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Music plus Mornington Peninsula equals magic
Every year at around this time, I schlep down the M11 for ten days of wine, music and Mornington Peninsula hospitality to review the Peninsula Summer Music Festival. It's a tough gig but someone's got to do it.
This year, artistic director Ben Opie has taken off the training wheels with a program that features a range of instruments including the Japanese shakuhachi and koto. Regular festival-goers won't be disappointed either. Opie may be forging a new and distinctive path, but still manages to stay true to the winning formula of previous incumbent Julia Fredersdorff.
Scorned Women, a performance held at the picturesque Hurley Vineyard in Balnarring, included the best of old and new. Louisa Hunter-Bradley (voice and recorder), Lizzy Welsh (violin) and David Macfarlane (harpsichord and organ) performed a program of early Italian baroque music with a modern thread: it was written either for or by women.
The audience was given a crash course in that composer who's celebrating an anniversary year right about now. No, not Beethoven but the incomparable Barbara Strozzi, born in 1619, whose reputation as a singer, composer and musician has since been overshadowed by her reputed profession as a courtesan.
Judging by the words of her songs, she knew a bit about scorn and heartbreak. Seventeenth-century women composers had strict prohibition on the publication of their music, and often the performances were shrouded in secrecy. Not so for Strozzi's male contemporaries such as Claudio Monteverdi.
Scorned Women, performed in the intimate setting of the Hurley Vineyard barrel room, had the feel of a seventeenth-century salon. There was plenty of variety of performance, with different combinations of musicians and the multi-tasking skills of two of them (Hunter-Bradley on recorder and voice and Macfarlane on harpsichord and organ). A golden evening both meteorologically and musically.