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 Windows here via Bandcamp.
Single launch – 1000 Windows (with Lione, Ooi and Esther Alba Lopèz)
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…
Playing Jimi Hendrix with Nigel Kennedy and DKO at Mecklenburg-Vorpommern festival
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.
Brice Catherin, Dror Feiler and Laurent Estoppey between rehearsals for Hommes Orchestres
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
Pavement at Nicoleta’s place, Athens
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.
More info here. Pre-purchase tickets here.
This Thursday, I’m presenting my second ANAM Fellowship concert, Testament. I’ve been working with a string quartet and just today had my first rehearsal with 11 other violists (!) led by a wonderful conductor, Dominic Harvey.
Testament is a 12-viola piece by Australian composer Brett Dean. It’s named after the Heiligenstadt Testament, which Beethoven wrote (while in Heiligenstadt) to his brothers in despair about life enduring worsening deafness. You can read more about it and get a link to a translation here.
Brett’s piece took the idea of this document and its emotional content, weaving in musical quotations from a Beethoven string quartet (Razumovsky quartet no. 1). We’ll perform Testament, the Razumovsky quartet, and music by the contemporary Hungarian composer György Kurtág who was Brett Dean’s most significant mentor.
I’ll joined by some of my oldest and dearest musical collaborators to present some very special music, woven together to tell a story of many dimensions.
You can book tickets here! And read more here.
Transcend happened two nights ago and I’m happy to share this lovely review from Matthew Lorenzon at partialdurations.
I’m back in Canberra to play in Canberra Symphony Orchestra in a concert of beautiful music by Kodály, Sibelius and Brahms, before returning to Melbourne for my second Fellowship concert – Testament. This features music by Brett Dean, Ludwig van Beethoven and György Kurtág, and is centred around Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament. Stay tuned for more info, and there is already lots you can read/listen to here.
A photo taken at the end of “Transcend” by the inimitable Hank Clifton