A Cunning Blog

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Ten years… part 3


The part of tens.

Bust-ups, non-events and fond farewells

  1. Simone Young and Opera Australia. (Both alive and well and happily remarried.)
  2. The marriage that never was – during a review of the Australia Council’s major organizations board consultants looked into making an arranged marriage between Musica Viva and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Neither party fancied it. Musica Viva has, however, taken over the ACO’s Huntingdon Festival.
  3. World Orchestras – a victim of 9/11, SARS, the Asian Financial Crisis and an irresistible job offer for head honcho Timothy Walker.
  4. The Sydney Opera House and erstwhile CEO Norman Gillespie.
  5. No shows and cancellations: Sumi Jo from Lucia, Martha Argerich, again, and, much to her dismay, Dawn Upshaw, who cancelled at the very last minute due to a pesky throat infection. The ACO’s replacement concert – some of it improvised / sight read / dragged out of the back of the wardrobe – was absolutely thrilling. (And so was Ms Upshaw’s concert when she returned in fine voice).
  6. The Macquarie Trio – Once there were three. Then there were two. Then the two fell out and the trio was looking very singular. Then the sponsor left, taking the name with it. But pianist Kathryn Selby isn’t one to mope, so she rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes with a new outfit, Selby and Friends, and organised herself a residency at the City Recital Hall.
  7. Opera Australia and Fiona Janes – disaffected singer Fiona Janes met with the board to table accusations of nepotism and mediocrity. The mud was taken seriously but the board concluded it didn’t stick. Then Richard Hickox died and the point was moot. (This one will run and run. Just keep on keeping on, OA).
  8. Conservatorium mayhem – Sharman Pretty left the Con in 2004. Her replacement was from the left of field – Kim Walker, an effervescent bassoonist from the States who was full of ideas to make Sydney’s main music institution bigger, brighter, more absolutely fabulous. Her gung-ho attitude hasn’t gone down well in all circles and, well, I won’t say any more right now because I can hear the lawyers are circling. Watch this space…
  9. The string quartet shuffle. After fights with the board over artistic and workload issues the Australian Quartet became the Grainger Quartet and the Tank Stream Quartet became the Australian Quartet. Sadly, the Grainger Quartet decided to call it quits last year. The new Australian Quartet are going from strength to strength.
  10. Dulcie Holland, Miriam Hyde, Richard Meale, Geoffrey Tozer, Deborah Reidel and, of course, Richard Hickox – just a few of the brave artists to whom we said goodbye.

Welcome – new faces, new trends in the noughties

  1. The Composer Festival – Sydney Symphony’s regular binge on the works of one composer has proved enlightening and popular at the box office. We’ve done two weeks with Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Brahms, Beethoven, Elgar and Prokofiev. Mahler, however, is getting split over a couple of years.
  2. Pinchgut Opera – they’ve just announced next year’s opera, Joseph Haydn’s L’anima del filosofo ossia Orfeo ed Euridice
  3. Aurora Festival – lovely stuff, Mr Hindson. A new music festival running in collaboration with the thriving arts centres in Western Sydney. In 2010 they host the International Society for Contemporary Music ‘World Music Days’. That’s big, for a little festival.
  4. New venues: not just City Recital Hall but also the refurbished Utzon Room, Sydney Theatre, Government House Ballroom (terrible sound but such a lovely place), funky Carriageworks and I haven’t seen it yet, but the Seymour Centre has just been refitted…
  5. Education & Access: most large organisations programs have always had some kind of education program, but in the last ten years more groups than ever have engaged with this crucial audience development tool. ACO have created ACO2; Musica Viva in Schools continues – a model program; meanwhile Sydney Philharmonia’s Chorus Oz has been a life changing experience for many, and Richard Gill continues to pack the halls for his Discovery Series with the SSO.
  6. Vladimir Ashkenazy (Sydney Symphony);
  7. Lyndon Terracini (Opera Australia);
  8. Richard Evans (Sydney Opera House); and
  9. Lindy Hume (Sydney Festival) – all the latest chalice bearers for our biggest classical music presenters.
  10. Social media – #classic100 becomes a trending topic on Twitter in 2009. Classical nerds start to feel like they might be cool!

Memorable concerts of the decade

A highly personal and non-comprehensive selection of concerts that delivered that elusive ‘wow’ that we concert-goers crave.

  1. Meistersingers – Six hours of wonder from Simone Young and Opera Australia.
  2. Gelmetti’s Beethoven 5, 2003 – not his highly packaged and nearly-patronising-but-not-quite ‘Shock of the New’ programs, but his performance of Beethoven 5 where he re-arranged the orchestra to get a thumping great bass sound.
  3. Hansel & Gretel, Opera Australia, 2005 – I took two 5 year-olds to a matinee, and was moved to tears by their wonder when the gingerbread children came back to life.
  4. Children’s Crusade 2005 – A blisteringly intense performance from Sydney Children’s Choir. Brave, intelligent, beautiful
  5. Rachmaninov The Bells 2006 – Sydney Symphony and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs under Vladimir Ashkenazy. What a musician. What musicians.
  6. Borodin String Quartet 2006 (presented by Musica Viva). Shostakovich’s 15th and final string quartet, played by candlelight, a thousand shades of grey.
  7. Tehillim 2007 – the Song Company and Ensemble Offspring and Halcyon banded together for this knockout evening
  8. Juditha Triumphans 2007 – Pinchgut Triumphans. The fans will argue ad infinitum, but this is my favourite to date.
  9. Elias String Quartet 2009 – Wow.
  10. Peter Grimes 2009 – Double wow. The perfect storm of creative and musical talent.

So… that was the noughties. It started with the Olympics and 9/11. It ends with Copenhagen and the GFC. And all the while the music keeps playing. Here’s to the Teenies, and lots more wow.


  1. Actually it was Cantillation with the Sydney Symphony for The Bells – one of the great experiences for Cantillation too.

    • Thanks Alison. Let me know any other corrections. I’ve been trawling the depths of my memory. How can a decade have gone so fast and so slow simultaneously!

  2. Pingback: Ten years… part 3 « A Cunning Blog – EVENTSYNTH.NET

  3. Great review, thanks.
    I have an alternative Beethoven 5th to suggest as one of the best: The ACO in, was it 2005? Tight, fast, nuanced. It was a great example of those times where you go along thinking “ho hum, standard repertoire” and before you realize it your skin is tingling and your heart is in your mouth.
    Hopefully a Melburnian will take up your challenge, harryfiddler. As a regular visitor to that city over the noughties I have a narrow perspective. But then why not a narrow view……….

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