With a projected 180 concerts and events encompassing all Australian states, it will be a busy year for the Australian National Academy of Music. As an institution of international standing, ANAM is also forging links with the world’s most prestigious music organisations; gifted violinist Harry Bennetts is currently an Academy player on an exchange with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
When ANAM’s Artistic Director, Nick Deutsch, welcomed a capacity audience to the opening concert for the 2017 season, he was keen to stress the increasing reach of ANAM. The nine players from New Zealand listed in the program were evidence of a closer relationship with our near neighbours.
The success of these ambitious music endeavours, however, comes at a price. Although the lack of ventilation on a warm night might have seemed a mixed blessing to some members of the audience, there was no doubt that the announcement that the City of Port Phillip has agreed to offer South Melbourne Town Hall as ANAM’s home base for many years to come was very welcome indeed.
Also of vital importance are ANAM’s sponsors and this performance was dedicated to Betty Amsden AO, who had passed away earlier in the week at the age of ninety. Nick Deutsch spoke about her passion for supporting young people and especially musicians. Tributes have been pouring in with a post from the Australian Ballet and Orchestra Victoria reminding us that she was affectionately known as Australia’s “Arts Angel”. There are many Victorian Arts organisations that have benefitted greatly from her support.
If she had been watching from above on Saturday night she was bound to have felt that her generosity had been put to excellent use, at least insofar as the playing itself was concerned. As it happened, the program was one of remembrance and reminiscences well suited to the circumstances. With a program confined to works by male English composers, she might, however, have wondered about the lack of Australian and female composers for such an important occasion. At least Thomas Adès’ 2006 Three Studies from Couperin introduced some fine contemporary music and Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem was appropriate as well as being reasonably adventurous.
Other generous patrons, Ralph and Barbara Ward-Ambler, supported the Nicholas Carter’s residency as he prepared the ANAM orchestra for this performance. Young, personable and recently appointed Principal Conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, he inspired the young musicians with clear direction to surpass themselves.
It was increasingly clear that Carter had gone to great pains to reveal the subtle nuances and individual character of each work and each movement. This performance was just the testament to Betty Amsden’s legacy that she would have envisaged. It presaged well for another noteworthy year for this unique national music academy, and justified the support it enjoys from audiences and benefactors alike.
Editor’s note: Read our review of the opening concert.