Sadly just a memory now, Hobart Baroque festival left an indelible mark on Australia’s festival landscape. It proved that Baroque and early music can make it into a mainstream arts event. It marked the maturity of the early music movement in this country, along with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, which has also brought out a succession of international stars including Andrew Manze, Philippe Jaroussky and Christina Pluhar.
Last year Hobart Baroque shifted north to become Brisbane Baroque, winning equal acclaim and scooping up five Helpmann Awards for its production by the Göttingen International Handel Festival of Handel’s Faramondo. No doubt its success gave Australia’s own opera companies cause to ponder, and Brisbane Baroque is hoping to repeat its success with another Göttingen production, this time with Handel’s Agrippina. Its 2016 program also includes the powerful US mezzo soprano Vivica Genaux in concert with Camerata of St John’s, and a recital by the much vaunted Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, who signed to Deutsche Grammophon two years ago. Brisbane Baroque runs until 16 April – program details here.
Hot on its heels is the Canberra International Music Festival, which under the artistic direction of Roland Peelman has an early music flavour too. Spanish group Forma Antiqva, comprising the brothers Aarón, Pablo and Daniel Zapico, will perform Baroque Fandango music from the Iberian Peninsula. They also combine with The Song Company in a rarely heard vocal entertainment piece from the sixteenth century, Flecha’s El Fuego (Fire). Another attraction this year is an intriguing ‘Scarlatti Meets Handel Meets Bach’ concert with performers Neal Peres Da Costa, José María Gallardo del Rey, James Crabb and Joseph Tawadros. The Canberra International Music Festival runs 28 April – 8 May – its website is here.