Currently I have the joy of being involved in Frau Luna, an operetta by Paul Lincke first performed in 1899 and revamped for a glitzy and great production at Tipi am Kanstleramt this winter. From where I’m playing, in a small ensemble to the side of the stage, I love being able to see the audience because there is so much laughter. The cast are a real inspiration – so spontaneous, funny and twinkle-eyed. The show runs until the end of January and I would highly recommend it – I have to remember to keep playing and not be too distracted by what happens on stage!
Tipi am Kanstleramt; source: kulturradio.de
I have just returned from a weekend away playing chamber music in some charming German towns, Goslar and Wolfenbüttel. It was so much fun to collaborate with great players who are amusing (but at the same time, deep!) people, and again, to perform for really appreciative audiences. In Goslar (as part of Musikfest Goslar) we played in a gallery, and in Wolfenbüttel in a very large room in a very old house – both settings have, as far as I am concerned, the perfect qualities for enjoyable music-making for this type of music (hopefully for audience AND performers) – the audience is close (seated on picturesque, mismatching chairs!), and the atmosphere is welcoming and visually interesting. Although the music is great anywhere, I can’t help but think that these kinds of settings are much closer to those in which the pieces were originally played (and for which they were conceived) – and that the closeness to the audience, relative informality and, so to speak, raw quality of performance is often lost in modern concert halls.
Klavierquintett Marie Radauer-Plank, Marjolaine Locher Violine
Alexina Hawkins Viola
Damien Ventula Violoncello
Henrike Brüggen Klavier
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Streichquartett A-Dur KV 169
Klavierquartett g-Moll KV 478 Robert Schumann: Klavierquintett Es-Dur op. 44
Amongst several upcoming events, I’m currently anticipating the next Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin concert on 17 November in the Philharmonie, which features a gorgeous program including Ligeti’s Ramifications and Britten’s Les Illuminations. I’m also cooking up a couple of new music projects for the new year which I will reveal here soon!
I’ve had ups and downs since moving to Berlin (which just goes with moving to another country, really), but reflecting on my life since arriving at the end of 2014, I am so happy that I have had so many positive experiences here of what being a musician can be.
At the end of last season, I was made a member of Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin as assistant principal viola. Already with this group I’ve played some great repertoire, supported fantastic soloists, travelled to Korea (and Ennepetal!) and felt welcomed and inspired. As well as some great concerts coming up with DKO, as the season begins I’ll also be performing and recording with Kammerakademie Potsdam, as well as spending much of winter in a cabaret tent for Frau Luna, an operetta by Berliner Paul Lincke from the end of the 19th century.
I had always wanted to visit Italy since learning a bit of Italian in primary school, living next to an Italian Australian family, watching the film Much Ado About Nothing (the Kenneth Branagh version is set in Tuscany) tasting Italian food and feeling desperately Anglo. This summer I was invited to play chamber music in Tuscany by a violinist I’m very inspired by, and then by a great cellist friend to join Streicherakademie Bozen (Bolzano) for a summer tour in that region. It was ridiculous.
In Tuscany I was part of a troupe of musicians led by Simone Bernardini at Festival Opera Barga, in its 50th year, which presents concerts in two beautiful places – Bagnone and Barga. We were about 5 days in each place, and spent the days eating, laughing, eating, swimming and rehearsing German Romantic music (some very well-known pieces which I played for the first time, by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann). I made my debut as an oboist, and met many wonderful musicians who became my great friends.
After our last concert in Barga, I packed up my things and headed north via 4 trains, a cable car and a tram, finally ending up in a little town outside Bolzano called Lengmoos. Here I rehearsed with Streicherakademie Bozen, a great chamber orchestra started in 1987 by Georg Egger. Bolzano had a different feel from Tuscany, with alpine mountains, a German dialect and a structured rehearsal schedule, but was still wonderful, friendly, and an idyllic setting for a birthday, too, spent with more new friends, and old ones – Mendelssohn, Schumann, Nino Rota and Paganini.
I had 3 big projects in June. On the 7th, I helped launch Lione’s new single 1000 Windows, which includes some lush (!) multi-track viola. At the launch party we were joined by two of my favourite violists – Ooi and Esther Alba Lopèz. You can hear 1000 Windowshere via Bandcamp.
On the 18th with Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin, I supported my childhood hero Nigel Kennedy at Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival of music by Jimi Hendrix. The concert atmosphere was pretty WILD and I was reminded of the broadcast of a Nigel Kennedy concert I heard on radio in around 2002, where I was first inspired by what I heard him do in front of a crowd…
Following the show, I flew to Geneva where I spent a week rehearsing, performing, eating and talking with a fascinating group of people in a project directed by cellist and composer Brice Catherin. I worked with Brice, Israeli-born Swedish saxophonist, composer and political activist Dror Feiler, composers Arash Yazdani and Jacques Demierre and saxophonist Laurent Estoppey. We played 3 concerts, in Geneva, Saint Genis-Pouilly (France) and Lausanne.
In July and August I’m excited to continue travelling – I’ll return to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern with Deutsches Kammerorchester, actor Ben Becker and pianists Lucas and Arthur Jussen, then head to Italy for some music and sun!
Happy new year! 2016 has already been a buzz of activity, with joyous musical experiences in amongst somewhat scary life experiences such as finding a place to live in Berlin and applying for a visa. Thankfully I’m in the door for another year and have a lot to look forward to, including this concert, the first one I’ve ever helped to produce since I moved here.
Following my work last year with Nicoleta Chatzopoulou, I’m very happy to report that Nicoleta will be visiting Berlin, where I’ll record Continuum II. A couple of days later, I’ll perform it as part of a concert featuring Nicoleta’s music and that of American Paul Lansky.
8pm (doors open from 7.30, tickets available at the door)
Theater Expedition Metropolis, Ohlauer Str. 41,10999
As well as Continuum II, whilst in Berlin, Nicoleta will oversee a recording of her piece for recorder and electronics, Distant Fields. The concert will also feature her Music for clarinet and strings and music by American composers Paul Lansky and Christopher Goddard. The performers are some wonderful musicians I’ve met since moving to Berlin – Sylvia Hinz, recorder, Yuki Maeda, clarinet, Doretta Balkizas (also Australian) and Anna Kosińska (violins) and Anna Egger (cello).
At the same time as celebrating Nicoleta’s music, this will be the inaugural concert for a new concert collective/ensemble I have co-founded with Georgia Ioakimidis-Macdougall, called Smallroom. We have further concerts planned later this year and I’m really excited to start everything with this concert! There’s some more information here about the group: http://www.smallroomberlin.com
I’m writing from Athens, Greece, the land of the Gods, where I am staying with a dear friend and fine composer, Nicoleta Chatzopoulou, who I met last year at Bang On A Can Summer Festival. Nicoleta wrote a solo piece, continuum II, for me, which I premiered in my final ANAM Fellowship concert in mid-September. I have been asking her some questions about the sounds and atmosphere she was seeking when writing the piece, which has led to a really engaging and inspiring conversation. Nicoleta is also a viola da gamba player, and today I was excited to try out this incredible instrument in her studio. Visiting Athens has been a wonderful experience, and I am so inspired to continue performing continuum II with all these memories woven in.
While I have been here, I have also had important experiences with souvlaki, oil biscuits and coffee.
After an epic weekend preparing for a quartet concert at the ever-astonishing Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (BIFEM), I have one more ANAM Fellowship concert to present before I fly back to Berlin – this time with no certain idea of when I’ll be back.
The concert is this Saturday night in St Kilda. There’ll be a solo viola piece by Nicoleta Chatzopoulou, a beautiful composer from Greece who I met at Bang On A Can Festival last year. The inbuilt polyphony in the viola part suggests many conversing voices within one viola. The very inspiring Thea Rossen will present an improvisation using multiple aquaphones (and, rumour has it, some water in a rawer form!) – I’m so excited to hear this because aquaphone (sometimes called Waterphone) has an incredibly unique sound that I really love. Today we began rehearsing for Sam Smith’s viola septet, which has already been deemed “unethical” and “illegal” by some commentators, and is another fine display of the sonic possibilities of which a viola ensemble is capable. And finally, I’ll be playing Michael Gordon’s deeply moving Light is Calling, usually played on violin or cello with a warped-sounding tape track.
It’ll be a really immersive sonic experience lasting less than an hour, and I’ll definitely be celebrating afterwards (there is also a bar!) so come along! Tickets are $20/$10/Free for ANAMates and ANAM students.