A Cunning Blog

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Looking forward to…



With the silly season pretty much here, I’m turning my back on 2016 and looking forwards. This time, instead of a summary of opera or orchestra work for 2017, a heads up for some of the small to medium music groups on my beat who have the resources to put together a program in advance and have caught my eye.

The Omega Ensemble go into their second year as ensemble-in-residence at City Recital Hall with a serious line-up and a new co-artistic director, Maria Raspopova, joining clarinettist David Rowden. In terms of repertoire, their four “Virtuoso” concerts at CRH are pretty straight: Schubert, Rachmaninov, Beethoven et al. Their afternoon gigs at the Utzon Room are more intriguing, with a few Australian works, but right now they sit solidly in the middle-of-the-chamber-music-greats-road, just doing what they do, extremely well.

The phoenix-like Australian String Quartet come to Sydney three times in 2017, and in May they bring Slava Grigorian with them to perform works by Iain Grandage and Ralph Towner. The similarly mutable Selby and Friends presents five concerts at City Recital Hall, including an appearance by fab fiddler Grace Clifford in March. (In fact, Kathryn Selby has scored a string of fab fiddlers through the year, including SSO leader Andrew Haveron and all stars Natalie Chee and Daniel Dodds.)

The Australian Haydn Ensemble go from strength to strength, with five subs concerts announced for 2017, including a concerto with fortepianist Melvyn Tan in July and, in March, Mozart’s Adagio for mechanical organ. I’m not sure if I’m relieved or disappointed that this will be performed in an arrangement for string quintet.

Over at Carriageworks, Sydney Chamber Opera has announced two productions. The first is a new opera by Mary Finsterer (music and concept) and Tom Wright (libretto) called Biographica. Like most good opera, it’s a collaborative event, made with with Ensemble Offspring and Sydney Festival and the multi-talented Mitchell Butel in the role of Renaissance polymath Gerolamo Cardano. Then, mid year, another co-production, this time with Victorian Opera, of Britten’s The Rape of Lucrece, starring Anna Dowsley.

Sydney Chamber Choir, under their artistic director Richard Gill, raises the roof at the Great Hall in the University of Sydney with three ambitious programs, including a concert version of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Muffat Collective, a new mix of the latest generation of HIP-sters. The Australia Ensemble, now under the artistic direction of Paul Stanhope, mix things up with new works by Felicity Wilcox and Mark Grandison, old works by Mozart and Borodin, plus words, pictures and places.

Finally, I don’t quite know where to start with two ensembles who consistently take their music to the edge and beyond. The Song Company‘s 2017 program is dizzying — everything from Thomas Tallis to Andrew Batt-Rawden. I’m particularly taken with a concert of the music of curious Mr Cardew, would-be revolutionary and lost soul of twentieth century music, on in February.

As for Ensemble Offspring, the future is female. 15 world premieres, another Sizzle, another Hatched and, a residency at the Canberra Festival. Personally, I’m waiting for Seven Stories, an exploration of ancient lore and legend through the voices of seven genre-defying composers, in June.

This is just a start. I’ve missed so much, but these are just a few of the concerts that have caught my eye for 2017. Of course, there’s also the big kids, Musica Viva, SSO, ABO, ACO, Opera Australia and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, not to mention Sydney Festival. And the youth scene. And the community orchestras. And the grassroots stuff, the precarious, glorious, just-gotta-happen stuff which comes together much closer to the time.

I’m not in a position to cover it all, but maybe, while I’m here, I can start a conversation, put out a challenge. What’s your pick for 2017? And beyond what you already know about, what are you waiting to see or hear? (It could be actual or imaginary…)


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