Clas­si­cal mu­sic lovers will not have to go with­out cheer dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, writes Matthew Westwood

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

B ETWEEN Jin­gle Bells and Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair, there isn’t a lot of clas­si­cal mu­sic worth lis­ten­ing to dur­ing mid­sum­mer. The con­cert halls are quiet, the the­atres given over to magic shows and mu­si­cals.

It’s as if the na­tion’s vi­o­lin­ists, oboists and per­cus­sion­ists col­lec­tively have read a gi­ant fer­mata sign in the sky: the mu­si­cal sym­bol that looks like an eye and in­di­cates a long, bliss­ful pause. The con­duc­tor has put down his ba­ton and gone fish­ing.

Lis­ten­ers who know where to look, how­ever, will not go with­out cheer. Syd­neysiders in par­tic­u­lar have abun­dant mu­si­cal of­fer­ings, courtesy of the Syd­ney Fes­ti­val and Opera Aus­tralia’s sum­mer sea­son. This guide to mid­sum­mer mu­si­cal san­ity also will sug­gest the best lis­ten­ing to be found on disc, on screen and on­line.

In his Syd­ney Fes­ti­val pro­gram, di­rec­tor Lieven Ber­tels has as­sem­bled an ar­ray of tan­ta­lis­ing shows that might be grouped loosely to­gether as mu­si­cal the­atre.

Imag­ine Han­del’s 1743 ora­to­rio Semele with a choir, pe­riod-in­stru­ment orches­tra and models in Vivienne Westwood punk cou­ture (Jan­uary 11-15). Or en­ter the care­fully con­structed the­atri­cal world of Ger­man di­rec­tor Heiner Goebbels, whose Erar­it­jar­it­jaka (Jan­uary 9-13) com­bines string quar­tet, philo­soph­i­cal mono­logue and im­mac­u­late stage­craft in what is more an art in­stal­la­tion than cham­ber recital.

One could com­plete a trio of mu­si­cal ad­ven­tures with 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the Syd­ney Sym­phony pro­vides the waltz­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ment for Stan­ley Kubrick’s danc­ing space­ships (Jan­uary 24-25). A com­pan­ion con­cert with En­sem­ble Off­spring (Jan­uary 1113) will re­work Gy­orgy Ligeti’s haunt­ing or­ches­tral work At­mos­pheres — also heard in Kubrick’s mas­ter­piece — for strings, per­cus­sion, elec­tric gui­tar and turnta­bles. (The 2001 movie ad­ven­ture will be re­peated at the Ade­laide Fes­ti­val with the Ade­laide Sym­phony Orches­tra in March.)

The Penin­sula Sum­mer Mu­sic Fes­ti­val (De­cem­ber 29 to Jan­uary 6) is a bou­tique con­cert se­ries in the pic­turesque set­ting of Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula. The event con­ve­niently spans the New Year’s pe­riod — there’s a ser­e­nade con­cert on De­cem­ber 31 — so the party plan­ning can be left in the hands of fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Ju­lia Fred­er­s­dorff.

The mu­sic ranges from the bit­ter­sweet laments of John Dow­land, to jazz, klezmer and De­bussy’s fra­grant pi­ano mu­sic. The cen­tre­piece is a per­for­mance by early mu­sic en­sem­ble Ludovico’s Band of Mon­teverdi’s Il Com­bat­ti­mento di Tan­credi e Clorinda, a lit­tle op­er­atic scene in which love con­quers all.

A chil­dren’s con­cert on New Year’s Day features the mu­si­cal menagerie of Car­ni­val of the An­i­mals, with Christo­pher Lawrence as nar­ra­tor. The Saint-Saens favourite is also part of the Mu­sic Play chil­dren’s fes­ti­val at the Mel­bourne Recital Cen­tre on Jan­uary 19.

Un­for­tu­nately, con­certs of clas­si­cal mu­sic are few un­til early Fe­bru­ary, when the Aus­tralian Cham­ber Orches­tra goes on the

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