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Musica Viva: Nicolas Fleury, Emily Sun and Amir Farid

by Julie McErlain

Great excitement surrounded the announcement by Musica Viva to bring three distinguished international soloists to form a trio for a National Australian tour. The appointment of French musician Nicolas Fleury as Principal Horn in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra allowed him to team up with international legends, violinist Emily Sun and pianist Amir Farid using Sydney, as a base for launching a tour of exciting concert repertoire and regional workshops. Musica Viva is committed to presenting live music in as many states as possible, but not all planned ventures could overcome even Australia’s current volatility with musicians in lockdown or quarantine. Following concerts in Adelaide and Sydney, cancellation of Melbourne concerts and live streaming, Musica Viva nevertheless, were able to schedule a last minute on-line concert by the trio in Chatswood’s Concourse Theatre.

We are thankful that composer Ernst Naumann arranged Mozart’s challenging Quintet K407, performed in this concert as the Horn Trio in Eb, Mozart’s favourite key for the horn. A brilliant and perfectly balanced opening to the Allegro heralded the brilliance of this ensemble. Bright and sharp execution of colourful tones combined with Mozart’s spirit and energy was a delight to hear. From Fleury’s golden instrument came a warm and soulful tone in rich and satisfying melodies where ornaments, trills and embellishments were smoothly delivered. His low notes were full of character and bold assertion – Mozart would have smiled. In the Andante we were captivated by the lyrical, aria like opening melody on the violin. Not just an exceptional string sound, but also a unique tone colour glowed from Emily Sun’s 1760 Gagliano violin. Horn and violin showed an ease and gracefulness in expressive and graceful conversations. In the Rondo we continued to admire the joy and spirit coming from this balanced team, the fullness of their sound and the addition of luxuriant bass tones on the grand piano. Ornaments and embellishments and the clarity of rapid cadenzas on the horn continued to impress.

Gordon Kerry is a prolific and widely performed Australian composer with a long association with Musica Viva, writing pieces ranging from symphonic and chamber music to choral works and opera. Julian Burnside AO QC has continued his generous commitment to performing arts, commissioning Kerry’s Sonata for Violin and Piano (2020). Described succinctly by Paul Kildea, the sonata “starts with a whisper and ends in a soaring declaration”. Described as a sonata in one movement, a three-tiered level of structural development could be felt. Opening with a celestial four note motif on the violin against intermittent piano tremolos, ripples and clusters, there was an important use of space and silence, colours of glassy, reflected, fragments from a mosaic, free-time, reflective and engaging. A “middle” section highlighted Emily Sun’s authoritative and expressively passionate long tones, as further scattered icy ripples and bell-like piano shapes added assertive rhythms and brilliant rapid technical flurries for both instruments. High soaring notes, extensive tremolos and tonal exploration took us towards a final platform of embellished trills and turns. With varied recollections of introductory motifs, a finely balanced partnership of varied and colourful timbres on both instruments gave Kerry’s work a fine World Premier hearing.

How impressive was Emily Sun’s leadership in Brahms’ Horn Trio in Eb, her luscious, warm and resonant tone expressing highly emotive swells of passion and richness. Amir Farid responded accordingly, demonstrating equally passionate colours and emotion in flowing piano arpeggios and richly textured accompaniment. The Scherzo was an exciting and energetic journey,introduced by an envigorating staccato piano accompaniment that became more powerful and scintillating with striking mood and key changes. In the low brooding piano chords that opened the third movement Adagio Mesto, we felt Brahms’ introspection, growing sorrow and deep feelings of loss. A simple, poignant rising two note phrase added further questioning from the violin, with only the piano replying with shadows and gloom in troubled low chords. The trio produced some magnificent orchestral grandeur, but the low bass notes of the piano added intense finality in the Eb minor key. If this third movement was a sorrowful tribute by Brahms, commemorating the death of his mother, the bold, brisk and buoyant tones of the fourth movement called on us to muster our resilience and respond to the call of the horn. And how triumphant was the horn in this final Allegro con Brio, calling the chargeof the hunt with true military phrases and galloping fanfares. Again, there was an admirable display of unique tone colours, virtuosic skill and vibrancy of spirit from this exemplary team of world class musicians.

Musica Viva is to be commended for adding Workshops by performers, very complete Concert Guide notes, fabulous Pre Concert talks, and Recordings and Webinars of great educational value to their prime concert program.

Photo supplied.

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Julie McErlain reviewed Musica Viva’s National Tour concert “Nicolas Fleury, Emily Sun and Amir Farid” recorded at the Concourse Theatre, Sydney, and presented via Melbourne Digital Concert Hall on June 21, 2021.

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