Perusing the programs of the concerts offered by groups that will tour to Canberra during 2016 is like gazing into a box of delectable chocolates and trying to make agonising choices.
Will you choose one that you're certain that you'll love, or one that you haven't tried before, which promises a new and intriguing experience? Will you choose something uncompromisingly rich, or one elegant in its simplicity?
Unless you're lucky enough to have a benevolent rich uncle or to have won a big Lotto prize, you probably can't devour this whole box of musical delights, but here are a few ideas and remember – as you buy your ticket you are supporting artists who dedicate their lives to making music.
This year, classical pianist Kathryn Selby celebrates 10 years of touring with her friends.
"Selby & Friends was born out of my love for chamber music and my experience collaborating with many brilliant Australian and international artists," she says, "so it is fitting that in 2016 we celebrate that decade by highlighting extraordinary Australian musical talent."
Performing with Selby in the series between February and November will be violinists Dene Olding and Andrew Haveron, and cellists Julian Smiles and Timo-Veikko Valve, as well as "homecoming artists" Daniel Dodds and Susie Park on violin, and cellist Clancy Newman.
The first concert on Tuesday, February 23, at 7.30pm in the intimate space of the James Fairfax Theatre at the Australian National Gallery will feature guests Valve and Haveron joining Selby in music by Beethoven, Schubert, Busoni and Arensky. Because the venue is small you will need to book early. Telephone 1300 511 099 for information.
Musica Viva brings Voyage to the Moon to Llewellyn Hall in Canberra on Friday, March 4, at 7pm. Australian playwright and director Michael Gow has put new words to musical gems by Handel, Vivaldi and some lesser-known 18th-century composers, which have been woven into a score by Alan Curtis.
An ensemble of chamber music musicians led from the harpsichord by Phoebe Briggs, head of music at Victorian Opera, will accompany soprano Emma Matthews, mezzo Sally-Anne Russell and newcomer bass-baritone Jeremy Kleeman as they tell the story of Astolfo's voyage to the moon, where the wits of Orlando, lost after the anguish of a fight with his girlfriend, may be found. Tickets: 1300 795 012.
How can you possibly choose between the concerts that will tour this year with the Australian Chamber Orchestra? Well, I have two suggestions here.
First, at Llewellyn Hall on Saturday, April 9, at 8pm, the ACO will join with Synergy Percussion under the direction of Richard Tognetti in Cinemusica. It includes Thomas Newman's score for the award-winning American Beauty, Bernard Herrmann's Psycho: A Suite for Strings, Bela Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta used in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining, as well as two works by Xenakis and the world premiere of Timothy Constable's new work for strings and percussion.
Late in the year, on November 26, visiting Italian violinist Lorenza Borrani will direct the ACO as they play works by Beethoven, Schubert and 20th-century Russian composer Alfred Schnittke. Information: aco.com.au.
The Australian String Quartet now includes Canberra in its tour program and will give three concerts here during 2016. Violist Stephen King has been tutoring at the Australian Youth Orchestra music camp during January and is always excited by the young talent inspired by this program.
The ASQ's first Canberra program is at Gandel Hall, NGA, on Sunday, March 6, at 2pm and after their two festivals at Dunkeld in Victoria and in the Margaret River wine region, they will return to Canberra on Sunday, July 3, to perform a program of music by Webern, Haydn and Mendelssohn, plus a vivacious new work by Australian composer/pianist Joe Chindamo, Tempesta.
It's a joy to hear this ensemble play and this year it will be interesting to hear the interplay as violinists Dale Barltrop and Francesca Hiew join King and cellist Sharon Draper. firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 1800 040 444.
Opera Australia comes to Canberra in August with a new production of The Marriage of Figaro, performances from August 25 – 27 at the Canberra Theatre. This is another creation of Michael Gow, together with Robert Kemp – a new take on a household in turmoil during one emotionally exhausting day.
This production will feature a chamber orchestra and a chorus of local Canberra children to accompany the singers. Telephone 6275 2700 for tickets.
As a special treat for the year's end, I would choose Haydn's Passion, a concert by the Australian Haydn Ensemble with Erin Helyard at the harpsichord and soloist Melissa Farrow on flute Thursday, December 15. The ensemble's concert last December at Albert Hall was one of the most joyous musical events I experienced all year, something to lift the spirits and remember.
The ensemble will give all its five Canberra concerts this year at The Hall, University House, ANU, all with an early start at 7pm, beginning with Beautiful Boccherini with special guest Sara Macliver on Thursday, March 10. Telephone 1800 334 388 for information.
If you devoured a whole box of chocolates, you would reproach yourself for your gluttony and rue your weight gain, but you will get nothing but delight from this selection of musical delicacies.