The 5th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition

I’ve been listening this on the radio for a little while, so I thought it would be good to go along. So over the last weekend, I attended some of the aforementioned Chamber Music Competition. It was good. It was won by the Atos Trio and the Badke Quartet, which I was thrilled about and not just because of a very fine 1st Violin (a Stradivarius, on loan from the Royal Academy of Music).

I had been listening to the competition on ABC classic FM but it hadn’t occurred to me to actually go along until my friend Andrew Wee emailed me with the idea. Being a fan of string quartets, I decided that the Friday afternoon session would be a good one to attend. We arrived at the town hall with 20 minutes to spare and purchased our student rush tickets for the very reasonable amount of $10. Then we realised that we hadn’t eaten, so rushed off to have a very quick lunch.

The South Melbourne town hall doesn’t have the best acoustics in the world, but it isn’t a bad venue. The ABC were doing a live broadcast from the venue which included a chance for the audience to have a chat, which is why everyone is crowding around this corner of the hall.

A pleasant side effect of this being a competition is that all the performers are very young. Indeed the rules state that the average age of the group must not exceed thirty years. As an interesting counterpoint to all that, the average age of the audience was at least twice this. This is one of the quartet’s we saw, the Badke quartet. After recovering from the initial distraction of an extremely attractive first violin (it is difficult to tell from here, but its a Stradivarius), we came to the realisation that they were actually very good musicians. This inspired us to purchase tickets to the finals which would be on Sunday at Hamer Hall, venue of the 2004 Stand up for your Rights comedy night.

The next day, I roamed around the city to attend the numerous free concerts which were to be held at various venues throughout the Melbourne CBD. These concerts were a great deal of fun because the audience was far more varied in terms of age and general demographic. I think the big sandwich boards advertising free chamber music outside the various halls probably attracted many people who wouldn’t have otherwise known about the competition.

The atmosphere was also more relaxed because, with the official rounds of the competittion over, the players could relax a little. None of the finalists were playing today (they were probably frantically rehearsing).

The two venues were old churches which, although not boasting concert-hall acoustics, were very pleasant venues to sit in… despite the very loud and creaky seats.

Armed with my ticket to the finals, I set off for Southbank on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Well, the sun was actually just setting when I set out, but it had been quite a sunny Sunday.

Hamer Hall is located along the shores of the Yarra river, along the south bank in fact… in an area (not surprisingly) known as Southbank.

I dined at a quaint little Italian job called “Scusami” which, I think, means “excuse me” in Italian. I ate more than what is pictured above…

Having previously been a hirer of Hamer Hall, I know all the venue regulations back to front. One of them is that photographs are not permitted without express permission of the Arts Centre Trust, which manages the venue. I did not have express permission, but I did have a stealthy skill at taking photographs with my rather chunky Canon DSLR.

The flowers on stage right are supposed to balance out the lectern on stage left… I think someone overestimated the size of the lectern.

At the conclusion of the perfomances, which were very pleasing to the ear, there was a long wait while the jurors, led by Julian Burnside, Q.C. deliberated on their decision. In the end, the Atos Trio won the piano trios division and the Badke Quartet won the string quartet division.

After the whole schmozzle, we bumped into Ajay who seems to know everybody in the music fraternity, at least in Melbourne, and he happened to know one of the organisers and was able to direct us to the location of the afterparty (after we grabbed some nibbles, of course)

The afterparty was held at a lovely venue in the middle of the city (convenient for people like me, who live in the city) and we got to hang about and mingle with musicians.

As the night wore on, things got blurry and we got tired… so I went home. I couldn’t believe that these guys could just keep on partying, I mean, I didn’t even have to play any music and I was really tired.

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