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An exhilarating reading of Bach's Third Partita

Musica Viva’s fifth festival of chamber music got under way on Anzac Day with a magnificent concert featuring top acts from home and abroad in the Conservatorium’s Verbrugghen Hall.

Heading the bill was American star double bass player Edgar Meyer performing Bach’s cello suite No 1. It was also a chance to see some of the marquee acts who will feature in most of the following five concerts — from the US violinist Tessa Lark and the Dover Quartet and brilliant young British pianist Andrew Tyson.

Meyer opened the evening with a fascinating reading of the cello suite. Although the bass’s fingerboard is about one metre long, Meyer played mainly about two-thirds of the way up the board, his long and supple fingers moving in complex contortions while his bow glided smoothly over multiple strings in the challenging cascade of semiquavers of the prelude.

The adaptation to an instrument tuned one octave lower than the original meant that the whole fingering system for Bach’s complex work had to be rethought and this was a finely nuanced performance.

Tyson showed why the BBC has hailed him “a real poet of the piano” with his deft and lucid handling of Alban Berg’s piano sonata. Although atonal, like most of this Viennese composer’s music you can hear echoes of the old romantic lyrical style like a pentimento painting.

In a late substitution Tyson ditched Chopin’s Ballade No 4 for a sparkling performance of Francois Poulenc’s lively Napoli suite.

More Bach to open the second half and Lark’s surname proved appropriate as her violin took flight in the Preludio from Bach’s Partita No 3, ascending and dipping with remarkable athleticism, the bowing bariolage smooth and rapid and with seemingly effortless accuracy.

The Dover Quartet — Joel Link and Bryan lee, violins, Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola and Camden Shaw, cello — brought the evening to a romantically supercharged close with a superbly integrated performance of Schumann’s String Quartet No 3. This was full blooded, energetic and tasteful.

Musica Viva’s artistic director Carl Vine has overseen all six of the four-day festivals, which started in 2008, and have since become biennial events. This will be his last one as he is leaving Musica Viva at the end of the year. One of the features of the festival is the involvement of members of the Australian Youth Orchestra in concerts, workshop and master classes, and there are also activities for kids, talks and interviews with the musicians over the weekend at the Conservatorium.


Steve Moffatt, Daily Telegraph (Sydney)
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