OF THE MONTH
Dvorak Opera Premiere
Contributor Profile: David Barker
Born in 1960, I have lived most of my life
in the Antipodean Newcastle (on Hunter), 100 miles north of Sydney.
I spent nine years at Newcastle University, avoiding the real
a B.Sc (Hons) and Ph.D. in chemistry. A brief dalliance with
the world of commerce and industry convinced me that
my talents, such as they were, lay elsewhere, and I have lectured
in applied science at the Hunter Institute for almost 20 years.
in chemistry has been required to expand into other areas: environmental
monitoring, waste management, food processing and most recently,
science. I wrote a series of introductory level texts on chemistry,
laboratory work and safety with a few of my colleagues, and have
been involved in state and national curriculum development for
much of this time.
My musical talents have never extended beyond the ability to
use a stereo and purchase LPs and CDs, and I do admit to being
exceedingly proficient in the latter. Listening to music was
always important, but a love of classical music
came late - my early thirties - supplanting previous interests
in Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Cockburn and others of that era.
point into classical music came from a most unlikely source:
a series of very basic magazines (with CD) available on a weekly
basis from the newsagent, each issue concentrating on one composer.
It took about a dozen issues for the bug to bite, Schumann's
piano concerto making the key impact because I had never heard
The standard repertoire beckoned, and with the aid of the Penguin
Guide, a credit card and a benevolent wife, the collection
grew - rapidly - despite the paucity of classical music shops
(and for that matter, Sydney). The Internet, and the ease
of online purchases from British and American retailers,
created the conditions for contraction of acute "collectionitis".
Mercifully the Naxos
Music Library arrived
before the house foundations collapsed, and the number of new
CDs has slowed to a safe and manageable level.
My musical tastes are fairly diverse, ranging from the 1600s
to the current day, but I have yet to see much merit in music
and harmony are sacrificed for
the cause of effect. My wife and I refer to such works as "boat
noise" after attending a world premiere (from then, a worrying
term) of music (I will not mention the composer) that could only
be described in those terms.
I do have a great fascination with the obscure byways of music,
and have found some quite wonderful works in the "undergrowth".
I cite Johann Kalliwoda as a prime example of the rewards of
going beyond the great composers.
Nevertheless, my two favourite composers
are from the pantheon of the great ones: Bach and Vaughan Williams.
The recordings of Bach's keyboard works by Angela Hewitt and
the cantatas by Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan hold
pride of place in my collection, and I continue to buy the physical
CDs of the cantatas, even though they are available as part of
the Naxos Music Library.
As for Vaughan Williams, three bars of Tasmin Little playing The Lark Ascending at a Last Night of the Proms probably
15 years ago made me stop what I was doing and watch the TV until
it had finished. I then began to buy as much VW as I could and
everything sounded just right. I knew his music was part of me
when it took less than 30 seconds of the first and, therefore
work on a Mystery Composer Quiz episode of Karl Haas's Adventures
in Good Music to recognise a VW piece I didn't know.
I have been fortunate enough on a few European holidays to
undertake JSB and RVW pilgrimages. Other memorable music moments include (remember
we are somewhat starved of the best performers out here):
Galante and Europa Galante playing The Four Seasons in the
Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford
Diana Doherty playing the world premiere (the exception that
proves the above rule) of Graeme Koehne's oboe concerto at
the Sydney Opera House
Angela Hewitt at a lunchtime Wigmore Hall concert
Murray Perahia at Royal Festival Hall
a Saturday afternoon "concert"/service at the
a 2007 Proms concert with Kurt Masur conducting on his 80th
birthday (in the company of MWI colleague Patrick Waller)
Springsteen in Sydney in 1984 (to prove that my earlier loves
haven't entirely faded)