Following the successful and sold out inaugural Bendigo Chamber Music Festival, co-directors Chris Howlett and Howard Penny welcome us to enjoy a fantastic five-day celebration of Australian classical musicians in 15 recitals in historic Bendigo, re-establishing this annual February event as a very special celebration of chamber music. This long awaited return of larger performing ensembles to Bendigo’s cultural venues, with live audiences for highly esteemed soloists and star-studded teams, is immensely exciting for audiences, musicians and regional central Victoria alike.
Opening the atmospheric Capital Theatre for live music again is itself a celebration, and the scheduling and variety of musical masterpieces is guaranteed to make this second Festival a rewarding and memorable experience for all. Highly welcome is a Festival Pass, with single tickets also available, allowing flexibility for ticket selection and attendance. Also fantastic is the news that all concerts will be broadcast live around the world by the brilliantly successful Melbourne Digital Concert Hall team, offering a 9 Concert Digital Festival Pass covering all festival performances from the Capital Theatre.
Concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto and Sophie Rowell lead a stunning line-up of string players including Matthew Tomkins, Robin Wilson, Chris Moore and Tobias Breider, who naturally team up with co-directors and cellists Chris and Howard.
As public performances work to new guidelines, brilliant planning this year will allow flexible teams of musicians to work together in a variety of events with colourful summer signposts.
The Summer Night Series includes the Opening Gala Concert featuring David Griffiths (clarinet), Sophie Rowell and pianist Ben Martin in Vivaldi’s Oboe Concerto in C, (Soloist TBA) Bartok’s Contrasts, and Mendelssohn’s Piano Quartet No 3. A second program gives us the Beethoven’s Piano Trio in Bb and Suk’s Piano Quartet, while the third promises the Rathdowne Quartet with Fantasias by Purcell and Schumann’s beautiful Piano Quintet in Eb. The Mayor’s Gala brings a full chamber orchestra to the stage for Bach, Schubert and Mendelssohn’s wonderful Bb Octet for strings.
Three Dusk Concerts will provide a more intimate chamber music experience for Festival Pass ticket holders. Featured works are String Trios by Albrechtsberger and Beethoven, Oboe Quartet in F by Mozart, Weber’s fabulous Clarinet Quintet with David Griffiths, and Beethoven’s Trio in Bbwith pianist Ben Martin.
The Morning Recital Series is not to be missed as it showcases the talented up and about fine ANAM musicians of the Rathdowne Quartet in the Uniting Church, and popular pianist Daniel de Borah bringing us repertoire by Bach and Schumann in his recital. A jewel in the Festival crown will certainly be Australia Opera star Jacqueline Porter, who teams with Daniel for their recital of works by Schubert, Mendelssohn and Grieg.
Festivals do wonderful things for Regional towns as they provide ongoing music educational events, connections and opportunities for visiting artists to mentor students and community music groups. Although local choirs and orchestras were unable to participate this year, educational interactions will continue through 2021. This year’s Community Concerts include a fabulous program of Bach’s music in the Sacred Heart Cathedral by notable organist and composer Calvin Bowman. Musica Viva is also adding its support with the Community Concert Strike a Chord, featuring the winners of the National Chamber Music Competition.
In two Conversation Concerts, the impressive energy, commitment and leadership of Festival co-directors continues with Chris Howlett leading one presentation on the genre of The String Trio, and Howard Penny focussing on The World of Schumann’s piano quartet, in particular his Piano Quintet in Eb.
A Farewell Concert closes the five-day Festival with a 12-piece ensemble performing works by Handel, Gershwin, Schubert and Suk.