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Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Music at Huntington, 2004

Huntington Estate, to give it its full title, is a winery in the New South Wales town of Mudgee. It produces some excellent wines. A visit there to taste wine is an experience not to be missed. You will often encounter Bob Roberts, the proprietor, who will be only too ready to complain: ‘My wines are too cheap’. More importantly, he is likely to give you really objective observations, too. I greatly appreciated that during my second visit a year or so ago.

Bob also plays host to the Huntington Estate Music Festival. Richard Tognetti, the artistic director and leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra is married to Bob’s daughter. For the past many years, the orchestra and guests have put on a five-day festival of music, food, and wine (or ‘The Huntington Estate Variety Show’, as Richard has been known to put it). All who have been before maintain that it is a most memorable experience. I was fortunate enough to share in it myself, this year.

Huntington is probably the most exclusive music festival in the World. (This does not mean that it is elitist or unwelcome – far from it.) It is just that there is a very limited (450-500) supply of tickets. Although I was fortunate enough to get a ticket, none of my old Adelaide friends managed it this year.

There is very little about Huntington on the web and there was only one broadcast from it - and that was recorded - during the festival, this year. However, Australian Broadcasting was/were recording the whole event so we can look forward to hearing, or rehearing, some of the riveting performances during the next twelve months. Listeners, world wide, can do this on the web. I’ll explain a bit more about this, one day, if I can find the energy: I am finding my duties as Professor Emeritus of Indolence at Echidna University unusually taxing, this year.

I have a few, select musical memories that I hope I shall be able to tell to my great-grandchildren. Among these old treasures, to give you the flavour, was attending the Aldeburgh Festival - in 1964, I think it was.

The whole series of planned events was sold out but I found out that there was to be an impromptu chamber concert in Aldeburgh Parish Church. Two of the artists, already at the festival: Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich were to be performing and I somehow got a pair of tickets. The programme consisted, if I remember rightly, of Beethoven and Brahms cello sonatas. The playing was extraordinarily enjoyable but the most memorable thing about the performances was that Benjamin Britten was turning the pages.

Being present at the extraordinary Huntington Estate Music Festival clearly ranks with Aldeburgh in the 1960s and I will treasure it forever, accordingly. The Festival opened with a brilliant didge solo from the engaging giant William Barton and ended, five days later, with Bach’s cantata ‘Ich habe genug’ sung exquisitely by the giant Teddy Tahu Rhodes. During the next few days, I’ll try to tell you a bit more and ‘review’ some of the performances in detail. You won’t be bored; I promise.

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