Day Three: Sunday May 3

Bach’s funny side plus more Beethoven

Bach, as Roland Peelman pointed out in his introduction to Sunday morning’s concert, was a pragmatic fellow, accustomed to making do, musically speaking, with what he had. When Canberra countertenor Tobias Cole unfortunately had to cancel because of illness, baritone David Greco stepped up to take his place in Cantata BWV 82, ‘Ich habe genug’. David is well-schooled in the Baroque style of singing, and his diction was superb. Like so many of our young musicians who specialise in early music, including members of the Festival Bach Ensemble – harpsichordist Anthony Abouhamad, violinists Matt Greco and Annie Gard, viola player Heather Lloyd – he studied at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. I was very taken, too, with the plaintive tones of Kirsten Barry’s Baroque oboe. After some jubilant singing about the joyful prospect of death, or at least the overcoming of it in the Christian sense, we were treated to Kate Moore’s ethereal echoes of the Baroque in her composition for two cellos. The worldly longing for a flat white had taken hold in me by the time Bach’s secular cantata BWV 211, the ‘Coffee Cantata’, came along. It’s theatre, the closest thing Bach wrote to a miniature comic opera, and you have to see it performed to appreciate it. Soprano Alex Oomens was delightful as the wayward coffee-drinking daughter, and David Greco very entertaining as the growling, disapproving bear of a dad. The chorus – sung by Alex and David, with the tenor narrator Paul McMahon from the ANU School of Music – has the last word: when it comes to coffee, girls will be girls.

The afternoon was given over to the last two sessions of Beethoven sonatas. Young Adam McMillan from ANAM was first up, a brave move in such mature pianistic company. His playing was sensitive and assured. You saw him here first. The day ended with the monumental ‘Hammerklavier’ sonata, Opus 106, performed by Russian pianist Maria Mazo. It’s the ‘Grosse Fuge’ of sonatas: you may not love it, you may find it unwieldy and fragmented, but you can’t not be amazed. What a feat of memory and technique. The whole room stood for Ms Mazo, and deservedly so.

Now I’m off to the Turkish Embassy for a wonderfully eclectic concert featuring The Song Company and the ney, the Turkish flute.

Concert 7 was supported by Jim and Peronelle Windeyer; Concert 8 by Barbara Campbell and Jennie and Barry Cameron; Concert 9 by Claudia Hyles and Mary Louise Simpson.

– Diana Brown