2012

Day 21: Hello Sydney!

Well, we made it back home to Australia! After an 11 hour, very turbulent flight, we landed at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport this morning, right on time. I slept for almost the entire flight, but Ben and Marty didn't, because of the turbulence. Anyway, we landed safely, and all of our suitcases arrived intact, with nothing split on them! Phew!

It was such a relief to be back in Australia! Everyone is SO nice here! We flew from Shanghai to Sydney with Qantas and all of the air hostesses were Australian - they were all joking, light-hearted and friendly. Then when we landed and had to go through Customs, the officials there were joking too, with broad Aussie accents. After living away for a while, you really notice the difference in attitude here. It's SO nice to be home again!

We were met by our parents at the airport, where we all headed home for a much-awaited catch-up! Ben and I are in the Blue Mountains now, where the air smells sweet, like eucalyptus trees and native flowers. There are kookaburras laughing right outside my window!




Day 20: Last day in China!

Today is our last day in China! Our flight from Beijing to Shanghai was in the afternoon, which meant that we had the morning off to explore Beijing a bit.
Marty went to a trinketry market to buy some presents, and Emma and I went to the Forbidden City.

This city within the city was amazing! Although went did not have time to explore anything except the main parts, what we did see was moving. Every building within the Forbidden City has a name, such as "Temple of Supreme Harmony". The names are appropriate - the Forbidden City is a very harmonious and restful place.


Immediately after walking into the first main courtyard I could feel my mind relaxing; this place was a great antidote to the chaos, frantic activity and excitement that characterises most of what we saw in China.

The names of the temples were also great indicators of the ideals of the society of the China of the past: peace, tranquility, balance, harmony, mental cultivation, stability, love.


There were amazing bronze sculptures outside each of the the temples, and there was a story behind each sculpture - everything there had a meaning. .




After this all too short visit, we took a taxi to the famous Beijing Silk Markets. This was a building full of tiny shops with cheap but good quality items, selling fake Burberry, Max Mara, Tommy Hilfiger.

Every one of the hundreds of lined up stores had a sales person at the front trying vigorously to get your attention.
I was looking for some light jumpers. The by first place I went into had two of the best saleswomen I have ever met. I walked into the shop, quickly looked around, and left the shop to the tune of "can I help you". After walking off a bit further the same lady called out "you can have everything for 100yuan" (10bucks) I turned around and went back in, with both of us laughing about my greed. "So, everything is 100?". "We'll,  it depends what you pick", she said, laughing at her deception. She said something softly. I said "pardon" to which she replied " ahh, you are Australian. " "how did you know?" I said, impressed. "Australians say pardon." She said a sentence to her colleague in Chinese, in which I could make out the word "Australian". They both became jokey, friendly and charming instantly. I picked a jumper and she gave me a price.  When I complained about the price (something I had been told to do by our Chinese host) one of them said instantly "that is only 45 Australian dollars! That is really not very much for you!" I tried to haggle,  but could only knock down the price for two jumpers to about 32AUD (about twice the amount I should have paid), because they were so personable and I felt guilty.

After checking out of our hotel,  saying our goodbyes to our amazing host, Tina, flying from Beijing airport to Shanghai, we are now having our final Chinese lunch before hopping on our 10 hour flight to Sydney!! Woohoo!!!
What an amazing adventure this has been!!!

Day 19: Concert in Beijing

Today we left Nanning early, then jumped on a 3.5 hour flight to Beijing. Check out the smog-blanket covering covering Beijing - that isn't a cloud!


After a quick check-in, we went straight to the concert hall - a brand new building with excellent facilities.




The concert went well - we played to a full house of 500 people! Videos to come, once we get access to Youtube again.

We celebrated afterwards at a trendy restaurant in downtown Shanghai!



YUM!

Day 18: Concert in Nanning

Today we slept until quite late, because we were pretty tired after the late flight last night. After a yummy lunch at the Flowery Banquet Hall, we walked to the concert hall for the soundcheck for tonight's performance.

The traffic in the city was crazy! There were thousands of motorbikes all riding on the footpath - we nearly had a few head-ons!


We ended up making it safely to the venue, to find a giant billboard with our pictures on it!

The concert hall was built in 1950, which is very old by Chinese standards. I just learnt that all the buildings here have a lifetime of 70 years - they are "born" at a certain date, and no matter what happens, the government reclaims possession of them 70 years after that date. So when you buy real estate here, you are told what year the house was born, and therefore how many more years you will be in possession of it before it is reclaimed. If you buy a house that is 60 years old, in 10 years time you will have to give it back. Usually the building will be destroyed and a new one constructed. I guess it keeps the building industry healthy! Anyway, this concert theatre was like walking into a time-warp from 1950. Check out our dressing room!



Or should I say, our "Disguise Room"



Anyway, the concert went really well - there were over 800 people in the audience! They were appreciative, albeit noisy, but the hall had miked us up so that we would project over the constant murmer of voices, camera shutters, mobile phones, sniffs, yawns, etc. We played Haydn C major Trio, Elena Kats-Chernin Spirit and the Maiden, Schubert Nocturne, Ravel Trio, Piazzolla Spring, and the Finale movement of Beethoven trio Op. 1 No. 1 for the encore.

Afterwards, we were mobbed by hundreds of fans, wanting to buy CDs, have them signed, have their pictures taken with us, have their programs signed... We were happy to oblige - we felt like movie stars!

We finished up pretty late, so we ended up ordering room service back at our hotel. Marty and Ben ordered steak and chips, which was fine. I thought I'd be pretty safe ordering "Chicken with Scallions and Ginger"... And then this showed up:



Day 17: Sesame suitcases in Nanning

After a full day of rehearsals in Hefei, and some last minute shopping, we bid farewell to Hefei, our home for the past four days, and boarded the plane to Nanning, where we will perform tomorrow night.


Unfortunately, someone with a suitcase full of sesame oil also boarded our flight, and during the trip, the sesame oil managed to leak all over all of the other luggage on the plane, including our suitcases! Ben and I only had external oil-damage, but Martin had a complete sesame oil saturation - his suitcase was dripping with the stuff, as were as many of his clothes!

Thankfully our tour manager, Tina, managed to sort everything out when we arrived at Nanning airport - we were eventually compensated for the cleaning costs. It has made this tour so much easier, having Tina there to deal with situations like this - we wish we could take her on all of our tours! Anyway, the suitcases are now off being dry-cleaned!

Nanning is a warm city on the south-west coast of China. The city is built around a huge river, and when we arrived, late at night, the air was warm and balmy.


We are staying in a very nice hotel here - 5 stars! I really like the breakfast hall - "Flowery Banquet Hall"...

Day 16: Massages in Hefei

Today was a little bit more relaxed, with just rehearsals and practise for our upcoming concerts. All of us had some trouble waking up this morning after having had such relaxing massages the night before. Last night, after having walked around all day at the ancient village, Tina suggested that we all go to get a traditional Chinese foot massage. This was the best idea I'd heard all week! We went to a huge massage house where we were ushered into a side-room with 4 short single beds facing a television screen, each bed with a complimentary tea. Marty, who had never had a massage in his life up until this point, opted for the 2 hour full body massage. Just before going off to the full massage room, Marty asked Tina to warn the staff about the strength of the massage. Good idea, I thought.

The foot massage was a 90 minute affair, with a small amount of leg back and neck massage towards the end. First, three masseurs suddenly came in with three buckets of hot water. We were directed to put our feet in which were washed and scrubbed. Afterwards they were clean and toweled off, another man came in to fulfill the pedicure option that Emma had exercised. This man performed a pedicure using only a scalpel! He deftly worked this deathly-sharp instrument around her skin and nails without Emma so much as batting an eyelid. During the operation, the pedicure man couldn't stop himself glancing repeatedly at my own gnarled man-hoofs until he finally motioned to me to say I should also exercise the pedicure option. Emma and Tina, thinking this would be fun, also chimed in, urging me to get the foot-scraping. I immediately said no,  but when my foot massage lady also agreed with the pedicure man I felt sufficiently self-conscious and gave in. Never has so much flesh been scraped off my body with so little pain! I really couldn't feel anything but a tickle. Hats off. There will be no before or after photos.

After this the foot massage proper began. It progressed from gentle squeezing to vigorous pummeling, and we were obviously in the hands of experts. Although it was painful, I could somehow feel energy returning to other parts of my body which I thought were completely unrelated to my feet.
After the following leg, back and neck massage we were treated to the hot bag. This was a smallish rectangular sack filled with searingly hot peas. The masseur would place this on a part of my back for about 5 seconds longer than was bearable, and would then quickly move it to another part.
After this we were brought some more water for our tea and left alone to relax. Tina explained, "while a Chinese massage is happening you feel suffering, but afterwards you feel good". This was true.

After a while we met up again with Marty. Apparently he had asked Tina to ask in Chinese for his masseur to be extra vigorous, not extra careful! They sent him a small woman who apparently had the strength of an ox. Today his whole body is covered in bruises. All of us agree that we feel much better having been though, and would definitely go back.

In other news, we have just received some photos from our Hefei concert the other day I thought I'd share with you!









Day 15: Sanhe

Today we visited the ancient Chinese village of Sanhe. Located on three rivers, 40 km from Hefei, Sanhe is known as "The Venice of the East" - you can see why...

The air was quite smoky, because this is the time of year when the farmers burn off all of last year's crops to create ash to fertilize next year's crops with. It made a nice soft light for photos though!




All of the rooftops are decorated in this traditional Chinese style - so pretty!


There were many shops with souvenirs with cute wooden toys and things to play with.

We steered clear of all the nunchuks, crossbows, flick knives, elephant tusks, dried birds, dried fish, and snakeskin musical instruments they had for sale, though - it was like going shopping in an Australian quarantine seized-items room!







The buildings are made out of ancient, ornately carved black wood.


Here's Ben inside a the doorway of an ancient house. It's amazing how they used to live, with very open houses, dark rooms, and without any heating. It must have been so cold in the winter!


Here's Ben taking a walk down One-Person Lane.




Here are some ancient Chinese gondolas - so pretty!


Just like Venice!


While we were posing for this photo, some Chinese girls asked if they take their photo with us - it's such a novelty for them to see Caucasians, that we became the tourist attraction!


The misty, smoky air created a very pretty light as the sun began to set...




This is outside the home of a Chinese scientist who won a Nobel peace prize in physics. He is apparently the only Chinese to have won one, and is highly revered across China. He's still employed as a professor at the university in Beijing where we will be playing a concert on Saturday. Inside the house was a shrine to all of his achievements. But I found impressive in the fact that at 82 years of age, he has just remarried, to a 28 year old!




The little lane ways looked so pretty as it got dark and all the lanterns lit up.


To finish off the evening, we had dinner at a Chinese fondue restaurant:


And here's the token gross-food photo for the day - the duck blood tofu-cakes that we ate for dinner!

Day 14: Hefei through Marty's eyes

Well a big hello from us here in Hefei, as we enjoy another day in this fast-moving city of almost 5 million people. The concert at the University that we were supposed to do today got cancelled, so we have been enjoying some downtime after a few hectic and action packed weeks leading up to our departure for China, and we have been shown the sights and some of the best restaurants by our lovely tour manager, Tina. Today we headed out into the old part of Hefei, stopping off to have lunch at a funky restaurant that seemed to serve every type of fruit juice imagineable (none of us got around to trying the corn juice).

We have been eating like kings and today's lunch was no exception. We have slowly become accustomed to the very large food portions here in China, yet none of us are willing to take the leap-of-faith into what I consider a culinary no-go - animal extremities. As part of today's delicious feast, we got to enjoy a rich and tasty roast chicken soup, with head and feet included. Tina, our ever patient guide, then began to discect the chicken's head making sure that all us got to try some of this delicacy. It wasn't until she removed the brain and beak, that we politely declined her generous offer, and suggested the flavour would be lost on us non-chicken head eaters.

 

And here's a lotus root salad and green bean soup...

From there we then headed off into a large pedestrians-only shopping street, which was already heavily populated with shoppers and people selling their wares. This street provided us weary pedestrians, with much needed respite from the ever present danger that is trying to cross a Chinese road. The bliss of having an hour knowing that you're safe from madly honking motorcyclists, or swerving taxis, or from angry old women on silent, fast moving motorbikes, was a welcome relief.

We visited the Temple of Luzhoufou and got to learn about this remarkable man, who had a significant impact on China during the last years of the Qing dynasty.






Most of this temple has been perfectly preserved and with some thorough explaination from our guide Tina, it made the whole experience incredibly interesting and offered a valuble insight into how people must have lived back in the late 1800s.




After the temple, we explored the shops in the city centre...




Here are a few shots of some funny English translations we found!





As we were heading back, Ben and Emma were approached by a local news team, who were working on a story to do with Thanksgiving in America. Although Ben and Emma both tried to explain that we don't celebrate this holiday in Australia, a crowd of almost 60 people had gathered and were waiting with baited-breath for their response. Below is a picture of the two most famous non-Americans in Hefei.

After the media circus had died down, we headed quickly back to the hotel and were promptly picked up for our next dinner engagment. After our lunch yesterday with many prominent members of the local government, we were invited to have Chinese hot pot with Mrs Xi, the wife of the head of the Hefei Theatre. Mrs Xi had invited a few of her close friends, including a friend who lived and studied in Australia for over 12 years. With the meal came a beautiful bottle of Red which perfectly complemented the fantastic food and company.





When we got back to the hotel, we were able to confirm travel plans for tomorrow's exciting adventure to a historic Chinese villiage.

Day 13: A closer look at Hefei

Today we slept in until lunch time - we are all still quite jet lagged, since China is 7 hours ahead of Europe. Then we were taken to a banquet lunch at the military hotel, held in our honour, with lots of officials of the local government.

The food was delicious, cooked by the best chef in Anhui. One dish was presented to us as a delicacy of the region. To me, it just looked like a plate full of boiled eggs. The technique for eating them is to poke a straw inside the egg then suck out the centre. I was surprised to find that it tasted very favoursome, like stock, and had a watery consistency, with some chunky bits.
TINA: this is a very special dish. There is meat inside the egg. Chicken meat.
ME: Wow! How do they get the chicken inside the egg?
ME: Oh. My. God.

I peered inside the egg, to find a baby chicken embryo curled up, all grey and squashed. Here is a photo. Don't look if you get grossed out easily.


There is a Chinese tradition that each guest at the table must make a toast to the guests of honor (us), then both  people must down a shot of 40% proof Chinese white wine. So if there are many people at the table, the guests of honor end up having to toast dozens of times. Then to demonstrate their admiration, individuals can toast the guests of honour, again and again and again. Luckily, I managed to stay quite sober today, thanks to a discreet wine-disposal-in-teacup technique I perfected last night.

In the afternoon, we explored some of the city of Hefei. Everything is so different here - I think Hefei a is much more Chinese city than Shanghai. Shanghai had more of a European feel. Hefei is one of China's smaller cities, with only 3.5 million inhabitants. It also hosts one of China's biggest chemical plants. The city is a jungle of skyscrapers, flashing neon signs, and traffic. Here is a view from my hotel room on the 15th floor.

And from another window:

On ground level, there are lots of little stalls being wheeled around, with different types of foods - this one sold pig ears and trotters!




And here's a view down the street.


In the evening, we were treated to tickets to a Chinese ballet / opera. It was spectacular! The dancers were amazingly flexible and synchronised, with beautiful, colourful costumes. The amount of skill and co-ordination they displayed was truly impressive. Apparently they train very intensively from an early age. Here are a few photos - I'll upload videos later.





We got a bit of a surprise when we arrived there though - after waiting in a small room with a few other guests, military music started playing, then the doors opened to reveal a hall packed with thousands of people. We had to parade out in front of everyone - the audience was applauding us, then we sat in a row of elevated seats in front of everyone, as honoured guests. It was completely surreal. Then the show began with a commentator, who introduced two VIPs sitting beside us, who stood one by one to accept applause from the audience, then us! The audience was cheering when we each stood up to wave to them. I was shaking. I love performing, but it's so unexpected and unnerving to be suddenly treated like a celebrity for NO reason at all. Then at the end of the opera, as the public was applauding the dancers who were all lined up on stage taking their bows, we had to walk ONTO THE STAGE, after the important officials, and shake hands with each of the main dancers!!! Then pose in the middle of the cast, as the public took photos. SO surreal.

And afterwards we were treated to another dinner with lots more VIPs and delicious food. The amount of variety in the food here is really quite impressive.

Day 12: Hefei Concert

Tonight we performed at the Heifei Arts Theatre. There were about 500 people in the audience. We played:

Haydn - Trio in C major
Kats-Chernin - Spirit and the Maiden
Schubert - Nocturne
Ravel - Piano Trio
Piazzolla - Spring and Summer from the Four Seasons

The concert went well. The audience was pretty appreciative - we even got to play an encore! They had a computer screen projected onto the wall, with facts about each piece we played. And neon lights were scrolling above our heads, projecting the titles of the pieces and the movements. The audience was pretty good - only 3 mobile phones only went off during the concert, and there weren't too many people coming and going while we played. There were a few noisy chip packets getting opened, and someone was scrolling through their entire roll of photos, with a beep for each one, but overall, the audience was pretty well behaved. The organisers of the concert were very nice, and I think the audience really liked the whole program. I'll upload the videos of the concert next week, after we get access to Youtube again.

Afterwards we had a delicious banquet dinner in a fancy restaurant, with the director of the theatre and some other important people. Everyone was very friendly; we kept being challenging to drinking competitions with tiny thimble-glasses of Chinese white wine - I am happy to report that the Australian contingent did our team proud! Here is a photo, before it got too messy.



The food was amazing! One dish was particulary nice...

ME: what is the meat in this dish? It is delicious!
TINA: Do you like it? It is meat!
ME: Yes, what kind of meat?
TINA: Better not to ask.
ME: No, really, what is it?
TINA: After the stomach, what is this part?
ME: Intestine?
TINA: No, after that - the final part.
ME: Bowel?
TINA: Yes, that part. Of a pig.

So I guess I ate pig bowels. They were actually really tasty!

Day 11: Exploring Shanghai

Today we had the morning off, after some last-minute changes to our travel plans, so we were able to go into downtown Shanghai and explore. The area we went to was beautiful - lots of tiny little alleyways lined with art galleries, boutique shops, and traditional Shanghai architecture. We went tea-tasting, clothes shopping, art viewing, and ended up with quite a few goodies to bring home as presents.







Then we drove to Shanghai airport train station, where we took a train from Shanghai to Hefei, where we will be performing tomorrow evening. There are just SO many people here! It's hard to contemplate. Here's a shot at the train station:

Driving through Shanghai is a bit overwhelming. You pass mile after mile of enormous sky-rise apartment blocks; each building must house thousands of people. Then during the entire 3 hour train trip from Shanghai to Hefei, there are more and more of these skyrise complexes, one after another, mixed in with enormous factories, everything packed in really close together. It really makes you realise just HOW many people there are living here! I knew that there were over 1.2 billion people living in China (that's like 60 Australia's), and 23.5 million people in Shanghai alone, but to actually see it with your own eyes is mind-boggling. It made me feel really grateful to come from such an under-populated country which has so much free space. Here are a few shots of the apartment complexes:



This one reminded me a bit of Bladerunner, with the yellow sun shining through a smog-covered concrete jungle.


When we arrived in Hefei, we checked into our hotel, and enjoyed a buffet dinner. I decided to be a bit adventurous.... Check out my plate - from the bottom left corner, clockwise, you have: jellyfish salad, fermented egg in intestines, and marinated chicken's foot. The jellyfish salad was the only one I managed to swallow - it was actually quite tasty!

Day 10: Ni hao Shanghai!

We made it to China! Yay! We arrived safely in Shanghai at midnight last night, where we were met at the airport by Tina, who will be our tour guide for the next 12 days. A driver took us back to our hotel, which is very swish.
Here's another hotel we drove past that we thought was funny - "Hotel Thing Confluence":


We had rehearsals at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre this afternoon, then our first performance in China was this evening! Here's us outside the Arts Centre:


We had an afternoon break in a shopping area of Shanghai:


The concert was an interesting experience - we weren't sure what to expect, as many people had warned us not to be put off if the audiences doesn't like certain pieces, or if they don't applaud, or are quite talkative during performances. Luckily our audience was pretty well-behaved and attentive - there wasn't any of the walking around and answering telephones that we had been warned about! We played Beethoven Op. 70 No. 2, Elena Kats-Chernin's Spirit and the Maiden, Ravel Piano Trio, and Piazzolla The Four Seasons. It seemed like the audience loved the Kats-Chernin and the Piazzolla, though they were a bit luke-warm about the Ravel. Afterwards, they told us that Ravel's music was quite unfamiliar-sounding for Chinese audiences, whereas the Kats-Chernin trio, although it is a much more recent composition, really touched people immediately.

The concert hall had a round stage encircled by the audience, and excellent acoustics. Here is a photo from our concert this evening!


I will upload the video of us playing in tonight's concert as soon as we leave China - Youtube (and Facebook) is blocked here!

We finished off the evening with a delicious dinner at a restaurant in downtown Shanghai. It had a few interesting things on the menu - live crab, boiled frog, duck tongues, fish mouths, bullfrog... Our meal was really delicious, although we didn't eat any of those things.






Day 9: Pozible Success!!!

YAAYYY! We reached our target in Pozible! In fact, we smashed it - the final tally was $3,625! This will really help us to have a successful tour of China (and then Australia afterwards)!

Thank you SO much to everyone who supported our project! You guys are awesome!


Project Supporters

Anonymous


Anonymous


Anonymous


Henriette Jacobs


Anonymous


Anonymous


Josephine Kopp


Vanessa Gray


John Garran


Anonymous


Gail Horowitz


Anonymous


Camille Elise Broomhead

Fiona Hore-Lacy


Robyne Morton


Paul Horowitz


Libby Hore-Lacy


william lofthouse


sarah sydir


abraham joffe

Anonymous


Anonymous


Marina Pronina


Phyllis Jane Joffe


Anonymous


Michael Stapleton


Rebecca MacFarling


Marianne Broadfoot

Anonymous Ano

Thank you all so much! That will completely cover our plane fares to China!

We have actually already boarded our flights - first we stopped over in Dubai, now for the final Dubai - Shanghai leg. Here are a few photos from our 11-hour Dubai stopover - after queuing for hours to get out of the airport, we took a taxi to a hotel in the city, where we slept for a few hours, before heading back to the airport.








We'll be back online when we reach Shanghai!

Day 8: Marty's blog

Greetings from Hamburg airport where we have just arrived after a very enjoyable trip over night in the train from Vienna. We ended up receiving a cabin for just the three of us, with our own private shower and bathroom. We all agreed that sometimes this crazy lifestyle, has it’s perks.

Well it has been a mad 12 hours. We had a concert last night in the Joseph Haydn hall at the University of Music, where we have been having daily instruction and lessons as part of the European Chamber Music Academy. We performed Beethoven trio op.1/1 which was our very first performance of this great work.

We had worked hard during on the week with numerous professors on the piece and we felt that last night’s concert went as well as could have been expected. Although the performance wasn’t without drama. With any performance comes a certain amount of uncertainty and risk. While the nature of each instrument, presents it’s own obsticles to be overcome, nothing inspires fear into a cellist’s soul as much as the dreaded “spike slip” or even worse the “extended” cello slip. It was the latter which reared it’s ugly head during last night’s performance. What makes it worse, is the silent struggle a cellist has to go through in order to rectify thissituation which is usually progressively getting worse and usually not at a good time of the piece.

Take last night’s concert for instance. The nature of early Beethoven requires little extraneous virtuosity for the cello. Instead, the cellist spends most of their time helping emphasise harmonic and rhythmic interest. So there I was. Happily contributing to the ensemble, helping Ben and Emma shape their lines when suddenly the first slip. The beginning is always the most shocking as usually it is only a few millimetres or so. Hardly enough to notice. There I was thinking “surely not…. Maybe just a passing bus..” then comes the second slip. Slightly more violent in nature. And of course in the quietest part of the piece so far..What that ensued was a silent struggle between musican and instrument, the instrument being the unfortunate winner in the end.

Cello 1: Me 0

After walking off stage, we were then thrown into a whirlwind of hyperactivity involving costume change, luggage collection, a mad taxi ride across the city and diving into a train bound for Berlin.

Day 7: Last day in Vienna!

We packed up our apartment in the morning, then spent the afternoon preparing for this evening's concert. We performed Beethoven Piano Trio Op. 1, No. 1 for the "Highlights of ECMA" concert, in the Joseph Haydn Salle at the Universität der Musik und Darstellende Kunst. The concert went well! Here are a couple of excerpts of our performance:

Beethoven Piano Trio Op. 1 No. 1 - First Movement:

Fourth Movement:

As soon as we finished playing the concert, we jumped into a taxi to take us to Wien Meidling Bahnhof, so that we could take our night train to Hamburg. We made it with plenty of time to spare - phew! We really needed to catch this train, because it's taking us to Hamburg airport, then we fly straight from there to China tomorrow!

Our night train cabin was so cool - it had three bunk beds, and a separate bathroom. Perfect place for a post-concert celebration!


Day 6: Ben's blog

Today was another really cold, rainy and snowy day in Vienna!

It was the last day of lessons for the Vienna ECMA session, and for the first time all week we didn't have an early start which was nice.
In the afternoon we played for Shmuel Ashkenasi for the second time. We played Beethoven's Op.70 no.2, 4th movement and Op.1 no.1 1st and 4th movements. He is a wonderful musician and really kind person. He produces such a pleasing and beautiful sound from the group. I think one of the main features of his approach is to get the pianist to play much softer than other teachers typically want. Volume-wise, the instruments are on a much more equal level this way and the strings never have to force anything. It is a funny experience when you think you are playing as softly as one can possibly play, only to have Mr Ashkenasi stop and say "Im sorry, I just simply cannot hear the strings"! He is also a brilliant violinist and had a lot of practical advice for Emma.

Straight after this we played for Erich Hobarth. For him, we played Beethoven Op.70 no.2 2nd and 3rd movements. We have played this pieces many times, but it was really great to have his perspective today. Hobarth has such a great fantasy. Images and creative ideas seem to flow freely from him. I really like how freely he interprets the music of Beethoven. I like the idea that this music is not just ancient music that we recreate, but living music that can be just as meaningful to us today as is was back then.

After coming from the lesson with Ashkenasi, it was an interesting (and rare) experience to find that Hobarth was asking me to play more loudly, especially in the bass. I find it fascinating that something as seemingly objective as general balance between the instruments is actually just another subjective element that changes depending on the style of playing. Music is so personal!

In other news, we are $300 away from reaching our Pozible target, but we only have about 60 hours to go before donations close! I hope we get over the line!!

Day 5: Lessons with Rados

Today we had our second masterclass with Ferenc Rados. And I can report that I am completely convinced that he is an absolute genius!

We were a bit afraid of playing for him before this week. He is very famous, as a teacher and a chamber musician. But he is also revered for his cutting criticism if he doesn't like the way you play. Many of the great performers still go to him for lessons - Menahem Pressler of Beaux Arts Trio fame told us that Rados is the only person he trusts for musical advice. Rados has coached many of the world's greatest quartets and trios, including the Takacs Quartet. So we were a bit anxious to see what he'd think of us. But it turned out, he wasn't harsh at all - on the contrary, he was very friendly and perceptive. And he was obviously pleased when we managed to do the things he suggested. Both of the lessons we had with him completely transformed the way we played - we felt so much freer and more natural, everything just flowed!

Rados had incredible piano advice for Ben, and also for the strings. But the thing that really came through was his instinctive, natural way of phrasing and making music. What more can I say? He's really great. Here's an excerpt of the lesson with him yesterday - we played Dvorak's Dumky Trio:

In other news, we are 90% of the way towards reaching our Pozible goal! And only 3 days to go... Nearly there now!

And we had the first snow for the season this evening! Here's a photo of the snow in the street light, from the window of our apartment.

Day 4: A rainy day in Wien

Vienna was cold, wet and windy today. Here's a view from the window of our apartment. Brr!

We spent the day practicing, rehearsing, and having lessons at ECMA. Not much different from yesterday, really! The lessons were very interesting, we learnt a lot, and our pieces are getting better.

But today I want to talk about our Pozible video! We're so excited, because thanks to some very generous donations, we have nearly reached our target! For people who haven't heard about Pozible, it's a crowd-funding platform which relies a lot on social media. Anyone can put any kind of project on Pozible, then set a target amount they will need to achieve that project, then ask people to donate small amounts towards it. Platforms like Facebook are great for spreading the word to your friends and friends of friends. If the donations to your project reach the target amount, you get to put all of the money towards your project. But if you don't reach your goal, no money is deducted from anyone's credit card and you don't receive any funding.

Pozible was a bit of an experiment for us, because we have never raised funds like this before. We have to travel a lot for concerts, which gets pretty expensive, especially when we're flying back and forth between Australia and Europe, but usually we have relied on either grants, sponsorship, concert fees or our own personal savings to contribute to travel expenses. But none of these channels worked for funding our tour in China, so we thought we'd give Pozible a shot. We needed to raise $3000 for the flights to China for the three of us plus Martin's cello. And today, we reached $2574! So exciting - that's over 85% of the way there!

For the project, Ben put together a 5 minute video, which we filmed on our living room sofa, explaining what our project involved and why people should support it. We were such dorks filming it - we all got totally tongue tied in front of the camera! In the end, Ben had over 2 hours of material of us giggling and stumbling over our words to sift through. Anyway, I think he did a good job in the end - check it out here:


It's really exciting to see how many people have got on board! It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, having all these people support us! I'm really impressed by how many generous people there are out there. I wonder if this is the way of the future for musicians...

Day 3: Music lessons

Today we had our second day of lessons at ECMA, studying with Johannes Meissl and with Shmuel Ashkenasi. Both were really interesting and helpful in entirely different ways. It made me think - it's amazing how many different opinions there are about how to make music. Both of these guys, as well as Ferenc Rados and Erich Horbath, who we learnt from yesterday, are great teachers, but all have totally different approaches to chamber music.

We get to hear a lot of different approaches at ECMA, since we play for 5 different teachers during each week-long session. And since this is our third year in ECMA now, and since there are usually a few new teachers at each monthly session, we have really had a LOT of lessons and heard a lot of different approaches from different people. A while back, someone told us, there is a filtering process that you naturally should go through when you take a lesson - you don't have to follow everyone's advice religiously. In fact, most people should only retain about 30% of the information they were given. We just have to pick which bits of advice work for us. And I guess each ensemble has a different idea of what advice they like and what advice they reject - there's no one right way of making music. It's all a learning process, and in the end, I guess we end up choosing what feels like the most natural interpretation for our group.

But our interpretations also change as pieces evolve over time. It's interesting to watch old videos of our performances and to notice how differently we do things now. For example, this video of us playing Schubert Nocturne was taken in April 2012:
As you can hear, back then, we took a lot of time at the end of every bar, and the tempo fluctuated a lot. But now, we play this piece completely differently - we performed it a couple of weeks ago in Frankfurt, with much less rubato, a quicker tempo, and a stronger feeling of the underlying pulse. And now that recording from 6 months ago sounds weird to us!

Anyway, my point is, there are lots of different ways of doing things, and there's no right or wrong in music. Once you pass the basics of technique, ie, getting things in tune, together, and balanced, there are hundreds of contrasting opinions about what sounds good or bad. And what an audience likes, a jury might not like. What a teacher from one school might like, a teacher from another school might hate. Don't get me wrong, it's really great to get advice from great musicians who have years of experience and knowledge they can share, but I guess at the end of the day, if in doubt, you have to just go with your gut and be convinced about your own choices.

Day 2: Marty's Birthday!

Today Marty celebrated his birth, we had two amazing lessons, we rehearsed a lot, and we learned some very interesting stuff. We were mostly working on the first piano trio by Beethoven, Opus No. 1. This is very happy and bubbly piece - it makes you feel in a good mood just by listening to it. It is brand new for us and we're going to be playing it soon in our concerts coming up in Australia, so we wanted to prepare it well during this ECMA session.

In our first lesson with Erich Horbath, we learnt that this trio needs to be played in a jazzy way, since Beethoven was very young and full of energy and exuberance when he wrote it. It is actually one of the first pieces of music that he ever published. Here is an extract of our rehearsal of the Beethoven that we recorded just after the lesson today. We were trying to get the jazzy feeling happening...

Horbath also gave us some really good piano trio technique advice - in passages where the strings are accompanying a melody in the piano, they need to articulate the accompaniment like a piano would, this means giving the notes more of a direct beginning. We will definitely be able to apply this advice in many other pieces - thanks Erich Horbath!

Then there was our lesson with Ferenc Rados this afternoon. He was absolutely amazing! Every bit of advice he gave made me think - yes, that's exactly how music should go. He spent a lot of the lesson playing the piano with us instead of Ben to demonstrate musical ideas - he played so freely, it forced us to be super flexible to fit in with him. By the end, we felt like we had all been transformed a little bit!

And after all our work was done, we celebrated Marty's birthday with a birthday feast - lamb, wine and a chocolate pancake cake for desert.

It was a bit of a mission cooking a cake in a tiny apartment kitchen with no oven (hence the pancake cake), but it turned out pretty well. We went and got candles for the cake, but stupidly forgot to buy matches, so all of us non-smokers had no way of lighting the candles! Here is a photo of Marty pretending to blow out the unlit candles on his birthday cake:

Day 1: We're on the road!


Here begins day 1 of our mammoth Austria/China/Australia tour! We're so excited that this tour has kicked off - it's been a long time in the planning!
After sleeping for about two hours, we all met at Berlin Tegel airport at 5:30am this morning to board our flight to Vienna. Luckily, there were no problems with bringing the cello on board (in its specially assigned seat for Mr. Seat Cello). And everybody remembered their passports, our Chinese visas arrived in time, and we didn't miss the plane - so far, so good.

We will be staying in Vienna for 8 days for a European Chamber Music Academy (ECMA) session. The teachers this time are all new to us, with the exception of Johannes Meissl (who's amazing), so we're excited to play for them and see what they have to say. By the end of this week we'll hopefully have some interesting stories to tell!

Our ECMA session will involve several hours a day of lessons, plus rehearsals, workshops and lectures on various topics related to chamber music, and concerts. We will be performing in a concert at the Haydn Salle at the end of the week. The Joseph Haydn Chamber Music Institute hosts one ECMA Session per year, so this will be our 3rd ECMA session in Vienna (we have been lucky enough to be asked back to the ECMA program for a third year running). The Vienna session is always very well organised. We have rented an apartment in the centre of Vienna for the week, just near the Hochschule.

After Vienna, we will fly straight to Shanghai, where our 12-day China tour kicks off. Then straight from Shanghai to Sydney for a bunch of concerts in Victoria, ACT and NSW. Then back to Berlin on the 30th November. So... looking forward to sharing the next 37 days of tour with you!

All the news entries before this point

Welcome to our new blog!

Here are all the old items that were on our NEWS page - from now on, all Streeton Trio news will be appearing on our blog!

August 2012
Another great review from our Waikanae Concert!

August 2012
Listen to us perform live on ABC Classic FM - Friday 3rd August at 8:30am!

July 2012
The Streeton Trio is back in Australia and NZ for a national tour! Check out our concerts page for more details!

June 2012
"Elation", the Streeton Trio's newest CD, has been reviewed in ABC's Limelight Magazine! Check it out on the reviews page of our website.

June 2012
The Streeton Trio has been selected as one of the semi-finalist ensembles in the Gianni Bergamo International Chamber Music Competition. The finals will take place in September 2012, in Lugano, Switzerland.

May 2012
The Streeton Trio has been selected as one of the 12 trios from around the world who will compete in the Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition. The competition takes place in September 2012.

May 2012
The Streeton Trio's CD, Elation, has been selected as 3MBS CD of the Month!

April 2012
The trio has just completed very successful tour of 10 concerts around Australia! We will be back again this July!

March 2012
The Streeton Trio's new CD has just been produced! Comprising piano trios of Haydn, Beethoven and Roger Smalley, all recorded on a beautiful Stuart & Sons piano, the CD, entitled "Elation", will be released during the Streeton Trio's Australian Tour (from 18th March - 6th April).

February 2012
The Streeton Trio has reached the finals of the 2012 Franz Schubert International Chamber Music Competition!

November 2011
The Streeton Trio have been named Musica Viva Rising Stars for 2012! Musica Viva will be presenting the trio in several concerts around Victoria, NSW and Queensland in 2012. For more info, please click here.

October 2011
The Streeton Trio has won the 2011 Arts Victoria Touring Grant, to support their Victorian tours in March and July 2012!

August 2011
The Streeton Trio has won the 2011 Musica Viva Chamber Music Award! Competing against 25 other ensembles from across Australia, the trio has been awarded first prize in the Sydney Eisteddfod Musica Viva Chamber Music Competition. The prize includes concert engagements and mentoring with Musica Viva, as well as a substantial cash prize!

July 2011
Here we are at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition - download the session from 9th July at 7:30pm and 13th July at 11am to listen online: http://www.abc.net.au/classic/micmc/

June 2011

Check out our new blog on the ABC's Limelight magazine website!
http://blogs.limelightmagazine.com.au/2011/06/27/the-melbourne-international-chamber-music-competition-in-a-nutshell/

June 2011
Tune in to 3MBS FM at 9:00am on 20th June to hear the Streeton Trio performing live on air, as well as speaking to the presenter about their experiences in Europe and about their preparation for the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition.

June 2011
The Streeton Trio's debut CD recording of the trios of Maurice Ravel and Johannes Brahms has been released in Australia this week! The CD is stocked by Thomas' Music (Melbourne), where it will be featured as their CD of the Month of July, as well as Readings and Discurio. The CD is being featured this month on ABC FM Classic Breakfast and Drive and Saturday Breakafast programs, as well as on 3MBS FM, 2MBS FM and 4MBS FM!

May 2011
The Streeton Trio has just received the news that they have been selected for the 2011 Trondheim International Chamber Music Competition, which is held in Norway in September 2011! They are one of 9 trios who were selected from around the world after a DVD audition.

April 2011
The Streeton Trio has just finished recording their debut CD, which is set to be released in May 2011! Please check the website for further details.

January 2011
The Streeton Trio has been selected as one of 8 piano trios from around the world competing in the final rounds of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition! As the only Australian ensemble to be selected, the trio are very excited to be returning home to Australia for the competition in July 2011.

July 2010
The Streeton Trio is pleased to announce that they have recently been accepted into the European Chamber Music Academy for 2010-2012.

January 2010
The Streeton Trio has been selected as winners of a grant from the Ian Potter Cultural Trust to promote their continued work together.

November 2009

The trio is pleased to announce they have been awarded a 'Skills and Arts Development Grant' from the Australia Council for the Arts to promote their work together.

May 2009
The trio is pleased to announce they have been accepted as finalists into the 2009 Hamburg International Chamber Music Competition.

March 2009
The Streeton Trio has been invited to perform in the 2009 Apeldoorn Festival.
Following a special invitation, the trio will perform and receive coaching from master musicians Pascal Devoyon, Philippe Graffin and Gary Hoffman during the Apeldoorn Festival in Holland from 23-29th August, 2009.

Feburary 2009
The Streeton Trio has been invited to compete in the Australia Pacific Chamber Music Competition.
The competition will be held from 1-5 July at the Melbourne Recital Hall. For more info, visit
http://www.chambermusicaustralia.com.au/