The opening weekend of the ten-day 2020 Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival of Fine Music demonstrated emphatically why this event has been such a huge success over its twenty-five years.
The quality of the performances and excellent programming have once again given patrons much to enjoy and to think about as comfortably familiar music sits alongside new and lesser-known works.
The first concert, a fine performance of JS Bach's "St. Mark's Passion", by Schola Cantorum of Melbourne and the Melbourne Baroque Orchestra, was enhanced by the intelligent realization of the missing parts and direction given by Garry Ekkel. With only the original text and various clues to the music available, scholars have been able to construct a variety of suitable performance scores.
Tenor Christopher Watson, in the demanding role of Evangelist, was superb, as were Sally-Anne Russell, Louisa Hunter-Bradley and Oliver Mann. The orchestra contained some of Australia's most experienced early music specialists, adding great depth to the performance.
The clarity of line and precision of touch were a joy to behold. Cassomenos displayed a confident sense of direction and purpose throughout.Cassomenas celebrates the 250th birthday of Beethoven with a performance of the Appassionata and late bagatelles
As a total contrast the recital at Carngham, given by violist Nicole Forsyth and organist James Forsyth, was a more intimate event, with a selection of smaller compositions. Each had its own particular charm, with the Incantation for Solo Viola (2003) of Natalie Williams a real standout.
At Mary's Mount, pianist Stefan Cassomenos presented the Opus 34, 126 and 57 in his all-Beethoven programme, in a spectacular performance of fireworks and expressive subtlety. The clarity of line and precision of touch were a joy to behold. Cassomenos displayed a confident sense of direction and purpose throughout, with a strong awareness of the architecture of the "Appassionata".
Genevieve Lacey(recorder) and Marshall McGuire(harp) created an ethereal sound world in the Loreto Chapel with music spanning six centuries.
The virtuoso skills and empathetic ensemble playing were evident throughout. Lacey's quality of tone gave full meaning to John Rodgers' "GreyThrush/Little Jackie Winter" while the baroque dance character of Scarlatti and Playford shone through. Gottfried Finger's "Division Upon a Ground" was the perfect, dramatic finale.
The festival continues until Sunday the 19th of January, with up to three concerts a day, including organ recitals, chamber music, vocal concerts and Irish folk music and dancing.