The fifth Newcastle Music Festival is back, and it starts on July 29.
There is an enthralling program of musical events for two weeks, culminating in the Festival Finale on Sunday, August 14, when acclaimed classical guitarist Andrew Blanch performs Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez at Christ Church Cathedral.
Visiting performers include Pinchgut Opera, giving their first concert in Newcastle, when they perform Vespers by Monteverdi, on Monday, August 1, at 7pm at Christ Church Cathedral.
On Friday, August 12, cellist Teije Hylkema of Opera Australia Orchestra performs with pianist Grace Kim.
Other top names coming include jazz singer Grace Knight (Saturday, August 13, at Christ Church Cathedral), virtuosic violinist Susan Collins (Friday, August 5, Adamstown Uniting Church), and violist Patricia Pollett, who will perform with Newcastle's Christ Church Camerata (Tuesday, August 2, at Christ Church Cathedral).
There are two pre-concert talks, the first, From the Edge of Eternity, given by musicologist John Phillips, introduces the world premiere of his transcription of the reconstructed finale of Bruckner's 9th symphony, one of the works to be performed by Peter Guy, in his last solo recital on the organ of Christ Church Cathedral.
Newcastle-based philosopher Glenn Albrecht, with composer Ross Fiddes and poet Derek Dowding, will introduce the concert Toasting Mother Earth, an environmentally themed program of song and solo piano works by singer Anna Fraser and pianist Jack Symonds on Thursday, August 11, at Adamstown Uniting Church.
The festival opens on Friday July 29, Adamstown Arts at Adamstown Uniting Church at 7.30pm.with internationally acclaimed Australian pianist, Tamara-Anna Cislowska.
Listening to her interviews on the fascinating ABC Classic radio program Duet, it's easy to forget that this warm, generous person with the beautiful voice was making piano recordings for the ABC at the age of three, and won every piano competition under the sun during her youth.
As William Yeoman wrote in his 2015 Gramophone review of her ARIA award-winning recording of the complete solo piano works of Peter Sculthorpe: "Cislowska's great gift" is her ability to project the emotion inherent in music "in an utterly natural, unforced manner."
His description perfectly characterises this remarkable performer, either on the concert stage or in the recording studio. Cislowska has matured from her days as a child prodigy into one of the world's great pianists and advocates of classical music.
Garth Boomer, the late great Australian educator, spoke of "bathing his child in language", and we get the sense that Cislowska was bathed in music, by her mother, Neta Maughan, AM, a highly regarded teacher of piano, who worked at both the Sydney and Newcastle Conservatorium of Music.
In her concert Liebestod, which opens the festival, Cislowska will play what she describes as "the spine-tinglers, the sorts of things that when you hear them, you can never forget them."
Among these works, which she calls "a sweeping epic of love", are works by Schumann, Liszt, and contemporary Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin.
There is also a composition by Joe Hisaishi from the world of Studio Ghibli Japanese anime films, called Fantasia (for Nausica) from Nausica of the Valley of the Wind.
Of Hisaishi's music, which features on her album One Summer's Day, Cislowska says, "His music has a real vividness to me, almost hyper-romantic. The more I play it, the more I understand the passion in it, the way it goes so well ... with the Studio Ghibli films, their emphasis on individuality and resilience, and brave young girls facing the world alone, having adventures."
Chances are your 14-year-old children will know this particular classical music better than you do!
Cislowska says of her concert program: "In a beautiful hall or church, the music vibrates your body and you can feel it as it happens. I don't think it is overstepping to say that it can change your life. You can be at a concert, and hear something, and it changes your life."
The centrepiece of the program is Robert Schumann's monumental Fantasie in C for solo piano. Dedicated to Franz Liszt, the work also celebrates the life of Beethoven, and constitutes a musical poem to Schumann's beloved wife Clara.
Requiring the stamina of an athlete, the agility of an acrobat, and the accuracy of an archer, this work, in the hands of a great pianist, transcends its technical demands to be one of the most profound emotional experiences in the repertoire.
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