VDB’s Artistic Director Julia Fredersdorff

Fragile manuscripts in remote corners of Europe, striking long-necked instruments from the seventeenth-century, and a journey through the authentic Bohemian world are the ingredients of a unique musical adventure presented by Tasmania’s exciting new Baroque music ensemble Van Diemen’s Band.

In two concerts in Launceston’s QVMAG, 17 May, and St David’s Cathedral in Hobart, 18 May, audiences will travel to Bohemia, a place with such a strong national personality that it eventually came to describe a state of mind.

‘The music being written there in the 1600s is so out of the box for its time, I’m not surprised Bohemians became renowned for their unconventionality – the epitome of the wild artistic type,’ says VDB’s Artistic Director Julia Fredersdorff. ‘Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody has nothing on this!’

Fredersdorff’s research for the program began to resemble something from The Da Vinci Code. ‘You can’t just buy some of this over the counter in a music store,’ she says. ‘Tracing the very first item on the program (the Sonata in D by Pezel) took me to the Kroměříž Collection in a former bishop’s palace in Moravia, where part of the movie Amadeus was made, and a manuscript that had hardly been touched for nearly 350 years. The trick was to translate the notation made by the composer or his copyist into something the VDB players could easily read. We even had to verify we had the right person. In his day Pezel was also known as Petzold and Pecelius.’

Other pieces on the program are more familiar – including the Baroque’s most-loved piece by today’s listener: Pachelbel’s Canon and Gigue. ‘How many weddings do you think have used the Pachelbel Canon for the bride’s walk down the aisle?’ asks Fredersdorff. ‘For a piece that became popular only fifty years ago, it’s almost a cliché – that is, until you hear it played in the original way with some help from our gorgeous theorboes.’

The Hobart and Launceston concerts will feature two of the striking long-necked instruments, a sort of love-child of a lute and a giraffe. One of the instruments will be flown from the USA with its player Simon Martyn-Ellis, an expat-Australian now resident in Cleveland. ‘Same old story,’ says Fredersdorff. ‘Australian travels overseas to study and becomes one of the best in the world. Having two onstage (the other played by Nicholas Pollock, who recently appeared with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra) is a unique treat, and will give our sound some real grunt. These are the bass guitars of the Baroque.’

The music has a unique originality, says Fredersdorff. ‘You listen to something like the Sonata by Weichlein on the program – another piece we had to ‘decode’ from the ancient manuscript, by the way – and you just reel at how stunning, how totally beautiful it is. How many more centuries would it have stayed locked away on its yellowing paper in a European castle until some Tasmanian detectives came along?’

See below for full concert details and booking information.


Van Diemen’s Band with guests Simon Martyn-Ellis & Nicholas Pollock (theorboes) and Karina Schmitz (baroque viola)

THURSDAY 17 MAY Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, 6pm
FRIDAY 18 MAY St David’s Cathedral, Hobart, 6pm

Tickets at and at the door
Ciara Nicholls, Publicity Consultant