THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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The next Kettering Concert to be given by the Kettering Piano Quartet will be their last one. They’re an ensemble of four extraordinarily talented and dedicated musicians, each of whom has performed at the highest level in Australia and overseas. Those patrons of the Kettering Concerts who have followed their performances will no doubt be keen to attend this last one, knowing that it will rank, as usual, among the best of any musical event they’ve attended. Each of the four musicians is in demand as soloist, chamber musician and teacher. This program will consist of two piano quartets – Felix Mendelssohn’s No 1 in C minor, Op.1, and Johannes Brahms’ No 3 in C minor, Op. 60. Local artist, Pam Adams, will have her work displayed around the walls, a visual feast to complement the musical smorgasbord.
Brahms: behind the music
Brahms’ Quartet, known as the Werther Quartet, is backgrounded by a love triangle that has fascinated music lovers and historians for decades, according to Brian Johnston, Artistic Director of the Santa Cruz Chamber Players. The Quartet was begun when Brahms was living in the home of Robert and Clara Schumann. Robert had committed himself to a sanatorium following a suicide attempt; Clara had just had her seventh child. The young Brahms was handling the Schumann household responsibilities, falling in love with Clara, and confronted with the illness and eventual death of Robert, apparently from pneumonia. He completed the Quartet years later, with significant changes. Brian Johnston says it is easily one of his finest achievements, and Brahms was candid that the brooding quality of the piece was a direct reference to Goethe’s romantic hero of unrequited love, who eventually commits suicide. Over twenty years, Brahms reworked his Quartet, replacing movements and incorporating his version of Robert Schumann’s musical motto for Clara’s name. He described the work as a curiosity, having something of his youthful obsessive love and something of his more
Mendelssohn: mature beyond his years
Felix Mendelssohn, on the other hand, had no trouble completing his quartets. Internet source IMSLP believes many composers saw the piano quartet as “far too troublesome a medium” and that such an ensemble – piano, violin, viola and cello – is “easily unbalanced”. Far from being put off, Mendelssohn, the musically precocious son of an affluent Jewish family, wrote four – and he wrote them all in his teenage years. IMSLP says his precocity never ceases to amaze and his confidence sprang from being too young to know he should be afraid. His C minor Op. 1 has four movements, “as one would rightly expect from a thirteen-year-old composer formed by the Classical tradition … [and] contains some of the finest music he wrote during those extraordinary years.” In his quartets are heard the young Felix’s gift for tender, expressive melody, an instinct for structure not usually seen in one so young, and originality that is melodic, harmonic and beautifully effective. Mendelssohn wrote one last quartet ten years later while grieving the death of his musically gifted sister, little knowing that his own early death would occur within a few months of hers.
Finality for the four
For the Kettering Piano Quartet, Emma McGrath, violin, William Newbery, viola, Brett Rutherford, cello, and Jennifer Marten-Smith, piano, this will be their last appearance together. Emma McGrath made her public London debut at the age of ten, and has enjoyed a stellar career. She has been Concert Master with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra since 2016. Brett Rutherford is a master of the cello, as well as a couple of its cousins. He studied in NSW and in London, has been heard on ABC programs, and records and plays with several chamber groups. Violist William Newbery, a member of the TSO, undertook post-graduate studies in Germany, plays with other chamber groups, and tutors viola for the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra. Pianist Jennifer Marten-Smith left Tasmania at the age of 12 after an invitation to study in Germany. She made her public debut with the TSO at age 16, and became the youngest graduate of the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music. Four of our finest musicians to enjoy, and local artist, Pam Adams, whose background as a geographer gives her a special appreciation for the nuances of landscape. Pam has been experimenting with more abstract representations of the landscape as well as trying to do more sketching. Trips to Lake Eyre in flood, the Red Centre, Arnhem Land and New Zealand have given her lots of inspiration and her new exhibits include a variety of styles and subjects. All works are matted and covered in cellophane, with hanging hooks and cord on the back. They’re more affordable unframed and also easily carried. Pam is looking forward to sharing her work again at the Kettering Concert and chatting with patrons. The concert is on this Sunday, September 22, 3pm, at the Kettering Hall. Ticket sales at the door, $15.
In these days of “too much information” the delightful art of reading and writing is looking a bit like it’s an endangered species – on the critical list, facing extinction. Reading for pleasure, including long-form journalism in the physically written form of a paper or magazine, isn’t a luxury – it’s an antidote to the speed and intransigence of social media and technology. Being a reader who always tries to finish an article or story, I believe that if a writer went to the trouble of writing something, then it’s my duty and responsibility to finish and absorb all articles. The same has always gone for books – very rarely have I become so disgruntled with the standard that I’ve chucked a book in the corner. Almost every book I’ve picked up has been read and absorbed. It’s a courtesy to the writer, but mostly it’s a need to satisfy curiosity. I also read widely across many genres, with the intention of finding out something new, interesting, different or educational at every turn of the page. Motto: “Any day when you don’t learn something new is a wasted day!”
Limited attention span
In the current times, there is so much information, especially on screen or device, with so many distractions and competitions for our attention, that our ability to give the full amount of time to read an article, topic or subject, has shrunk. So much so, that writers are designating a time frame for the reader. While researching something important recently, I came across a pre-disclaimer: “The following article by… is a two (three, or four) minute read.” The reader can decide, on that useful information, whether it is even worth bothering with starting the article, let alone finishing it. Personally, my curiosity usually gets the better of me and I must finish what the journalist or author has bothered to write. Call me old-fashioned, shoot me down in flames, etc. but I think we are losing a valuable ability, one which was fought for and hard-won – the ability to follow through with thoughts and ideas from the written word. Good writing and good reading helps us think.
In the genre of long-form journalism, if there is the opportunity to indulge in a good read on weekends, I enjoy the experience, wisdom, knowledge and writing skill of a few who appear in our local papers. Charles Wooley rarely fails to provide a fun, interesting, provocative or educational piece. He has been around the traps so long, I would be keen to read any book of fiction he wrote, if he ever gets around to doing it. Under his “journeying writer” guise, Wooley has written a book on travelling tales, as well as his copious journalism pieces. Other long-form writers I enjoy are Simon Bevilacqua, David Penbarthy, Linda Smith, Amanda Ducker and Tim Martain. Annabel Crabb is also a delight. Journalists and professional writers accrue so much information, knowledge and insight, one can imagine that their insights would be entertaining, enlightening and useful. Not all journalists transcend the “what is” writing to undertake “what if” writing, sadly. They also accrue an audience.
Write well and write often: reading is also good
Reading is important – after all, if there isn’t an audience or market, a writer could ask “why bother writing?” However, some writers write because of an innate need to say something in print, and maybe, have it published. The Hobart Writers Festival last weekend was a celebration of writers and readers. Coming soon locally, a new biennial event in the Huon Valley – Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival (TAF) – promises to provide ideas, books and events to delight writers and readers. The inaugural theme, Murder She Wrote, is an exploration of crime and mystery fiction written by women past and present. Over four days – from 31 October to 3 November 2019 – Cygnet and surrounds will be alive (or undead) with panel sessions, parties, workshops and free community events. If festivals aren’t your thing, join a writing group or a book club. Learn to love your local library. Celebrate the hidden writer, or reader, in a venue near you.
Recipe of the month
with Kirsten Bacon
No need to leave home today. Make your own bread with your own jam and butter. This is a fantastic school holiday or rainy day activity for families, friends and community. Some tips: ensure the water you use is warm as it will help the yeast to work.
450g (3 cups) plain bread flour (if using wholemeal add more water)
1 tablespoon (12g/2 sachets) dried yeast
2 teaspoons honey or malt
1/2 teaspoon salt
250ml (1 cup) warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
• Combine flour, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in salt. Make a well in the centre. Add milk and butter.
• Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until well combined, then use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth
• Brush a large bowl with olive oil to grease. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place to prove for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the dough has almost doubled in size.
• Press down the centre of the dough with your fist. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes or until the dough is elastic and has returned to its original size.
• Shape as desired either into small 50g bread rolls or roll tightly and place in loaf tin.
• Cover lightly with a cloth and place somewhere warm. When the dough reaches up to the top of the tin place the bread into a 220° C hot oven and bake for around 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure it sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingers.
Blackberry, raspberry and vanilla bean jam
4 cups (880g) caster sugar
500g fresh blackberries
500g fresh raspberries
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
• Sterilise preserving jars. To sterilise, place jars and lids in a deep saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Cover pan and reduce heat, boiling gently for 10 minutes. Remove sterilised jars and lids with tongs and place upside down on a clean tea towel.
• Meanwhile, juice the lemon and reserve the seeds. Place the seeds in a small piece of muslin and tie with kitchen string to secure.
• Combine the sugar, blackberries, raspberries, vanilla, lemon juice and prepared lemon seeds in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves and the berries release their juices.
• To remove some of the berry seeds, strain half the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to push as much pulp through as possible. Return berry mixture to the saucepan, discarding berry seeds. Bring to the boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until jam is at setting point. To test if jam is set, place a small saucer in the freezer. Remove jam from heat and place a spoonful of jam on the chilled saucer. Return to freezer for 1 minute. Run your finger through the jam to test if the jam wrinkles and gels. If it doesn’t, return to the heat for 5 minutes and repeat the test.
• Discard the lemon seeds. Divide hot jam among warm sterilised jars and seal. Turn upside down for 2 minutes. Turn upright. Set aside to cool completely.
Make your own butter
2 cups heavy cream (preferably from raw milk or store-bought organic)
• Put desired amount of cream into your mixing bowl. It is important to only fill the bowl halfway so it does not overflow as air is whipped into the cream. (Take my word for it!)
• Turn mixer on low to medium-low at first to prevent splashing. Once the cream begins to thicken you can turn it up to medium.
• You will probably need to mix for about 15 minutes. This time can vary depending on how much cream you are using and what type of mixer you have.
• As it thickens it will first change to whipped cream. After the whipped cream stage it will begin to deflate and break down. When this begins to happen, stay close. When it makes the change to butter it can happen very quickly. It will also start to splash again so you can hang a towel over the mixer if you like.
• When you see the butter begin to clump and stick to your whisk, it is done mixing.
• Put your strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of your mixing bowl into the strainer. The solids that collect in the strainer are the butter and the liquid that collects in the bowl is buttermilk. (The buttermilk can be used in recipes in place of water. Try it in pancakes.)
• Now you need to ‘rinse’ the butter. It is important to remove as much buttermilk as possible to keep the butter from going rancid. Put the butter back in your mixing bowl and cover with clean, cold water.
• With the back of your wide spoon, begin pressing the butter into the side of the bowl. The water will get cloudy as the buttermilk is ‘cleaned’ out of the butter. Pour the water off and add more cold water.
• Repeat this process 4 to 5 times or until the water stays clear. Done!
• Add salt as required.
• Spread with jam on your bread. Delicious!
• Store in refrigerator or at room temperature if you will use it within a week or two.
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