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Classical music, wine and food - a match made in Heathcote
In the space of two short years, the Sanguine Estate Music Festival has established itself as a fixture on the calendar of classical music lovers with a taste for the finer things of life: music performed by renowned performers both home-grown and international, wine from the award-winning Sanguine Estate vineyard and food by chef Simon Fenwick of Monsieur Pierre in Kyneton.
. It's hard to sum up the sensory experience that is the Sanguine Estate Music Festival but Weekend Notes loves a challenge. Imagine a weekend spent mingling with punters and performers alike in a gorgeous rural setting; being fed and watered every few hours by a team of crack waiting staff, only interrupted by the summons to the cool of the barrel room to hear beautiful music played by some of the finest musicians Australia (and the world) have to offer. It's a tough gig but someone's got to review it.
Friday evening kicked off with canapés and drinks before the Welcome Concert, and this set the standard for all that followed. The absence of young Italian violinist Lorenza Borrani due to ill health was more than made up for by the wonderfully stylish and entertaining Rebecca Chan of the VCO, whose vibrant performing personality sees her almost unable to stay seated when in full flight.
The inaugural free concert in Heathcote the following morning was a heartfelt 'thank you' from festival director and gifted cellist Chris Howlett to the Heathcote community, which has welcomed and nurtured the festival since its debut in March 2012. Then it was back to Sanguine Estate for morning tea and the best home-made cookies and muffins IN THE WORLD.
The 'Inside the Music' Concert under the ever-enthusiastic leadership of cellist Howard Penny gave the audience an insight into the birth of the string quartet, with Haydn's Opus 2/4 as a guide. Lunch was your choice of a food-and-wine-matching masterclass or gourmet picnic under the trees.
The afternoon 'Conversations' Concert was an introduction to some lesser-known Bachs (sons and grandsons of the great JS), a man who clearly had his work-life balance sorted. He managed to take sufficient breaks from writing masterpieces to father 7 children to his first wife and a further 13 to his second. We heard from three of his sons, one of his grandsons and possibly one of his wives. 'Jesu, meine Zuversicht' appeared in one of the Anna Magdalena notebooks and is generally attributed to Johann Sebastian, but there are those who believe Anna Magdalena (no slouch in the musical department herself) may have been its author. Regardless, the Conversations Concert was a delight, and guest pianist Daniel de Borah was a welcome addition to the musical line up that included Ian Munro, Paul Wright, Rebecca Chan, Tobias Breider, Caroline Hopson, Brett Dean, Chris Howlett and Howard Penny. A stellar cast indeed.
Speaking of stellar, the Gala Concert audience had been promised a special guest and was not disappointed by the appearance of the sublime Wilma Smith on the stage. Her inclusion made possible the performance of the Double Quartet No. 1 in D Minor by Louis Spohr, a virtuosic romp that was clearly enjoyed by both performers and audience alike. Mendelssohn's Piano Quartet in B minor Opus 3 introduced the evening's entertainment and was an absolute highlight, garnering a well-deserved standing ovation.
The celebratory mood carried through to the gala dinner, matching local produce and Sanguine wine with the care and attention to detail that festival-goers have come to expect from the Hunter family and continue to appreciate. Even the seating arrangements are as close to perfect as possible. Tables of eight are somehow put together from the many and varied groups, singles and couples in attendance, and nary a dud amongst them, if your correspondent's experience over the past three festivals is anything to go by.
The weekend winds up on the Sunday with a Farewell Concert and – what else? - more food and wine. Happy festival-goers drift off back to their everyday lives with fond farewells to their new best friends and even fonder memories that will have to last them till next year's concert. The 4th Sanguine Estate Music Festival will take place on February 13 to 15, 2015. I've already booked my seat with Heathcote Grape Escape Wine Tours shuttle bus. Get on board.