It’s that time of year. Opera Australia and Sydney Symphony are usually in first, but this year the first 2017 program announcement to turn up in my inbox was from Musica Viva. And now the embargo is lifted I can confirm it’s a doozie.
Book-ending the year in their International Series are debuts tours for two big name ensembles, Eighth Blackbird and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. You definitely got my attention there. Then tours for Angela Hewitt and the Takacs Quartet. Never say no to those. And tucked in between these goodies, return visits for the Pacifica Quartet and Sitkovetsky Trio, plus a new pairing of cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and pianist Alexsandar Madzar, who have appeared, separately, in previous Musica Viva Festivals. Definitely intrigued.
Musica Viva has occupied a central pace in the classical music ecology of Australia ever since Richard Goldner had the inspired idea of creating a chamber music touring circuit. As one of Australia’s oldest presenting organisations, however, it does have to deal with an aging audience and fusty image. How do you, must you, can you reinvent a wheel which still turns in grand style?
The 2017 program seems, to me, to have found a canny path through the conflicting poles of tradition and novelty, comfort and discovery, youthful flair and the wisdom of ages. I welcome the head-on collision, for instance, between young and old, in the Musica Viva Festival, where Pinchas Zukerman and Lambert Orkis — yes, that Zukerman, that Orkis — perform on the same bill as chamber players of the Australian Youth Orchestra. And I also welcome the dropping of a ‘featured composer’ which, although undoubtably valuable, was just so deafeningly male, in favour of spreading the new voices love around. Elizabeth Younan, Holly Harrison, Elena Kats-Chernin, Nadia Boulanger… the count is on the up.
My top picks for 2017:
Eighth Blackbird – for the wild and the fun
Sitkovetsky Trio – to have my heart ripped out by Shostakovich, then repaired by Mendelssohn (plus Skipworth)
Pinchas Zukerman playing Brahms
Arcadia Winds playing Elizabeth Younan
Everything Else As Well