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16th of July 2018


Chamber mania as musicians face off

Mosa Trio perform at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition.

Mosa Trio perform at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition.

Photo: Mike Keating

MUSICMelbourne International Chamber Music CompetitionAustralian National Academy of Music, South Melbourne Town Hall, July 1-8

Now operating under Musica Viva auspices, this four-yearly competition offers a plethora of prizes to piano trios and string quartets. Eight of each compete in a series of performances which ends next Sunday in two grand final recitals at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

The exercise results in several prizes (overall winner, gold/silver/bronze in each division, audience prize, best performance of Australian works composed for the competition) and, often enough, the jury gets the main one right. What distinguishes this exercise is the obvious pleasure it gives to contestants and chamber music enthusiasts.

On Sunday morning the first group up, the Mosa Trio, performed an immaculate reading of Haydn in E Major No. 28 followed with a fetching spiky/lyrical contemporary Dutch work, and wound up with the Shostakovich No. 2 in E minor warhorse, here revealing a wealth of nuances that escape nearly all other interpreters. This is an ensemble of high promise that should finish near the top in the final rankings.

I’ve heard only about half the participants at the end of Round 1, but few have shown consistency in standard across their programs. Thomas Ades’ The Four Quarters enjoyed a persuasive exposition from the Idomeneo Quartet, but their Janacek Kreutzer Sonata was scrappy. Beethoven’s G Major Op. 1 revealed a fine pianist in the Merz Trio’s Eric Dionne but his colleagues sounded under-powered. A risky Mozart from the Baum Quartet raised no eyebrows or interest, but the following Szymanowski No. 2 was a finely shaped interpretation.

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