Day One: Friday May 1

From our Festival reporter, Diana Brown

Beethoven, Bach and Beyond

Beethoven has a huge musical personality, so to spend all afternoon with eleven of his piano sonatas, including the less well known, is a pretty intense emotional experience. I love him best when he’s at his most introspective, but the crazy stuff can be marvelous too. Kotaro Nagano, from Japan, got the Festival off to a graceful start yesterday afternoon with the Opus 2 No. 1 sonata, bringing out the cantabile tenderness in the sweet slow movement. Nicholas Young had the daunting task of concluding the second session with the Op. 111 sonata – yes, that one, with the boogie-woogie passages in the second movement. There was a collective gasp at the end, and no wonder. Never underestimate what it takes in concentration, technical ability and musical intelligence to tackle the difficult sonatas, or indeed to play any of them well. In between there were many moods: the sublime ‘Tempest’,  beautifully played by Gabi Sultana, gave us Beethoven at his lyrical best, and Nicholas Mathew made me smile with his sly humour in the Op. 78 sonata. CIMF has always taken pride in supporting young musicians, and yesterday two young players delighted the audience with their skill and composure: Bernice Chua, who is twelve, and Daniel Pan, who is eleven. Our pianistic future is in safe hands.

Concert 1 was supported by Marjorie Lindenmayer, Concert 2 by David Taylor.

While we were lining up for the Gala Concert, I spoke to two charming women who had come from Hobart and Queensland respectively for the Festival. To quote Betty: “I’d rather spend the money on a classical music festival than a cruise.” There had been some masterful rearranging of the furniture in the Fitter’s Workshop after the Beethoven: the Festival Bach Ensemble, led from the harpsichord and organ by Anthony Abouhamad, was up one end, with Claire Edwardes on vibraphone, Amy Dickson on sax, William Barton on didge, and Pete Harden on electric guitar on the other. This theatrical arrangement was used to great effect in the atmospheric last piece, commissioned for the Festival by Betty Beaver and written by CIMF composer-in-residence Kate Moore. Rebecca Chan, standing in the middle of the aisle, opened the concert with the Bach Partita No. 2 in D minor. Because of the disposition of chairs, along the length of the walls, I could see the deep concentration on many faces in the audience. Bach deserves nothing less, of course. In soprano Alex Oomens the master has a glorious interpreter: in his cantata 'Jauchzet Gott', as also in Kate Moore's The Dam her pure, silvery tones rang out in the Fitters’ Workshop as in a great cathedral.

Concert 3, the Gala Concert: Bach’s Universe was supported by Betty Beaver.

Now I’m off to the next Beethoven session. What a joy.

– Diana Brown