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Bach by Candlelight was a popular programme in a small venue (St Joseph's Church on the end of the beachfront) at a popular time (Sunday evening) and the organisers could have sold every ticket twice. Those who booked early heard the Brandenburg Concertos 6 and 3, led by Theodore Kuchar and Dene Olding respectively, two of the cello suites played by Barta and Smiles, and the D minor Partita for violin played by James Buswell. Ami Hakuno played continuo harpsichord for the Brandenburgs but there were apparently few other gestures towards historically appropriate performance practice.

There was only one concert on the Monday, the by-now-traditional 'Beethoven marathon'. This year it comprised two sonatas, one set of variations for cello and piano, and the Archduke Trio.

American Zuill Bailey played the Cello Sonata in A, Op 69, with Piers Lane. Some of its drama was more visual than aural, Bailey moving around rather distractingly, and the scherzo seemed to lack direction, but it was generally enjoyable. Buswell replaced Amoyal again for the Violin Sonata, Op 30 No 2, and Liu replaced Rogé without explanation. Their sinewy, tightly focused performance was one of the highlights of the evening. The variations were great fun but are ultimately trivia: Ou and Liu did them much more than justice.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

Dimity Hall, Julian Smiles and Ian Munro took over the stage for the Archduke. These three play together regularly in the Australia Ensemble, and Hall and Smiles in the Goldner Quartet as well. Their first movement was a very relaxed, intimate, respectful, musical conversation between good friends; they danced beautifully together in the scherzo; the slow movement was a dream and the last movement a joy. It all prompted musings about excellent groups compared to groups of excellent players (more on that later, perhaps) and about Australian and American performance style. The Americans -- Buswell, Ou and Liu obviously very much in mind -- would have been more polished and more dramatic but less spontaneous, and less gentle with each other and the audience. Which would Beethoven have preferred? Who knows? How much of my enjoyment was due to the fact that I have been shaped by the same society as the musicians?

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Copyright © 9 July 2005 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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