
As for Vine, he will have more time to compose, and will increase his teaching load at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, consolidating his current three jobs into two. “It actually feels very natural and it’s a good fitting conclusion,” he says. “I’ve had a terrific time, it’s been a great period for me personally and professionally, and it’s time to move on. It’s a fantastic thing for me and, I think, for the company.”