Celebrating 25 years - a brief history
V irtuosi Tasmania has been bringing chamber music to regional Tasmania for twenty five years. The late, and much loved, Stephen (Steve) Martin had the vision of musicians from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) along with the best of local musicians, playing chamber music in regional Tasmania. Steve had been a player with the TSO since 1977. He gathered together a group of like minded friends and on 24 April 1992 Virtuosi was born. In June 1993 Virtuosi was listed in the Register of Cultural Organisations. In 1994 Virtuosi commissioned well known Tasmanian composer Don Kay to write music for a string quartet, his piece “Moonlight Ridge” was performed in 1996, was broadcast live by ABC FM and was also performed at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music.
The Virtuosi logo was designed by Tom Samek, a local artist and friend of Virtuosi.
Steve’s vision was to present fine chamber music of diverse style and instrumentation by gathering together a variety of ensembles to perform under the Virtuosi banner in exotic and unusual locations around Tasmania. Virtuosi is not an ensemble of regular players but rather an entrepreneurial organisation facilitating a number of ensembles of professional musicians. It always has, and still is, run entirely by volunteers who share Steve’s dream and vision. The music played is a collaboration between the players presenting the music they wish to play without the restrictions of a large orchestra.
The first series of concerts, labelled Heritage Series I, II and III, were played at various historic homes including Redlands House, Mountford House Ballroom and Hawley House, all performances were sold out.
The Trout Quintet was performed to a packed audience at the Coal Valley vineyard in 2000 and it convinced the Virtuosi committee that performances at vineyards could attract good audience numbers. Accordingly Virtuosi has performed at many vineyards around the State as well as heritage houses and private homes, Hastings caves, apple sheds, old and new churches, art galleries and any venue where an audience could be comfortably accommodated.
In 2008 the first of Virtuosi’s biennial chamber music festivals was held in and around venues in the Coal River Valley. Held over the February long weekend and attended by the then Governor, His Excellency Peter Underwood AC, who in 2009 became the Virtuosi Patron. All concerts were a great success and included jazz elements which Steve promoted as “twentieth century chamber music.” The second festival in 2010, also held in venues around the Coal River Valley, was again hugely successful attracting much acclaim from delighted audiences.
In 2012 the third festival was held at the then recently opened Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). These concerts were held in the Barrel and Organ Rooms at MONA, were recorded by the ABC and were again extremely popular and well attended. Virtuosi continues to perform concerts at MONA.
Typically, Virtuosi Tasmania brings five or more ensembles to some twenty venues across the State each year.
Since the untimely death of Steve in 2015 the role of Musical Manager has been undertaken by Jennifer Marten-Smith (see below).
Recent concerts arranged by Jennifer have showcased some of the best of our local up and coming talented musicians. Including the world premiere of “Country”, music by Don Kay, with voice, oboe and piano, Mozart’s “The Impresario”, piano and cello sonatas, guitar and flute solos and piano duets. Jennifer continues to invoke Steve’s vision of presenting innovative and beautiful music throughout Tasmania.
Virtuosi has been well served by a large team of volunteers over its 25 years of presenting music throughout Tasmania, is grateful for the enthusiasm of members of the TSO who have been keen to be involved and create wonderful concerts along with local Tasmanian musicians, and a loyal audience of music lovers who have supported Virtuosi in all of its endeavours. We thank them all.
Following the sad and untimely passing in 2015 of Stephen Martin, our founding Artistic Director, Virtuosi Tasmania is pleased and excited that Jennifer Marten-Smith has taken up the Musical Manager position.
Jennifer grew up in Tasmania and at age 12 was invited to study with Professor Gediga-Glombitza at the Musikhochschule in Cologne. At age 16 she made her public debut with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra as soloist in Schumann’s A minor Piano Concerto, having previously recorded the Rimsky-Korsakov Piano Concerto with the TSO. Two years later she performed the Rubinstein Piano Concerto No 4 with the TSO and, that same year, was the youngest graduate of the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, where she was awarded a high distinction as a double major in piano performance and accompaniment. Other concertos in her repertoire include works by Beethoven, Brahms, Dohnányi, Mozart, Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky, and she has appeared as soloist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Niedersächsisches Staatsorchester Hannover.In 1989 she began work as a repetiteur with the State Opera of South Australia and subsequently joined the Victorian State Opera Young Artist Programme. Between 1997 and 2001 she was repetiteur at the Staatsoper Hannover and was a full-time member of the music staff with Opera Australia from 2001 to 2012. She has more than 90 operas in her repertoire. Jennifer, a member of the Kettering Piano Quartet, is now living in Hobart, and is in demand as a soloist, accompanist and vocal coach.
With her close ties with members of the TSO and the wider Tasmanian musical fraternity Jennifer is well placed to assist Virtuosi Tasmania in realising its aims.
The Virtuosi Tasmania Inc CommitteeThe committee for 2017 is made up of the following members
- Chair: Pat Leary
- Musical Manager: Jennifer Marten-Smith
- Treasurer: John Langford
- Secretary: Pieter Buining
- Committee members: Alan Blakers, Ralph Kidson, Kay Mallinson, Dianne Martin, Jennifer Owen
Elspeth Hope-Johnstone AM is a life member of Virtuosi Tasmania Inc.
The committee meets regularly during the year with an Annual General Meeting in November/December. Details are availble from the .