What drives your passion for new music?
I’m not sure I can differentiate it from that which drives my passion for music itself. I’ve always had wide musical tastes and never categorised music in terms of new or old. The added excitement and reward of taking on brand new pieces is being able to work with composers, and having the joy as well as the rather weighty responsibility that comes with giving a first performance. It seems only natural that performers and composers should work as closely together as possible, and participating in this crucial and beautiful process of bringing new work into the world is one of the most fulfilling and exciting parts of being a musician.
How did your interest in Finnish music develop?
When I was about 12 years old, my father and I came across a CD of music by an exotically-named Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara. The disc contained his famous work, Cantus Arcticus, a concerto for birds and orchestra. It was completely unlike anything I had heard up to that point, and I was captivated by the haunting bird calls and the lush melancholy of the orchestral writing that underpinned and encircled them. The disc also contained his first piano concerto, which I subsequently learnt and was lucky enough to perform with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra two years later.
Pianist Aura Go. Photo © Keith Saunders
You’ve been an advocate for Rautavaara in Australia. What speaks to you in his music?
What is apparent in Rautavaara’s best works is his gift for creating atmosphere – painting a distinctive, often mystical, world in sound and transporting the listener to another place. It was this quality that first spoke to me in his orchestral and choral music. As a kid, I was also very drawn to the driving rhythms in his piano music. His piano music holds great appeal for young players because it is instantly accessible and technically quite straightforward. For me, his music was an early gateway to discovering new ways of producing sound and colour, and to discovering many other contemporary composers.
Are there other Finnish composers you think deserve a higher profile here?
Two older composers come to mind. Väinö Raitio and Aarre Merikanto were two exceptional orchestral and operatic composers who were overlooked and rejected in Finland in the shadow of Sibelius, and whose music is practically unknown outside of Finland.
How did the idea of colour emerge as an important element for you as a pianist?
What we hear as colour when listening to music is the result of the composer having put together a number of musical elements in a very particular way, and the performer’s particular execution of them in the moment. The seed of each part of the equation is imagination, and I find it a really enjoyable process to delve into the unique sound worlds of each composer and each piece I encounter and discover new possibilities I’d not previously imagined.
Has your concept of colour changed or evolved as your career has progressed? Have there been any particularly formative moments?
One of the first pieces I loved as a kid was Bartók’s Evening in Transylvania. I remember listening to the composer’s own recording of the piece (not knowing at that stage how to read music properly) and trying to emulate the evocative sound of the opening melody. My introduction to Debussy was another formative moment, and each time I play or listen to a work by Debussy I’m struck by his sheer genius for creating colour. Of course, it’s only because Debussy was a complete master of all aspects of composition that his colours touch and transport us in the way they do.
What have been the most important things to come from your tenure in the Musica Viva Futuremakers program?
The program is incredibly stimulating in so many ways. Having the chance to work with Genevieve Lacey, a long-time role model, is almost too good to be true. The calibre of artists and mentors who have come on board to give so generously of their time has been staggering. Having recently moved back to Australia after being away for ten years, it is a wonderful opportunity to be stretched, challenged and supported to pursue the artistic projects I am passionate about, and re-immerse myself in the Australian arts community, to which I hope I will be able to make a contribution.
What excites you most about your program at the upcoming Huntington Estate Festival?
I’m really looking forward to working with German clarinettist Sebastian Manz on some of my favourite clarinet and piano repertoire. It will be a real treat to play the Brahms E Flat Sonata, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Debussy’s Première rhapsodie and Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes with him
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I have several new solo recital programs coming up, ongoing work with the KIAZMA Piano Duo, performances in Finland of a dramatised concert of women’s song with my Finnish-Swedish colleague, mezzo-soprano Erica Back, and work on my doctoral dissertation. Right after Huntington I’ll begin work on my creative project for the FutureMakers program, which will come to fruition in 2020.
Aura Go performs at Huntington Estate Music Festival, which runs November 21 – 25