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Martinborough Music Festival 2023: Françaix, Fisher, Mozart and Schumann

todayDecember 5, 2023 4

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Martinborough Music Festival 2023: Robert Orr (ob), Todd Gibson-Cornish (bssn), Laurence Matheson (pno)
Photo: Pete Monk Photography

The sixth annual Martinborough Music Festival took place in the wine village’s fully restored Town Hall in September of 2023.  The festival was founded to bring some of New Zealand’s best classical musicians to the small Wairarapa town each year for a weekend of stellar chamber music.  The festival’s co-artistic directors are long time friends and colleagues Wilma Smith and Donald Armstrong, both violinists and both concert masters (former and current) with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

  • Martinborough Music Festival 2023: Opening Night
  • Each year the festival calls top New Zealand performers home, and often joined by friends found on their travels.  This year violinist Benjamin Baker and cellist Matthias Balzat returned from Europe, and bassoonist Todd Gibson-Cornish and violist Amanda Verner took time away from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to return home.  Cellists Ashley Brown and oboist Robert Orr made the short trip from Auckland and Wellington.  To add to the full lineup, invited guests Chinese violist Wenhong Luo and Australian pianist (and accompaniest hero of the festival) Laurence Mattheson came from Sydney and Matheson respectively.

    Charm, colour and brilliance are on offer in this concert from the 2023 Martinborough Music Festival.  The programme opens with a trio for oboe, bassoon and piano by French neo-classicist Jean Françaix.  That’s followed by a work by New Zealand composer Salina Fisher for string trio, and then a charming work for oboe a strings by Mozart, and finally the dazzling Piano Quintet by Robert Schumann.

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023
    Photo: Pete Monk Photography

    Jean Françaix: Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano

    Oboist Robert Orr brings his signature lyrical sound heard frequently in his role as principal oboe of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.  He’s joined by principal bassoonist from the Sydney Symphony orchestra, Todd Gibson-Cornish, and Melbourne-based pianist, Laurence Matheson.

    Jean Françaix was perhaps destined to be a composer and pianist as the son of the director of the Le Mans Conservatoire.  He began composing at the age of six, and was of the many famous pupils of Nadia Boulanger.  This trio for oboe, bassoon and piano was composed late in his life in 1994 as a commission for the International Double Reed Society.

    This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023: Benjamin Baker (violin), Amanda Verner (viola), Matthias Balzat (cello), Salina Fisher (composer)

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023
    Photo: Pete Monk Photography

    Salina Fisher: Mata-au

    Here’s how Fisher describe’s the works inspiration:

    “Mata-Au, the Māori name of the Clutha River, means ‘surface current’. In Japanese, the homophonous phrase また逢う (mata-au) means ‘to meet again’. The water dances and swirls as it connects places and people. It flows and gushes with forward momentum and anticipation. In writing this piece I was also inspired by ‘spring’, both as the season of its premiere, and as a bubbling source of water.”

    Fisher was commissioned to composer the work for the inaugural 2021 At the World’s Edge Festival in Otago and has been performed in London, New York, Chicago, and now Martinborough by the festival’s Artistic Director Benjamin Baker.  Baker was joined by violist Amanda Verner and cellist Matthias Balzat in this performance.

    This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023: Robert Orr, oboist

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023
    Photo: Pete Monk Photography

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Oboe Quartet In F Major K370

    Oboist Robert Orr returns to the stage for this charming work by a newly freed Mozart.  In 1781 the young man had cut himself loose from his family and employer, the Archbishop of Salzburg.  Eventually he made his way to Vienna, but before that next stage in his life, he spent a few months in Munich and reconnected with a young virtuoso oboist from the renowned Mannheim Orchestra, and while there, Mozart composed this work for him.

    Robert Orr is joined by violinist Wilma Smith, violist Amanda Verner, and cellist Matthias Balzat for this performance.

    This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023

    Martinborough Music Festival 2023: Benjamin Baker, Donald Armstrong (vlns), Wenhong Luo (vla), Ashley Brown (cello), Laurence Matheson (pno)
    Photo: Pete Monk Photography

    Robert Schumann: Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44

    The final work in this programme is “splendid, full of vigor and freshness”, at least that’s how Clara Schumann described her husband’s inventive work for piano and string quartet.  In 1840, Robert Schumann married Clara von Meck and what followed were perhaps the happiest and most productive years of his life.  The following year he dedicated himself to composing only songs, and then in 1842 it was the famous ‘year of chamber music’.  Robert composed three string quartets, a piano quartet, and this piano quintet.  Two important shifts in music contributed to the success of this work: first, the string quartet had become the pre-eminent group for chamber music thanks to Beethoven, and second, technical developments in the piano took it out of the parlour into the concert hall.  Robert Schumann, now a masterful composer for piano and skill with string instruments freshly developed, brought both skill and personal happiness to bear.

    Clara had intended to give the premiere of the work in a private performance, but became ill and Felix Mendelssohn stepped in to perform the ‘fiendish’ piano part.  Clara did give the first public performance, and performed the work many times throughout her life.

    Violinist Benjamin Baker and Donald Armstrong, violist Wenhong Luo, cellist Ashley Brown and pianist Laurence Matheson took to the Martinborough Town Hall stage for this lively and ‘vigorous’ performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op 44.

    This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

    Recorded at the Martinborough Town Hall, 23 September, 2023

    Producer/engineer: David Houston



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    Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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