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Master of Eclectic Enthusiasms

Fest 08: Steven Isserlis-_Frenchconnection

Date 01 November 2007

Media release

Master of Eclectic Enthusiasms

An exploration of French music, presenting some of Steven Isserlis’ favourite composers, this French Connection concert showcases the 2007 Gramophone Award-winning cellist’s eclectic enthusiasms.

Well known for unearthing lost works and rediscovering forgotten composers, Isserlis has constructed a diverse programme that highlights the breadth of his musical knowledge. Featuring music by Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Poulenc and Fauré, he will be accompanied by friend and collaborator Melvyn Tan on piano and Wilma Smith, co-concert master of the Melbourne Symphony, on violin.

Isserlis calls Debussy’s Cello Sonata a classic, “this sonata is really the start of contemporary writing for the cello (although paradoxically inspired by French baroque music)”. There will also be a performance of Saint-Saëns touching mini tone-poem La Muse et le Poète which will be married with the charm and wit of the Poulenc’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, which, admits Isserlis “is extremely difficult for the cello!”

Fauré’s Piano Quartet No 2 in G minor is one of the glories of chamber music, an ecstatic mix of austere purity and luxurious beauty. Isserlis names Fauré as one of his favourite composers, such is his regard for Fauré, he has even named his son Gabriel after him.

"Fauré is well-known for a few works - but there's much more to him than those works! For me, he is one of the all-time great composers; his music has an ecstatic radiance to it that I find incredibly moving and uplifting. I think that he was a genius, whose time is still to come."

Having established an international reputation for his performances on the fortepiano, Melvyn Tan returned to the modern piano in 1995. Born in Singapore and now residing in the UK, Melvyn began his studies at the Yehudi Menuhin School, where his teachers included Nadia Boulanger and Marcel Ciampi before going on to study at London’s Royal College of Music where he studied with Angus Morrison. His groundbreaking recordings and performances with high profile musicians have heralded rave reviews all over the world.

New Zealand audiences need little introduction to violinist Wilma Smith. She was concertmaster of the NZSO for 10 years before farewelling New Zealand in 2003 when she took up her current position as co-concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Admired for her tenacity and instinctive musicianship, Smith is now enjoying her various forays into the Australian chamber-music scene.

New Yorker Carolyn Henbest studied with Robert Masters and David Takeno at the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Guildhall School of Music. After graduating, she played in the Mistry String Quartet. Since arriving in Australia in 1993, she has performed widely as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral principal, and is much in demand as a teacher. Based in Melbourne, she performs with the Melbourne Symphony, the Australian Chamber and the Sydney Symphony orchestras and teaches violin, viola and chamber music at the Australian National Academy of Music and the Melbourne Conservatorium. For the last two years she has directed the Bertha Jorgensen Chamber Orchestra at the University of Melbourne. During her eight years as Principal Viola with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Caroline was frequently heard as soloist in the ACO’s national subscription series and on the orchestra’s international tours and has also performed as soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, where she was Principal Viola during 1998 and 1999. During 2004 Caroline undertook a nationwide tour with the Australian String Quartet and, in 2005, performed Mozart’s sinfonia concertante with William Hennessy and Australian Pro Arte.

This concert will be performed at the St Mary of the Angels on 12 March at 7.30pm

French Connection

Debussy Cello Sonata
Saint-Saëns La Muse et le Poète Op 132
Poulenc Sonata for Cello and Piano Op 143
Fauré Piano Quartet No 2 in G minor Op 45

Cello Steven Isserlis
Violin Wilma Smith
Viola Caroline Henbest
Piano Melvyn Tan


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