Classics come back to the source

You might not often read the words ‘hot springs’ in the same sentence as ‘violins’, ‘violas’ and ‘cellos’, but there has been a natural symbiosis and long cultural heritage between music and hot springs bathing for centuries. Beethoven composed significant parts of his symphonies during summers spent immersed in Viennese baths, while Bach was known to accompany Prince Leopold on his bathing visits to Carslbad in the 1700s.

World-class musicians will bring this connection to life by playing a suite of soothing, refreshing and stimulating classical pieces at Peninsula Hot Springs’ upcoming ‘Bach and Bathe’ sunset concert on January 11.

The Peninsula Summer Music Festival String Quartet will be performing the concert in the newly-revealed Amphitheatre and have carefully curated the music to marry with the hot springs’ unique atmospherics and bathing experiences. Concertgoers will have the opportunity to listen to the music of Bach and Mendelssohn while luxuriating in the terraced Amphitheatre pools or relaxing in picnic-style seating.

According to violinists Peter Clark and Jessica Oddie, playing in Peninsula Hot Springs’ Amphitheatre is “effectively bringing hot springs-inspired classical music back to its source”, with several famous German composers historically having sought rest and therapy in hot springs.

“The fact that these people were composing their music inspired by the nature surrounding them, means that, in a sense, it is almost more appropriate for audiences to experience these works while immersed in nature, in a place such as Peninsula Hot Springs – even more appropriate than a concert hall,” says Jessica.

“Mendelssohn, after the death of his sister, suffered terribly and went to Baden Baden to recuperate, and he ended up writing some of his most beautiful choral works there.”

Beethoven was a master of the string quartet repertoire, and the quartet has chosen an earlier work as a “best fit” for this performance.

“The first published work of his quartet oeuvre starts with a lot of freshness and vitality, which Beethoven had in his beginning with an effervescence that’s similarly experienced in taking the waters,” says Peter.

In 1737, Handel — another master of the genre — sought treatment from his various maladies in the German spa town of Aix la Chapelles, now known as Bad Aachen. After months of bathing, a reasonable diet and rest, he was rejuvenated from some effects of what was probably toxicity and returned to writing and playing harpsichord. Some of his greatest works followed, including Solomon and Messiah.

Though works by Handel aren’t included in the January 11 performance, the musicians have selected wellness, therapy, soothing and refreshment as themes in the chosen works. The creation of Bach’s Goldberg variations is said to have come from a commission to compose for Russian diplomat Count Kaiserling, with the brief: “smooth and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights”.

On the title page of Bach’s resulting work in 1741, publisher Balthasar Schmid of Nuremberg wrote: “Composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits.”

Peninsula Summer Music Festival Music Director Ben Opie — himself an independent artist of international renown who specialises in chamber music and solo repertoire — helped choose the piece with the ensemble “because they pair so beautifully with the experience of Peninsula Hot Springs”.

“What’s remarkable about all the works we’ve chosen is that their major themes are transformed throughout the course of the work; in the Goldberg variations especially, we experience 30 variations of the beautiful thematic aria, which you hear again at the end of the work,” Jessica elaborates.

“because of your experience of these 30 variations, you as a listener are transformed too, so that your rehearing of the aria is changed – and that’s very similar to the experience of people in the baths as well. Although when you leave the hot springs, you are of course the same person as you were when you entered the baths, you’re different in some intangible, but essential and wonderful ways.

“All the works we will play have that quality: themes are transmuted, transformed and you hear them throughout the piece slightly differently, so that the experience of the musical transformations parallels one’s experience of Peninsula Hot Springs.”

Jessica’s free sunset performance — to be held for Bath House guests on January 9 — has also been inspired by the hot springs and surrounds.

“In the solo concert I’m giving, I’ve selected a set of solo pieces by Bach and Biber, but I will also be improvising between these incredible pieces to accompany the sounds of nature as well as respond to the ambiences of the different pools I’m playing around,” she says. “The goal of the concert is to complement the different amazing atmospherics of the springs. There are the pools of different temperatures, and as I experience the various ambiences in different locations, I will be pairing the repertoire to fit these incredibly special places in the hot springs.”

Peninsula Hot Springs also features three free performances as part of the Peninsula Summer Music Festival: Aviva Endean (January 3), Martiln (January 6) and Jessica Oddie playing solo (January 9). The full Peninsula Summer Music Festival program is available here, which includes performances at fellow festival venue partners including: Lindenderry at Red Hill, Montalto, Elgee Park, Port Phillip Estate, Main Ridge Estate, Beleura House, Cruden Farm, Moorooduc Estate and Whistlewood Gallery.


Bach and Bathe ticket options


Premium Bach & Bathe:


-Picnic style seating

-Bath House Amphitheatre bathing

-Bath House bathing

Relax in 30 different bathing experiences available from 4pm* – 9:30pm

$130 per adult

*If you book ‘Premium Bach & Bathe’ and would like to arrive earlier than 4pm for Bath House bathing, please contact our friendly Reservations Team: (03) 5950 8777. Earlier arrival times are subject to availability.


Bach & Bathe:


-Picnic style seating

-Bath House Amphitheatre bathing

Relax in seven different bathing experiences available from 6pm – 9.30pm

$100 per adult


Bach & Bathe Performance Only:


-Picnic style seating

6pm arrival

$75 per adult


*The Bath House Amphitheatre Café will be available throughout the evening to purchase food and beverages. BYO alcohol is not permitted for this event. Towels and robes available for hire.

What would you like to book?

bath house bathing stay treatments and packages private bathing dining packages