October 2012

Arts & Letters

The Best of Australian Concert Music 2012

By Peter McCallum

Even leaving aside the riches of visitors from foreign lands, it has been a strong 12 months for concert music in Australia.

The Sydney Symphony brought to completion its two-year Mahler cycle last November with the Second Symphony, a work with which it has a special relationship. When they gave the first Australian performance in 1950, the conductor was Otto Klemperer, who had learnt the work as Mahler’s assistant.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra has been working its way through all the Beethoven symphonies, using gut strings and period wind instruments. Its final instalment, a performance of the Ninth Symphony in August with a visiting choir from Clare College, Cambridge, was meticulous and thrilling, although the period brass instruments were unreliable in the important horn solos that articulate key structural moments in the third movement. Their performance of the Sixth Symphony last November was equally fresh and a highlight of the cycle.

For its enduring contribution to our national concert music, however, the work of the year must be the first Australian performance of Brett Dean’s violin concerto, The Lost Art of Letter Writing, by the Sydney Symphony under Jonathan Nott, with violinist Frank Peter Zimmerman. The four letters that form the basis for its musical rumination are by Johannes Brahms, Vincent van Gogh, Hugo Wolf and Ned Kelly. The Kelly letter from Jerilderie seems, initially, outside the prevailing theme of artists’ inner narratives, but serves well the progression of mood and musical tone from idealised tenderness, to isolation, delicate fantasy and disquieting menace.

Peter McCallum
Peter McCallum is the Sydney Morning Herald’s classical music critic and is Chair of the Academic Board at the University of Sydney.

Composer Brett Dean © Pawel Kopczynski
Cover: October 2012

October 2012

From the front page

Failure to launch

The Berejiklian spill has been cancelled, but coup attempts are unlikely to stop anytime soon

Image of ‘Sachiko’ my Miwa Yanagi

‘Here We Are’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

An opportunity for rethinking the position of women in contemporary art

Illustration

The Newcastle trial of Graeme Lawrence

The second most senior churchman in Australia to be found guilty of child sexual abuse

Image of Member for Chisholm Gladys Liu and Prime Minister Scott Morrison

How good is Gladys Liu?

Scott Morrison ducks and weaves questions about the embattled MP


In This Issue

'Lore' by Cate Shortland (director)

'Silent House', Orhan Pamuk, Hamish Hamilton; $29.99

'Silent House' by Orhan Pamuk

'Questions of Travel', Michelle de Kretser,
Allen and Unwin; $39.99

'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser

'Montebello', Robert Drewe, Hamish Hamilton; $29.99

'Montebello' by Robert Drewe


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Our largest sexual organ: Amee Baird’s ‘Sex in the Brain’

We know surprisingly little about how our brains orchestrate our sex lives

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Losing yourself

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Tasmanian torments: Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Nightingale’

The Babadook director talks about the necessity of violence in her colonial drama

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More in The Best of Australian Art 2012

The Best of Australian Arts 2012

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The Best of Australian Literature 2012

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The Best of Australian Film 2012

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The Best of Australian Design 2012


Read on

Image of ‘Sachiko’ my Miwa Yanagi

‘Here We Are’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

An opportunity for rethinking the position of women in contemporary art

Image of Member for Chisholm Gladys Liu and Prime Minister Scott Morrison

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Venice International Film Festival 2019

Théo Court’s masterful ‘Blanco en Blanco’ is a bright point in a largely lacklustre line-up

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Girls, interrupted: Sophie Hyde’s ‘Animals’

This untamed depiction of female friendship moves beyond basic binaries of freedom and control


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