Summer Festival of Fine Music – Beethoven

festival of fine music 2023Adelaide Hills Chamber Players. Hopgood Theatre. 21 Jan 2023

Adelaide Hills Chamber Players concerts have not previously been reviewed on this site, and this article will correct that omission!

The object of the Adelaide Hills Chamber Players is “to make high quality classical musical experience an easy convenience for Hills dwellers”, and their current “2023 Adelaide Hills Summer Festival of Fine Music” moves that experience down onto the Plains making their fine music making more widely accessible.

Tonight’s concert features William Hennessy AM directing the Hendrickson Strings from the Leader’s Desk in a program including Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4 with Lucinda Collins as soloist. The concert was held on the stage (!) of the Hopgood Theatre in Noarlunga with the appreciative audience siting in an arc around the ensemble. It was intimate.

The theme of the Festival is Romanticism and the Moderns, and in addition to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 (composed 1805-06), the program also featured Sibelius’ Romance in C, Op.42 (composed 1903-04), and Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No.1 (composed 1925). The program traverses a range of musical styles and are a testament to inventiveness in composition.

Musical Director William Hennessy AM commented in his introductory remarks that of all the music that has ever been written over the centuries, very little of it endures in our concert halls, and that which does only does so because it “continues to speak to us”. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 is a high point of the piano repertoire, and it spoke to us of the virtue of communication. The composition is a beautiful and unremitting conversation between the various instrumental voices in the ensemble and the piano. The orchestra usually comprises stings, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, and timpani, but tonight’s performance was an arrangement for string ensemble and piano. With reduced instrumental voicing, there is a risk that the composition will lose some of its soul, but that was not the case in this performance. All the drama remained, and Lucinda Collins played the piano with superb articulation and a well thought out plan for the dynamics. Hennessy stood directly behind her shoulder and their communication was palpable.

Sibelius’ Romance in C is a little gem, and it was written at a difficult time in his life when he was fighting alcohol addiction which was greatly impacting his and his family’s welfare. The work comes in at around five minutes and it seemingly dilates time. It is redolent with conflicting emotions through its three sections, from serenity and peace through to exquisite pain and tension and ultimately resolution. One can easily lose oneself in it. The playing was a joy, especially from the cellos and violas.

The concerto gross is a form that was developed throughout the Baroque period, and it features musical material that is carefully passed around the orchestra from section to section: every instrument gets its moment to speak. Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No.1 is an example of that, although it was not without criticism when it was premièred. The composition has four sections, all different in colour and impact. The ensemble was perhaps not large enough to fully drive home the impact of the dramatic chordal opening of the prelude, but the proximity of the players to the audience allowed us to glimpse the visceral strength with which they played. Hennessy was truly animated, and his energy was contagious. The dirge second movement was contemplative and gave way to a section of dances that seem to be influenced by Aaron Copland Rodeo-esque themes. The violins paired superbly with the piano (played by Simón Pasoz Quintana). The concerto concludes with an allegro fugue in which the outer strings are prominent.
This was a most enjoyable concert, and if you have not done so already, you should add the Adelaide Hills Chamber Players to your listening program when they next perform.

Kym Clayton


When: The Festival concludes 23 January 2023.
Details of other concerts are available at