Our new CD

We are very pleased to have just finished recording a new CD, comprising trios by three great Czech composers; Antonin Dvorak (Dumky Trio), Bedrich Smetana (Piano Trio in G minor) and Josef Suk (Elegy). The CD is in its final stages of production right now and will be available to pre-order very soon!
Special thanks to our producer, David Requiro, our sound engineer, Drew Bisset, our mastering wizard Don Bartley, and to Nyree and Ara from Theme and Variations for providing a beautiful Steinway piano. Watch this space!

Welcome Meta!

We are delighted to have Meta Weiss join us in 2017 as our cellist. Meta has already made several guest appearances with our trio in 2015 and 2016, but we are delighted to have her as a permanent trio member from 2017. You can find out more about Meta here: http://metaweiss.com/

5 stars!!!

We were very excited to read our Mendelssohn CD’s latest review in Limelight Magazine! We got 5 stars! In case you missed it, you can read it here:

Limelight Review

Roadtrip to Wagga Wagga

Yesterday we drove down to Wagga Wagga for a performance at the Riveriena Conservatorium of Music. It was a fun road trip down from Sydney. We were very impressed with the facilities and organisation at the Conservatorium of Music - they’re doing great things in Wagga Wagga! We performed Mozart Trio k496, Mendelssohn C minor and Saint-Saens Trio No. 2 to a good-sized crowd. Afterwards, we got to meet the audience for some lovely local wine and cheese! All in all, a nice way to spend a Sunday!

Beethoven Triple Concerto

We had great fun performing the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Melbourne Sinfonia and conductor Joannes Russe yesterday! You can see our performance here:





Larsen Strings

We are excited to announce our collaboration with Larsen Strings! Check out this video to find out more about what we’ve been up to...

Welcome Umberto!

It has been quite a while since we updated our blog, and a lot has happened in the meantime! Ben and Emma have relocated to Sydney, after 8 years living in Europe, and Martin has relocated to Sweden, where he has a been awarded job with the Norrlands Operan. So we’re delighted to be welcoming a new cellist to our trio this year - Umberto Clerici! Umberto is the principal cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, amongst other things, and we’re so excited to be performing with him. Check out www.umbertoclerici.it/en/ to find out more...

Home again...

We have just arrived back home in Berlin, after a mammoth and very fun tour! But it’s been a while since I wrote a blog entry, so let’s rewind a bit…

Our second cellist for the tour, Elena Cheah, flew out from Berlin in the beginning of April. Our first stop was to our favourite Melbourne coffee-spot, St Ali cafe in South Melbourne. After a delicious breakfast with friends, we drove up to my parents’ olive farm, Kalaparee Olives, in St Arnaud (central Victoria), to begin some serious rehearsing for our next concert in two days time. We had already done a lot of rehearsal on our program with Elena in Berlin, but after performing five concerts with Julian Smiles, we had changed just about everything!

The farm in St Arnaud was a good introduction to Australia for Elena - isolated, dry, surrounded by gum trees, kangaroos and native birds, it really feels like you’re in the true Australian bush.
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Elena has already filled you in on the details of our concerts in Dunolly, Macedon, Hamilton and Mornington. I don’t really have anything to add, except to say that the concerts were great, the audiences were fantastic, and we met a bunch of really interesting people. It was good fun traveling around Victoria with Elena and her husband, and we also stopped off at some beautiful holiday places en route to our concert venues, such as the Great Ocean Road, Torquay and Sorrento.

Our final Australian concert for this tour was at fortyfivedownstairs. This is a Berlin-esque underground venue, with peeling brick walls and cool lighting. We’re never quite sure what to expect there, because the acoustics can vary quite a lot, depending on what seating and staging equipment is set up there (the venue also doubles as a theatre), but this time, the acoustics were exactly right. We had a very responsive audience, who made the atmosphere very warm. Our program was Mendelssohn C minor trio, Elena Kats-Chernin Spirit and the Maiden, Haydn E major trio and Schubert trio in B flat major. It was a huge program (nearly 100 minutes of music), but the enthusiastic audience helped us keep our energy levels up until the very end.

The following morning, we set off to Sydney, for three days of rest and family catch-up time before a 14 hour flight to our final concert in Dubai.

Dubai was a fascinating place to visit - so different to any place I have been before! Our concert there was for the Dubai Concerts Committee, the only classical music concert presenter in the UAE. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they had put us up in the Sheraton hotel, on top of the Emirates Mall (the second largest shopping mall in Dubai). Check out my flash room!

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I found it hard to imagine a bigger shopping mall than this one - it was complete with an indoor ski slope and skating park, but on our first evening, we went to visit Dubai’s very largest shopping mall - the Dubai Mall. It also happens to be one of the largest shopping malls in the world. I have never seen such extravagance inside a shopping centre - from the indoor aquarium to the numerous fountains, to the indoor waterfall, to the enormous indoor ice-skating rink, to the huge lake and fountain display (don’t forget that this is in the middle of the desert).

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After watching an elaborate light-and-fountain display, we ate dinner in a restaurant overlooking the lake, which is towered over by the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It was lit up like a Christmas tree, changing colour every few minutes.

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Dubai is such an interesting place. A mostly man-made city in the middle of the Arabian Desert, it’s a melting pot of over four million people from many different cultures (83% of people living there are foreign-born), many of whom have come to Dubai for the same reason: to make some serious money. Tax-free Dubai is sweltering hot all year long, especially in summer where the temperatures often rise above 50 degrees, but you wouldn’t guess it - everywhere we went was strongly air-conditioned. Even the outdoor terrace we ate dinner on featured an air-conditioner, blowing cold air directly out into the heat. Judging by the sheer quantity of shopping malls in Dubai, shopping seems to be a very popular recreational activity. The shops were the same as you can find in shopping malls all over the world - mainstream designer as well as the lower-end chains, but I have never been in shopping malls that were so enormous or opulent as the ones we saw in Dubai.

Our concert hall was actually joined to the Emirates Mall; a convenient 10 minute air-conditioned walk from our hotel. Named the Dubai Community and Arts Centre, the hall seated around 600 people. Our concert had been widely publicized around Dubai, especially towards the expat community - we were pleasantly surprised to find that our audience almost filled the hall. The concert was very well organized, and the audience was warm and enthusiastic. Our program was Haydn E major, Mendelssohn C minor, Kats-Chernin Spirit and the Maiden and Ravel Trio. The audience really seemed to appreciate the program; their applause resulted in an encore of the Andante movement of Mendelssohn’s D minor trio. We enjoyed meeting many of the friendly audience members after the concert, followed by a delicious dinner with some of the committee members.

The following day, we packed our bags for the last time and headed off to the airport. We had been very lucky with every flight on this tour - aside from one Jetstar flight where we weren’t allowed to bring our instruments on board (despite having purchased extra seats), we had no hitches at all with our travel this trip. All our planes ran on time, we didn’t miss any connections, and no bags got lost. Until our very last flight back to Germany… Our plane was delayed on the tarmac, because they couldn’t get the plane “unplugged” from the landing dock. One hour ticked by, then another, then another, until we realized that we were in danger of missing the last connecting train from Hamburg back to Berlin that evening, so could potentially be stranded at Hamburg Airport. “Don’t worry,” Emirates staff assured us, “they’ll sort something out for you when you land in Hamburg, since you bought the rail-and-fly tickets through us.” Sure enough, our plane landed four hours late, around 11pm, and the last train (and the last bus) to Berlin had long gone. And after some lengthy discussions with Emirates, we realised we were all on our own. We quickly booked into ourselves into a dingy little hotel at Hamburg train station just before it closed. But all’s well that ends well - we discovered one a great little pizza restaurant right next to our hotel and finished up our tour with a delicious midnight feast - not such a glamourous ending to the tour, but a tasty one!

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An early train the following morning brought us finally home to Berlin. It felt good to be back home and finally unpack the suitcases, after over 6 weeks away. Spring time has finally arrived in Berlin, and the trees are just beginning to grow leaves. It’s a nice change from the freezing, grey winter that we left behind in March.

So, what next? Well, we have just met up with Martin, and we’re happy to report that his broken wrist has healed up nicely, and he’s back to playing the cello again. It will be interesting to play with him again and see how much Ben and I have changed from the experience of playing with two new cellists. We will begin rehearsals next week for our next program (Tchaikovsky piano trio - so exciting!) and we have some concerts in Lithuania, Switzerland coming up, plus a new CD recording to make - we’re about to record the complete piano trios by Elena Kats-Chernin. And there’s also a lot to organize for our next Australian tour in July and August. We can’t wait to come back!

Elena's blog

“Oh, I wish I played the cello. If I could go back and do it all over again and learn an instrument, it would be the cello.” I hear this sentiment expressed about twice a week by people from every walk of life. My first instinct is always to ask them if they’d like to get as close to that as possible and become a cello carrier. If I’d known what it was going to be like to schlep one of these monsters all over the world, I might have thought twice about this cello thing. I do understand the appeal, of course. It’s big and curvy like a woman, not too big like the poor-postured, sloping-shouldered contrabass, and not as high and squeaky as the violin. It encompasses nearly every range of the human voice and, well, it goes between your legs. How much more sensual can you get?
It also happens to be an essential part of a piano trio, and this is why I’ve flown out from Berlin to join my new friends Ben and Emma on their Streeton Trio tour of Australia. I’m the second person to replace their regular cellist Martin, who is still recovering from the consequences of a bicycle accident (kids, please don’t ride your bike with a cello on your back. Get one of those cello lovers to carry it for you).
Our first concert together in this formation is in Dunnolly, a Victorian country town that reminds me of Wild West towns in the States, where I come from, although I’m from the east coast. There’s an old brick town hall and a county courthouse that begs to be filled with a mob of angry townspeople and a red-faced horse thief, and an old two-story hotel hidden behind two incongruous palm trees as if it were embarrassed about its past. We arrived at one for a three o’clock concert at Wright on Broadway, a very cute café with a sophisticated menu.DSCN1655
It was an ideal start to my segment of the tour, actually – low key (quite literally; it was an upright piano) with a very appreciative audience. DSCN1662Before the show, Fiona, the small, energetic restaurant owner, served us homemade sweet potato frittata with salad. We later learned that Fiona was singlehandedly responsible for getting a huge grant to have the Dunnolly town hall restored. It would be worth coming back to this town just for the frittata and to see what they’ve done with the town hall in a year’s time.
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DSCN1692It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve played a concert in a café, but this one was special in many ways, including our ‘green room’: the tree-lined back lot of the café.DSCN1665 I was still jet-lagged – the concert started at 7AM Berlin time – but we had the feeling that the people who came to hear us were drinking up the music the way the parched earth would drink up rain if it ever came. After the show, we hung around and spoke to some of our audience members, local residents involved in everything from importing antiques to starting a musical production society. This, for me, is the way to get to know a country and one of the privileges of being a musician, no matter how grand or small the stage.
The next day we drove up to wine country to play for the Macedon Music Society in one of the most beautiful private homes I’ve ever seen. Ben was thrilled (as we all were) with the superb Hamburg Steinway standing before a wall of windows overlooking a verdant park sloping down towards a lily pond. It had just rained when we arrived and the sun was out again, making everything glisten greenly. It was an afternoon concert and I told our hosts I was glad we were sitting in front of the windows rather than facing them, because I would have spent the whole concert daydreaming about that green paradise out there.DSCN1697
The audience must have already been spoiled for the view, because I have rarely experienced such concentration in a group of nearly a hundred. As I told them, we could hear them not breathing. Still, there is a difference between a silent audience and one that is truly participating in the collective act of making music, which requires good listeners just as much as good performers, and this was definitely of the latter category. It’s hard to define what makes this happen or exactly what quality is present in their attention, but as a performer it feels as if the audience is helping you shape each phrase, and that is a great gift for any musician or ensemble.
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Nevertheless, we came back down to earth afterwards and went for some great Nepalese food in Melbourne that evening on the way to Torquay, where we would spend a few days before our next concerts. Lucky me: I had the opportunity to drive down part of the Great Ocean Road with my husband and go for bush walks and see some of the incredible wildlife Aussies are so used to but which make us foreigners go wild with our cameras.DSCN1749
DSCN1871Our next trio trip was overland to Hamilton, which describes itself as the ‘ideal stopover’ between Colac and the Great Ocean Road. Admittedly, there is probably not much else that would inspire one to spend the night here, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the wonderful performing arts centre in town. Some of the subscribers apparently felt very much at home in their hall; one couple in the front row took off their shoes and stretched out their legs as if they were in the front row of an aeroplane. I wondered whether they thought this was going to be a long-haul flight. Still, we tried to take it as a compliment. They obviously felt comfortable enough to do that, and hey, classical music should be about the music and about communication, not about what you have to wear or do to listen to it.
Have you ever wondered, as an audience member, what musicians do all day before going on stage at 8 PM? Does it sound like a pretty cushy setup to just lounge around all day and then show up and play beautiful music and make people happy? Let me destroy your illusions.
On the morning of our concert in Mornington, Ben was pasty white, lying in bed after having been up all night with food poisoning. We’d all had the same fish and chips, so it couldn’t have been that, but it didn’t really matter; sick is sick, no matter where it came from. We were late leaving because it took longer to get everything together with one member out of commission, and Emma did her best racecar driver impression on the way to the ferry that would take us to the Mornington Peninsula. We made it, and while we went up on deck to have a coffee, Ben stayed in the car and slept, probably trying his best not to feel the waves. We did most of our sound check without him while he slept some more in the car, and then, magically, about five minutes before eight, he started to look human again. He walked out on stage and played beautifully, and the audience was so entranced they bought out the entire box of Streeton Trio CDs being sold in the foyer. There was no need to make one of those opera house announcements: “So-and-so has a slight cold but has agreed to sing for you anyway…” Music does have healing power, even for, or maybe especially for, those playing it.
That brings us up to tonight’s show at fortyfive downstairs in Melbourne, my last concert in Australia for some time. Every five minutes my husband keeps saying, “we could move here, you know,” so I have the feeling we’ll be back sometime soon, for something or other. Australia, we love you: your food, your audiences, your little country towns, your stunning coastlines, your noisy, beautiful birds, and your friendly people. Till next time!
xxx Elena

From Dubbo to Batehaven

After an early flight from Melbourne to Sydney, we boarded a tiny Dash-8 plane bound for Dubbo. IMG_2564
These planes aren’t for the faint-hearted - on a windy day like this one, the aircraft is thrown around from side to side, with stomach-lurching dips and drops. Even I applauded when the pilot landed the plane in one piece at Dubbo airport!

I knew very little about Dubbo before this visit, but I was really impressed with what a vibrant and cosmopolitan community it seems to have! We ate lunch at a cafe that featured healthy, fresh ingredients from the Paleo diet, followed by a very good coffee - much better than you can find in most country towns in Germany!

In the afternoon, I gave a masterclass to string students from the Dubbo Regional Conservatorium. Nine violin, viola and cello students played for me in total, and were observed by a roomful of parents and teachers. It was lovely to meet them all and share a few technical tips and bits of performance advice with them. I remember playing in masterclasses like that when I was a child - I know how nerve-racking it can be to get up and play in front of a room full of your colleagues and teachers, then publicly receive criticism from a complete stranger, especially when you haven’t performed much before. I tried to hone in on one particular aspect of each student’s playing that could help them improve, but to stay encouraging at the same time. I think one of the most important aspects of learning an instrument is to keep children’s enthusiasm for music alive. If kids like doing something, they will want to do it more. The more they like playing, the more they will practice, and the more they will improve.
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That evening we performed a concert at the Dubbo Regional Conservatoire. Our program was Haydn E major, Mendelssohn C minor, Elena Kats-Chernin Wild Swans, and Schubert B flat major Trio. The concert went well, despite the sweltering heat and humidity - we were all soaked with sweat by the interval! The audience was great - I think there must have been over 200 people there, and they ALL gave us a standing ovation at the end of the concert! It was great to see so many young people in the audience, including several of the children who had played in the masterclass for me that afternoon.

The following morning, we woke up early for a much less-turbulent Dash-8 flight back to Sydney, followed by a long, scenic drive down the coast to Bateman’s Bay. This felt more like a holiday than work - we stopped in at a beautiful wood-fired bakery in Berry for lunch...
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Followed by a swim and a walk in the sunshine at the beautiful beach in Mollymook:
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Before finally arriving at the destination of our Batehaven concert:

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Yep, life on tour is pretty tough!

The Batehaven concert went really well, and the Batehaven Music Society audience was fantastic! They seemed to really love the concert. Here’s an extract from the review of our performance:

RAVE REVIEW! There is no better way that I can think of to head this review of an absolutely stunning concert! All aspects of the presentation were outstanding from the planning of a very well balanced and demanding programme to the execution of the same.
The choice of works and their juxtaposition in the programme was excellent. The addition of Elena Kats-Chernin’s Wild Swans suite provided a delightful contrast to the two major trios by Schubert and Mendelssohn. It was a demanding programme physically, emotionally and technically and Benjamin Kopp (piano), Emma Jardine (violin) and Julian Smiles (cello) proved themselves more than equal to the challenge presented.
(You can read the rest of the review at http://www.streetontrio.com/styled-11/index.html if you’re interested).

Here’s a video of us playing the first movement of the Mendelssohn C minor Trio in Batehaven:

We were sad to bid Julian Smiles adieu afterwards - this was his last concert with us for this tour, as now he will rejoin his quartet, the Goldner Quartet, to perform at the 2013 Musica Viva Festival. It was such a pleasure to work with him!
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Now on to Melbourne, where we will meet up with our next cellist, Elena Cheah, who is flying out from Berlin to perform the last five Australian concerts of our tour with us, as well as the concert in Dubai on the way home to Berlin.

From Sydney to Castlemaine

We have had a lovely week back in Sydney, attending concerts and catching up with family and friends. Sydney really is beautiful at this time of year!
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We held our own Sydney concert last Friday evening, at the Pitt St Uniting Church, which is a gorgeous old church right in the centre of Sydney, complete with a Bosendorfer grand piano. Churches can often be very resonant and boomy, but the acoustics at Pitt St are surprisingly good. Our concert there went really well; we performed Haydn, Kats-Chernin, Schubert and Mendelssohn. We were happy to have the concert reviewer John Garran in the audience, who later tweeted “An exquisite delicacy to @streetontrio's Haydn Hob XV 28. The way Haydn should be played. Schubert B flat Trio also eloquently presented… Beautiful Kats-Chernin and Mendelssohn C minor Trio wrapped up @streetontrio concert. Articulate, passionate, all you could wish for.” Thanks John!
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After spending five days soaking up the sunshine in Sydney, Manly and the Blue Mountains, we set off to Melbourne on Thursday morning, for our performance at the Castlemaine Festival.This is a huge festival that spans over two weeks, featuring dozens of performers of not only classical music, but also rock, jazz, theatre, dance and visual arts. It’s held in the historic gold mining town of Castlemaine - a gorgeous town in Central Victoria. With tiny, quaint houses from the 1850’s lining the streets and several pretty little churches, it’s hard to believe that this town once housed 50000 gold miners and was the starting point of the Eureka Stockade.

Our arrival was heralded by the first rain storm Castlemaine has seen since last October. It really bucketed down - we could barely see out of our windscreen as we drove through town. The rain must have come as a welcome relief to the olive and grape farmers of Castlemaine - the paddocks were looking very dry and yellow. The air smelt amazing from the first thunderstorm in months over a very dry countryside.

One great thing about touring with a chamber music group is the interesting people you meet along the way. At each city we visit, we get a brief glimpse into the lives of the people looking after us. We have already met such an interesting and varied bunch on this tour - from the man who lived on Magnetic Island to work with the Indigenous Australians in Townsville, to the couple who travelled the world as aid workers, to the couple who run the Castlemaine Garden Festival and restore old houses, to the 80 year old violinist and founder of the Castlemaine Festival, to the evangelical minister who we shared a looong car ride with, to the powerhouse ladies running a vibrant chamber music society. That’s the great thing about music - it brings together the most assorted bunch of people. Each city we visit has such interesting characters whose life stories are all so varied and fascinating. I love meeting our audience members and getting to see the world through their eyes for a few hours. Then we’re whisked off to the next city, where we meet a whole new community of people.

Our Castlemaine Festival concert was sold out - 250 people were packed into the gorgeous Castlemaine Uniting Church. We performed Haydn E major trio, The Spirit and the Maiden by Elena Kats-Chernin, and Mendelssohn C minor Trio. The church as lovely to play in and the Kawai piano was excellent. Here’s Ben having a soundcheck:
IMG_2558We felt a great atmosphere from the audience, and really enjoyed playing for them. I love when you can really sense that the audience is appreciating what you do - that in turn inspires you to be more expressive, more musical, which the audience appreciates more, etc… It’s a love-love situation!

After the concert we were whisked back to a hotel at Melbourne airport, for a quick sleep before our early morning flight in the morning. Next stop… Dubbo!

Kia Ora New Zealand!


Wellington is a gorgeous city. When we landed here at 11pm, the air here smelt even sweeter than in Sydney, with the honey blossoms that are in bloom at the moment. The purpose of our trip was a concert for the Waikanae Music Society - a wonderful organization with over 600 members (very impressive for a chamber music society in a city of only 10,000 people). Waikanae has a large community of retirees who all seem to be very intelligent, interesting and well-travelled, and who are equally knowledgeable and passionate about classical music. This was our second time our trio has performed in Waikanae - our concert last July led to an immediate re-invitation thanks to a trust set up by some very generous Waikanae audience members. We were very happy to oblige as soon as possible! 
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Sunset in Waikanae, NZ

We performed Haydn E major, Schubert B flat major, Kats-Chernin Wild Swans and Mendelssohn C minor trios. We had been a bit anxious about this performance, as it was our first performance of all four (very challenging) works in our program, plus being our first ever performance with Julian Smiles. With a new member in the trio, even after intensive rehearsals, you never know how the concert is going to go until you’re all on stage together. Fortunately, Julian was wonderful to perform with. It was amazing how well he fit into our ensemble, blending when required but also driving phrases at other times, and always providing a solid pulse that is so important in the role of the cellist. Plus he had some really stunningly beautiful solos. It was a pleasure to share the stage with him - we all ended up really enjoying ourselves! 

The wonderful thing about performing chamber music, in particular piano trios,  is the very special, improvisatory feeling that you get when all three players connect. It’s as if all players are linked together by an invisible thread, but also have the freedom to be individuals at the same time. This allows musical conversations to occur - each player feeds of one another. It makes performing very fun and spontaneous, allowing performers to pass around phrases like a game of ball, mimic one another, converse between the instruments, interrupt one another, joke with one another, or sing together. This was certainly the feeling we all experienced during our Waikanae performance. Our concert received a packed audience of over 300 people, with very enthusiastic response. After the concert, we were taken to a lovely restaurant in Waikanae by members of the committee, where we enjoyed some lively conversation and delicious New Zealand wines.

After a few hour’s sleep, we rose at 4am to catch the 6am flight back to Sydney. Now we will begin preparations for our next concert at Pitt St Uniting Church, which will take place this Friday night. 

Back in Sydney!

Here begins our first tour back to Australia and New Zealand in 2013! We are so glad to be back! Sydney couldn’t be more perfect at this time of year. The first thing we noticed when leaving Sydney airport was the air - it is warm and smells sweet, like flowers and eucalypts. Trees and greenery are everywhere; we feel like we have landed in paradise after having just spent months surrounded by grey concrete and snow. One good thing about jetlag is that you wake early enough to watch the sun come up - on our first morning back home in the Blue Mountains, we woke at 4am to watch the sunrise. It’s absolutely magical - the kookaburras begin laughing at the moment that the sun appears.IMG_2854


Even though I make this trip three times a year, I still find it so surreal how you can just cross seasons in the space of 24 hours.
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This tour is going to be quite different from any other one we have done, because we're without our cellist this time! Martin injured in an accident with a taxi that ran a red light while he was riding his bike in Berlin. Unfortunately he has broken his wrist! It is healing ok, and he'll be fine, but it means that he's out of action for the next month. 

So, after a really unlucky accident, we've been really grateful that Julian Smiles (the wonderful cellist of the Goldner Quartet and the Australia Ensemble) has agreed to step in for Martin for the first half of the tour. Julian will be performing with us in New Zealand, Sydney, Dubbo, Batehaven and Castlemaine. Then for the second half of the tour, we're flying out an amazing cellist from Berlin, Elena Cheah. Elena was principal cello of the Staatskapelle Berlin and also the Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra and we have been working together with her in Berlin since Martin broke his wrist. Elena will be playing concerts with us in Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Macedon, Dunolly and Hamilton, before we all fly to Dubai for our final concert of the tour. Then we will head back home to Berlin until we set off on our next trip. So this is going to be a very interesting tour for us - sad that it's not with Martin, but with superstar cellists to replace him all the way! We will be performing some beautiful trios on this tour; a bubbly Haydn Piano Trio in E major, Schubert's magnificent Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major, Mendelssohn's turbulent Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor and an arrangement by Elena Kats-Chernin of her popular Wild Swans Suite. 

This will be the first of three Australia-wide tours our trio will be undertaking in 2013. We will be performing nine concerts in Australia this time at some really beautiful venues, which we're really looking forward to visiting. Now we have three days of rehearsals with Julian at the University of NSW to cover all of our repertoire, before leaving for our first concert in New Zealand! Luckily we are getting lots of sunlight on our skin to help get over jet lag!
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Lunchtime at the University of New South Wales

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!


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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.