International artists arrive for Melbourne Chamber Festival

Artists from leading international orchestras will gather at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music over the next seven days to present performances and master classes, showcasing the breadth and power of chamber music for the fifth Mimir Chamber Music Festival.

From the stunning Melba Hall stage, audiences will be treated to performances from artists at the top of their field.

Performances include leading Australian concert pianist and chamber musician Kristian Chong, Houston Symphony Orchestra’s Associate Principal Viola Joan DerHovsepian, Nashville Symphony Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki, esteemed pianist and composer Benjamin Martin, Melbourne University’s Associate Professor of Double Bass Rob Nairn, Cleveland Orchestra’s Principal Second Violin Stephen Rose, Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Brant Taylor and Mimir Chamber Music Festival Founder and Executive Director Curt Thompson.

Melbourne Conservatorium Associate Professor of Violin and Head of Strings Dr Curt Thompson founded the first iteration of the Mimir Festival - named for the Norse god of wisdom - in Texas in 1998. The festival was first held in Melbourne in 2012.

Dr Thompson said presenting exceptional chamber music is at the cornerstone of the festival and has driven the success of the Mimir Festival for the past 20 years in Texas and the past years five in Melbourne.

“I like to say that chamber music is ‘classical’ music’s equivalent to jazz,” Dr Thompson said.

“While the notes are prescribed in the score, the inflection, nuance, pace and swells can be quite improvised. If one player curves a line in a particular way, for example, the next player has to immediately react, carrying on the conversation, so to speak, as we go.

“It’s one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences one can have in music … I think the theatrical aspect of chamber music, as if it were an on-stage musical discussion at the dinner table, translates to our audience.”

Equally important to the Mimir Festival is mentoring and education.

Across the week, students from the Melbourne Conservatorium and surrounding institutions (tertiary and secondary) are invited to participate in open master classes with the featured international performers, offering them a significant opportunity to be heard and taught by leading orchestral professionals.

Dr Thompson said mentorship is an integral part of the week.

“The process of training to become a professional musician includes hours upon hours of work with teachers, in the practice room and in ensembles,” Dr Thompson said.

“Mimir offers a unique experience in which, in a quartet setting, MCM students and others from around the city are engaged in intensive instruction that opens their ears and minds to the possibilities in this genre.”