Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Living Australian

The ASO ticked a couple of boxes this weekend by adding Carl Vine’s Microsymphony to a program including the Brahms Violin Concerto and Shostakovich Symphony No. 1. 

As I’ve noted here previously (also here), orchestras around the country don’t do enough to promote the work of a) living composers, and b) Australian composers, and Vine obviously satisfies both tests.  That said, the ASO doesn’t fare too badly on either score, with their 2011 program featuring 24% of pieces written by living composers, and 20% by Australian composers (contrast the Sydney SO – 8% and 6% respectively).

Microsymphony went over very well with the audience, as did the Shostakovich, but the star turn of the night was of course the Brahms Violin Concerto with Tasmin Little at the controls of her Stradivarius.  This was a tremendous performance, as you’d probably expect, but what I didn’t expect was that she’d take half an hour out prior to the start of the concert to give the pre-match address, along with violinist Lachlan Bramble.  I go along to these talks every chance I get, and have heard a range of

ASO musos, academics and teachers expounding on the music we’re about to hear, but I don’t think I can recall a single occasion when the soloist has taken part.  I’m sure they have a lot on their minds prior to a performance, and there’s an obvious language barrier in some cases, but surely more could follow this example and do a bit more to engage with their audiences.

In her talk Tasmin mentioned her Naked Violin project, which provides free downloads of a number of violin works (including Bach and Ysaye) along with some commentary.  It’s well worth a look.  This is her contribution to spreading classical music to the masses, using digital channels and not charging a cent for it.  As she said in her talk, she’s keen to prove that classical music doesn’t have to have such a narrow focus on people who are white, middle class and middle aged or older.  A bit ironic as her audience was entirely composed of that demographic, but you can understand what she’s driving at.

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