Now in its eighth year, the Live at Lunch series held at The Concourse, Chatswood is one of the most successful concert series in Australia. With internationally renowned flautist Jane Rutter as the Artistic Director, a position she has held for all of its eight seasons, the 2020 series will bring together renowned Australian musicians. In a diverse range of music from Beethoven’s Serenade in D major to a special Welcome to country, the seven concert series will have its first performance in April and continue until the final concert in November.
Born and educated in Sydney, Rutter needs no introduction to Australian audiences. With her repertoire encompassing classical, jazz and pop music, and her skills extending to world music, theatre and film, she performs regularly in Australia and overseas as a soloist and with leading orchestras as well as at international flute conventions.
In her non-performance work, Rutter is an improviser and composer (mainly for the flute), gives masterclasses, and has taught flute and chamber music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She founded The Music Scheme that assists young professional musicians, has worked as a television presenter, and initiated the chamber jazz group, POSH, which has now re-formed as Third Culture World Chamber Music.
As a leader in the French Flute School, a movement that focuses on the sound, technique and elegance of expression in the flute, Rutter has a particular affinity with France. She won a scholarship to study there, subsequently spent part of her adult life in France, and in 2016 was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She has received an Australian Elizabethan Trust award for her research on the French flute and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Music.
When asked what is her favourite music, Rutter replies that it is whichever piece she is performing at the moment. She has a discography extending to 24 albums, and says that all of her performances represent her favourite pieces and composers. In looking at music in a broader sense she states: “There are only two kinds of music, good and bad. It’s actually about the way you play, your emotional and intellectual commitment to the music.”
Rutter has a particular affinity with Bach as well as with French music, and she explains what music means to her. “Music fulfils a kind of ‘divine homesickness’ that we humans all experience. If a piece of music creates joy, opens emotional portals, makes one feel, takes one to a place of reconciliation, then it’s my favourite piece. The composer becomes your friend; you understand his or her personality in the way you would that of a friend. There’s a reciprocity: the composer gives to you, and you give back with your emotions and skills. The beneficiaries are the audience and the players.”
As well as taking on the role of Artistic Director for the Live at Lunch series, Rutter will be performing in the concerts. Her approach to music and her communication with her audience is paramount, and the late Richard Gill illustrated this in describing her playing: “Ms Rutter is very much a musician for the common man; this is not to say that she plays down to people but she makes her music accessible to all. In her work she is inclusive of everyone and values all listeners. Her advocacy for music and the flute is exemplary and her initiative is equally so.”
When asked what the highlights will be for 2020 Live at Lunch series, Rutter says ‘every concert will be a highlight!’. Featuring the pianist Gerard Willems, the first concert begins with a tribute to Beethoven celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth, with Willems performing movements from two of Beethoven’s most popular sonatas, the Moonlight and the Appassionata (Sonata no 14 in C sharp minor, op 27 no 2 and Sonata no 23 in F minor, op 57). Rutter will join Willems on stage with some French preludes, recalling their position as the first classical musicians in Australia to enter the ‘pop’ charts. Willems was also the first Australian pianist to record all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.
A later concert in the program series again pays tribute to Beethoven, with the Acacia String Quartet performing the last major work that he composed, String quartet no 16 in F major, op 135, as well as a new arrangement of Ode to joy. Rutter joins members of the Sydney-based quartet in a performance of Beethoven’s Serenade in D major, op 25 for flute, violin and viola. Written around the year 1800, the Serenade has been described as ‘a delightful late offshoot of the 18th century divertimento tradition’.
Another highlight in the series will see multicultural world music performed by chamber group Third Culture World Chamber Music (Australia’s version of the Silk Road Ensemble) who will also be playing with Aboriginal Elder and didjeridu player Kevin ‘Gavi’ Duncan in a special Welcome to country. In the third concert of the series, Italian songs and dances will take centre stage. Complementing their new Italian classical music album, Cantabile! Cantare e Ballare! Italian Songs & Dances for Flute and Guitar, Rutter and guitarist Giuseppe Zangari will perform music by composers including Paganini, Vivaldi and Martini.
An all-Brazilian program will present a different kind of music with Australian guitarist Karen Schaupp and Brazilian guitarist and composer Chrystian Dozza performing works from their new album. Including popular pieces as well as new works written especially for them by Brazilian composers, they will be performing both solo and as a duo. Rutter will also be collaborating with them on stage for the first time.
In a further concert, Rutter will be reuniting with soprano and cellist Taryn Fiebig, who sometimes accompanies her own singing on stage with her cello, and pianist Scott Davie. A specialist in the music of Rachmaninov, Davie gave the Australian premiere performances of the original version of Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto. In this concert Fiebig will play the cello in works by Handel and Purcell and sing arias from the ‘Fave 4’: Don Giovanni, The marriage of Figaro, The magic flute and Così fan tutte.
Louise Johnson joins Rutter on stage. Former Principal Harp with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Johnson has performed with major Australian symphonies and theatre orchestras including the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Australia Ensemble. Johnson and Rutter will perform works by Bizet, Saint- Saëns, Ross Edwards, Anne Boyd and Elena Kats-Chernin, as well as Debussy’s L’après-midi d’un faune.
In developing the programs for each series, Rutter works with the idea of a ‘concept concert’ and says that ‘the title, the feel, the lighting, the visual, and the music, must all come together as one’. She has several techniques that inform her choices for a program, with some ideas beginning to develop a couple of years in advance of the concert. She adds that the creative process for developing a program is ‘part intellect, part emotional, part instinct’, and aims for each concert to have a ‘buzz’ about it, seeking to engage the musicians as well as the audience.
In looking at the series as a whole, Rutter creates a balance between appreciating current musical trends and employing an instinct for the traditional. She likes to include fine music across different genres, from chamber music and instrumental and operatic recitals to world music and jazz, often with exclusive and one-off performances. She says: “I like the audience to travel on an engaging musical journey with us, and that they should be privy to as much insight, musical and other, as possible. Drawing on many ideas and influences, my ultimate formula in devising the series is to connect people via the emotions, the senses, the spirit and the intellect.”
There will a change behind the scenes of the Live at Lunch series this year, with Australian opera conductor and pianist Richard Bonynge being welcomed as the new Patron. As ‘a major force in the operatic world for more than half a century’, Bonynge will bring his expertise and experience to the role. He debuted as an opera conductor in 1963, having earlier worked as a singing coach, and has continued conducting and recording primarily opera and ballet music ever since, informed by an early interest and later research in the late 18th and early 19th century bel canto repertoire.
Having established a world-renowned musical partnership with his wife and coloratura soprano, Joan Sutherland, Bonynge conducted almost all of her operatic performances from 1962 until her retirement in 1990. Bonynge was named Companion of the Order of Australia in 2012.
In speaking of his role as Patron, Bonynge says: “With Jane Rutter as its Artistic Director, the series provides the North Shore and Sydney audiences with an inspiring combination of social inclusion, entertainment and fine music. As the series enters its eighth successful year, I look forward to watching Live at Lunch flourish even further.” Jane Rutter is also very happy that Bonynge is coming on board as Patron of the series and sees an additional affinity with both of them having a strong appreciation of the importance of the vocal line in music.
Rutter appreciates the inclusive aspect of the Live at Lunch concerts that encompasses more than just the music, although that is, of course, its main reason for being. “Inclusion is also a reason that, from its inception, we have offered audience members the opportunity to dine with the musicians after the performance. It’s a rewarding experience after a concert to connect with those who have been on the musical journey with us. The goodwill is palpable; it’s life-validating, and makes me, indeed everyone, so happy!”