Last night was the opening of the Brunswick Beethoven Festival. A series of 12 chamber music concerts featuring local and international artists the Festival spans the rest of this week and after a 9 day break, returns February 19 – 25. Now in its 12th year, the festival is curated by organ maestro and classical music legend Sergio de Pieri OAM (below left). The festival program is bursting at the seams with world class artists performing the world’s finest repertoire.
The concert featured two international musicians of outstanding calibre, Andrea Dainese on flute and Elisabetta Ghebbioni on harp. Both Andrea and Elisabetta live in Italy and have performed across Europe. The program ranged from popular operatic arias arranged for duo of flute and harp, to a solo work for flute by the early 20th century composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud, who died tragically young in a car accident at the age of 36 in 1936.
There were plenty of recognisable tunes in the program, starting with Greensleeves. By the first variation, Elisabetta (pictured below) has established the harp as an equal musical partner in the duet. And the two instruments complemented each other across styles and genres like familiar friends.
The concert harp always appears to me like the Rolls-Royce of instruments. Especially when played with elegance and poise, as by Elisabetta. I’m used to hearing Handel’s Chaconne variations on harpsichord and was blown away by the variety of tone and intensity of Elisabetta’s performance of the work arranged for solo harp. This was matched later on in the program by another work which echoed the melodic rhythms of Spain: Grenade (Serenata) by Isaac Albeniz.
It was an warm evening outside, which must have had an impact on the comfortability of the performers but I got no sense of instruments ‘misbehaving’. Andrea’s clear and steady tone, rose to exquisite heights in an arrangement of Bellini’s Casta Diva from Norma and the seminal aria for solo instrument, Meditation (Thais) by Massenet. It was lovely to hear these recognisable tunes, but I revelled in the playful dialogue of Rossini’s Andante con variazioni followed (tongue-cheek I’m sure) by Chopin’s Variations on a theme by Rossini.
There was a fabulous Nocturne from the early 19th century. I had to dig around a bit but from what I can gather it was composed by two fine gentlemen of the Paris Conservatoire. Francois-Joseph Naderman (below left) was a harpist whose father was a harp maker and Jean-Louis Tulou (below right) was a flautist. I was enamoured with the work at the time and can appreciate now why it seemed so well suited to our performers.
As the concert unfolded, I was struck again and again by the privilege of hearing two artists of great experience and musical maturity in such an intimate setting. As I flicked through the festival programme to see the details of each concert, I keep adding more to my ‘must see’ list.
Coming up this week: Sally-Anne Russell and Samantha Cohen performing Purcell; The Curro Family (string trio) in a tribute to John Curro; Dr Jacquiline Ogeil performing a total Scarlatti program on the Cristofori Pian. And flicking through the upcoming program in a fortnight’s time: the Seraphim Trio, with one of my favourite performers Anna Goldsworthy; classical guitarist Massimo Scattolini (who, the program notes casual mention has had a concerto written for him by Astor Piazzolla!!) with Erica Kennedy;and so much more!
The concert experience always begins well before the performers appear on-stage. And my Brunswick experience complemented and completed my first Beethoven Festival experience. Dropping into Marcella a local trattoria just a few doors down the friendly barista, a student at the Australian Institute of Music, downed an espresso macchiato with me, talking Italian food, wine and music. Adding to the friendly festival atmosphere in walk a dear friend and the harpist from this evening’s concert, complimenting my pre-concert pinot grigio.
Tickets are reasonably priced. Treat yourself or someone you love to a magical evening of music.
For more information, program and tickets: https://brunswickbeethovenfestival.com/
To go straight to buy tickets: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=346543&track=