15 August 2013
BIFEM in Bendigo
In mid-September 2013, Australia's newest new music event, the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (BIFEM), will present its first edition in the heart of central Victoria. BIFEM will feature music from 15 different countries, performed across three recitals, eight concerts, two talks, a lecture, a workshop and a vernissage. Of these 16 elements, five are free and nine are about the price of a cinema ticket. Free and low cost access is a core tenet of BIFEM.
The festival launches 'Argonaut': an ensemble created exclusively for the festival, featuring some of Australia's finest specialist musicians, conducted in his Australian debut by sensational young French conductor Maxime Pascal. Sydney's Ensemble Offspring will bring a mini-portrait concert of works by its two founding composers, Damien Ricketson and Matthew Shlomowitz, an Australian performed less here since his relocation to London. Melbourne violinist Elizabeth Welsh presents her performance debut of Sciarrino's seminal solo violin work Sei Capricci in a recital that also gives the world premiere of two new works for baroque violin by Melbourne composers Alexander Garsden and Jeannette Little. Both Garsden and Little are important new voices in Australian music, with Jeanette's work presented in the MSO Metropolis series 2013 under the baton of Thomas Adès, and Alex the winner of a 2013 APRA Professional Development Award.
In a major artistic coup, BIFEM will host the Australasian premiere of the epic, six-and-a-half-hour second string quartet by US composer Morton Feldman in a Bendigo exclusive performance by New York's Flux Quartet, the lauded interpreters of this rarely performed masterpiece. This will be a free event where audience members can come and go as they like, or settle in for a once-in-a-lifetime musical journey.
Soprano Jessica Aszodi returns for a rare Australian performance, with another durational Feldman work, Three Voices. Another ex-pat, clarinettist Samuel Dunscombe, also returns from the US for a rare solo recital. Melbourne's Six Degrees, with guest Melissa Doecke, present the Australian premiere of Austrian composer Klaus Lang's hour-long einfalt.stille. And the Paris-based Italian flautist Matteo Cesari performs in the Bendigo Art Gallery, for the first time in Australia, a solo recital of works by Holliger, Yuasa, Dufourt and the recently deceased great Portugese composer Emmanuel Nunes.
BIFEM joins Bendigo to a global network, bringing specialist cultural tourism to the region and giving locals something they won't get anywhere else in Australia. More importantly, it brings a program of about 80% Australian premieres, with a bulk of composers never before performed in Australia. BIFEM boasts the Australian debut of works by composers Daniel D'Adamo, Lara Morciano, Mauricio Pauly, Raffaele Grimaldi, Fernando Garnero, Sergio Luque, and possibly even Pierluigi Billone (as far as I have been able to determine), helping audiences see that there is a whole lot more quality and innovation happening in new music outside of the Anglo-sphere.
Some of the most iconic new music festivals around the world don't actually happen in major capital cities. As BIFEM's founder and artistic director, I'm genuinely pleased by the level of support this event has attracted at local, state and national levels of government, through business, and through philanthropic foundations and private donors. It is a festival programmed with a spirit of independence. Bendigo has smart audiences - they have an appetite for new and challenging work. The consistent success of cultural events at the Bendigo Art Gallery, the Capital and the La Trobe Visual Arts Centre shows that the people of Bendigo are hungry and inquiring for new things to see and hear.
I invite anyone interested in new music in this country to make the pilgrimage to Bendigo in September - your attendance at this festival is the surest way to ensure this event has a long and healthy future.
Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (bifem.com.au)
© Australian Music Centre (2013) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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