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Photo highlights from 2018 BAMF

by Peter Hislop, Canberra

2018 BAMF Overview by Elizabeth Dalton

The Bowral Autumn Music Festival goes from strength to strength. Now in its 12th year, the 2018 Festival was again a great success with a program that featured both vocal and instrumental works and a wonderful line-up of artists in a total of eight concerts over three days from 23-25 March.


Concert I – “The Lark and the Rose” – featured soprano, Ayşe Göknur Shanal with Verna Lee on harp, performing works from the song traditions of France, Turkey, Russia, Argentina and Spain. The vivacious presentation by Ayşe brought to life a delightful range of love songs and traditional folk tunes. The program displayed both the beauty of her voice and her exceptional linguistic skills, with Verna’s sensitive harp accompaniments adding to the artistry. In the Impromptu for solo harp by Gabriel Fauré, Verna performed with all the virtuosic technique that the work requires. She later switched to the smaller Welsh harp for a selection of pieces from Luz y norte, an early work from the 17th century by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz. 


The audience was invited to a welcome reception in the foyer with a champagne toast to launch the Festival. Then followed the second concert – “Young Recitalist I” – with a recital by 15-year old, Makito Mizushima on the St Jude’s organ. The program included works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Hindemith, Liszt and Saint-Saëns. This selection of some of the most challenging works in the repertoire was well executed by the young Makito and showcased his considerable talent and musicianship.


Concert III on Friday night – “Return of the Light” – featured the Acacia Quartet. The program opened with Tenebrae by the Argentine composer, Osvaldo Golijov.  A darkly ethereal work, this string quartet is described by the composer as “music full of pain” and the performance by Acacia effectively captured its haunting atmosphere. A world premiere performance of Gordon Kerry’s String Quartet no. 5 followed.  This work has particular significance as it was commissioned for Acacia Quartet and it was fitting that the composer was in the audience to receive acclamation as one of Australia’s own. After interval we heard Dvořák’s well-loved ‘American’ quartet, played with both warmth and exuberance. Generously our quartet-in-residence then gave an encore, playing Harbour Light by Australian composer, Nick Wales to conclude this program built around the notion of light in all its variants from shadows and luminous radiance to vivid brightness.


Concert IV – “Organ Splendour” – commenced proceedings for the second day of the Festival. This year the featured artist was Brett McKern, Organist and Director of Music at St John’s Church, Gordon. He played a number of works, including repertoire standards by Johann Sebastian Bach, Mendelssohn, Boyvin, Thalben-Ball, Mozart and Dubois as well as some of his own compositions, which showed his talent as composer as much as performer.


Concert V – “Young Recitalists II” – was held at the Mittagong Playhouse and featured two young people of outstanding talent. Lily Dai on cello and Leanne Jin on piano performed a program of solo and duo works which included the Beethoven’s  Mozart Variations for Cello and Piano on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” , Suite for Solo Cello by Gaspar Cassadó, a selection of the Anne Landa Preludes by Carl Vine and the Prokofiev Sonata for Cello and Piano. Both young recitalists played with exceptional musicality and maturity beyond their years.


Concert VI – “The Arrow of Song” – was a wonderful performance by The Song Company of their own program that traces the history of ‘a cappella’ singing in a diverse range of pieces showing the development of unaccompanied vocal music from the 10th century through to the present day. The Bowral Public School Choir made a special guest appearance in the first half, joining The Song Company in a celebrated canon by William Byrd. Then in the last item of the program they returned to sing Precious Colours  from Pallah Pallah Suite by young Australian composer, Alice Chance with the five members of The Song Company. This was an inspired and moving performance much appreciated by a full house.


Concert VII – “Nocturne and Lament” – saw the return of much-loved performers from past Festivals with Charmian Gadd, (violin), Phillip Shovk, (piano) and Robert Johnson, (horn).  The program included Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in E flat Major, Op. 12, No. 3, Tchaikovsky’s Méditation and Mélodie, Nocturne II for horn and piano by our own Highlands composer, May Howlett, the Mozart Concert Rondo for Horn, thought to be a precursor to his famous horn concertos, and to conclude the Brahms’ Horn Trio, a true jewel in the crown for this ensemble.


The Festival Service on Sunday morning included Haydn’s “The Heavens are Telling” from The Creation and his Little Organ Mass. Allan Beavis led the Festival Chorale with soloists, Melinda Richardson (soprano), Katie Rowley (soprano), David Allen (tenor), Christopher Harris (baritone), Danielle Koek (violin), Maria Dunn (violin), Catherine Barnett (cello) Elizabeth Dalton (viola), Roma Dix (flute), Michellé Biasutti (oboe) and Kim Stewart (organ and continuo).


Concert VII – “Italian Serenade” – concluded the Festival on Sunday afternoon with Acacia Quartet performing Hugo Wolf’s delightful miniature, Italian Serenade, followed by I Crisantemi, an intensely emotional and rare instrumental work by Puccini, best known for his operatic repertoire. From the 19th century we then moved to a work composed especially for Acacia Quartet by contemporary Australian composer, John Peterson, his String Quartet no. 3. This lively and textural composition was performed with energy and passion. The final item was Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor played with the sense of style we have come to know well from our artists-in-residence.


A significant feature of the Festival is the inclusion of some organ pieces, performed by Allan Beavis as a prelude to each concert.  This year he concentrated on single movements from the organ sonatas of Alexandre Guilmant. 


The success of the 2018 Festival can be attributed to the vision, passion and hard work of Festival Director, Allan Beavis, Artistic Director, Myee Clohessy, and Festival Administrator Siobhan Barrett-Lennard. With wonderful organisation and inspired programming they have brought together a series of concerts that make the Bowral Autumn Music Festival a standout event on the Highlands’ arts calendar.

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