What a wonderful annual fine music festival is the 3MBS Marathon, now having celebrated its 9th occasion in the historic Athenaeum 2, with a capacity audience as well as being streamed live by Melbourne Digital Concert Hall. A wonderful team of over 200 volunteers form a true community to make not only this Marathon Day a special event, but also keeping a not-for-profit community broadcaster on air 24 hours a day.
For the live audience, the enjoyment began with the memorable experience of riding Melbourne’s oldest elevator to the memory-laden Art Gallery, now revived as an excellent performance space. It was quite safe and snug with three travellers in such an historic remnant from the past, with the smoothly operating lift displaying splendid inlaid wood panelled walls, art deco fittings and old brass buttons to press. I was full of doubts, but the sliding door and the concertina metal gates obediently worked and took everyone safely to the upper theatre without a hitch.
Artistic Director Chris Howlett formally opened the day, detailing his choice of Haydn as this year’s featured composer. Haydn was not only a genius but was blessed with longevity. He defined the genres and taught great students. This year the extraordinary talent and artistry of Melbourne musicians could be showcased. Today’s five concerts offered five genres: 1. The Concerto, 2. The Chamber, 3. The Quartet, 4. The Keyboard and 5. The Symphony – repertoire that displayed Haydn’s wonderful creativity and imagination. One choice of ticketing that allowed food and drinks was a blessed bonus for a marathon live audience.
The Concerto A very well-blended and warm timbre emanated from the five string players who accompanied soloist Kristian Chong for the opening Piano Concerto No 11 in D. A smooth, joyful string introduction heralded the bright, joyful and crystal clear piano entry, with Haydn’s music putting smiles on the faces of performers and audience members alike. Chong is a master at bringing a new tone to the re-statement of principal themes, bringing out the best in the modern grand piano, enriching the harmonic atmosphere with pedal use, and enhancing the unique feel key changes. Un Poco Adagio was nicely forward in motion, spirit and dynamic expression, and again, a varied piano tone added feeling and beauty to the contrasting minor key passages. Double bass and cello added explosive energy in the final movement allowing Chong to promote Haydn’s playfulness with flirtatious ornaments, precise sections of repeated notes and invigorating chromatic runs. An increase of urgency and jubilation in the final bars added a symphonic atmosphere to the excellent string playing of the 3MBS Chamber Ensemble supporting Chong’s impeccable and admirable musicianship.
Violinist Tair Khisambeev again led an enhanced and well-blended string section for the second concerto, Haydn’s well-known and popular work Cello Concerto No 1 in C featuring soloist Rohan de Korte. Of all instrumentalists the physical artistry of a cellist is a joy to behold. Instrument and performer are united in a fascinating and balanced partnership, and despite its place in the low string section, the instrument re-invents itself in its splendid solo repertoire. De Korte generated much strength in tone colour and projected a wide range of dynamics and rich colours, being particularly lustrous in prominent long sustained notes. A variety of technically demanding passages included challenging extremes of high pitched notes, vigorous bowing, three and four note chords and rapid, but impressive staccato runs. Very pleasing was the personal and individually shaped phrases, and that communication makes De Korte a popular artist who was highly applauded for his authoritative performance.
The popular Violin Concerto No. 1 in Cbrought soloist William Hennessy AM and members of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra to the stage. Again we heard a classy performance by a soloist who was sensitive to dynamics and contrasting colours, leading this larger ensemble in their entries, and expressing some very nice interpretations when shaping solo passages. The 2nd movement Adagio allowed very refined and lyrical playing, with some super pianissimos adding delicacy and sweetness in the soloist’s melodic lines balanced above a pizzicato gentle pulse from the accompanying strings. A passionate leader and soloist, Hennessy embraced Haydn’s robust Finale – Allegro with vim and verve.
And so ended the first tribute to Haydn performed by star-studded teams of Melbourne’s very best in this brilliantly designed day.
Julie McErlain reviewed 3MBS Haydn Marathon, Concert 1: The Concerto with soloists Kristian Chong (Piano), Rohan de Korte (Cello), and William Hennessy (Violin) presented at Athenæum 2 Upstairs on February 27, 2021. The concert was also streamed via Melbourne Digital Concert Hall.