Rising star violinist Grace Clifford one of several new appointments in Nicholas Carter’s third season.

Australian conductor Nicholas Carter’s third year at the helm of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra will see new works, new appointments and soloists and conductors joining the orchestra from around Australia and the world.

“I am looking forward to another year strengthening my personal relationship with the ASO players and of course you, the patrons,” Carter said in a press statement. “ASO’s mission is to nourish the cultural landscape here in South Australia and by extension the lives of all its citizens. We hope that the 2018 programme inspires you to get out and be a part of this incredible community, one we hope is more enriched by our commitment to the highest level of music making.”

Violinist James Ehnes. Photo © Benjamin Ealovega

The ASO season officially opens in April with a programme featuring Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No 3 – the Organ Symphony – alongside Leonard Bernstein’s violin concerto, Serenade, after Plato’s Symposium – one of several works across the season celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the composer’s birth. “We’ve got James Ehnes playing that,” Carter tells Limelight. “So that’s going to be a hugely thrilling experience because it’s one of his party pieces. It’s a piece that’s not actually performed so much in Australia, or anywhere else I think, unfortunately.” The programme will kick off with the Overture from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. “I think it’s always good just to sprinkle our programmes with a bit of Wagner,” says Carter, citing the relationship between the composer and Adelaide.

Carter’s next concert for the year will be in August, setting Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony against the Australian premiere of James Macmillan’s Saxophone Concerto and Fauré’s Pelleas et Melisande Suite. “I started [the 2017 season] with Rachmaninov Two and that seemed to go really well, so we said, ‘well, let’s continue that thread through!’” Carter says. “Russian repertoire in Adelaide is a big hit we’ve realised. Whenever there’s a good Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov or Prokofiev or Shostakovich, that’s a sure-fire way to get bums on seats.”

“It’s a really beautiful programme we’ve put together with that,” Carter says, “the Fauré Pelleas et Melisande Suite, and then the Australian premiere of James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto, with Amy Dickson on alto saxophone.” For Carter, MacMillan is “one of the most sought after and performed contemporary composers.” The Concerto is a co-commission between the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the Perth Concert Hall in Scotland and the Aurora Orchestra. Dickson will premiere the work with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra before bringing it to Australia.

Carter’s final concert for the season will be in November. “We’re finishing the Masters Series in November with a huge Beethoven Nine in the Town Hall,” Carter says, with soprano Jacqueline Porter, mezzo-soprano Anna Dowsley, tenor Paul O’Neill and bass Andrew Collis joining as soloists. “In the first half we’re going to be performing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, again maybe a piece that’s performed a little more regularly than the Symposium, simply because it’s a bit of a favourite of choral societies around the world, but the Chichester Psalms and the themes of that and the themes of brotherhood and humanity of the Beethoven Nine marry really perfectly. So that should be a moving end to the 2018 season.”

The 2018 season also sees several new appointments to the Artistic Leadership Team of the orchestra. Mark Wigglesworth is coming aboard as Principal Guest Conductor, the position that was held by Sir Jeffrey Tate until his death in June this year. Wigglesworth will conduct a series of concerts, including Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony in June as well as Beethoven’s Eroica and Shostakovich’s Eighth in September. “We’re doing Holst’s Planets – the Mars from that,” Carter says, “and then the Walton Henry V suite, pairing that with the Beethoven Eroica Symphony.”

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s new Composer-in-Association Catherine Milliken.

Another big appointment for the orchestra is Australian composer Catherine Milliken as Composer-in-Association, a newly created position. “She’s being commissioned all over the world,” says Carter. “And the Adelaide Symphony performed a piece of hers last year during the Tectonics Series, a contemporary music festival here in Adelaide curated by Ilan Volkov. The orchestra really loved the piece and the audiences really loved the piece as well, so we thought, ‘OK, this is a really unique new voice that could do with some promotion here in Australia.’”

“There are basically three works that she’ll be commissioned to write over three years, the first being for the guitar festival next year in August.” The piece will be a new work for solo guitar, soprano and orchestra. The guitarist will be Vladimir Gorbach, with soprano Jessica Aszodi. “Jessica’s from Melbourne, we’re actually from the same generation,” Carter says. “We even used to sing in Oz Opera productions back in the day. She’s an extraordinary singer, particularly these days for contemporary music. There’s just not a score that’s too difficult for her.”

The other new position created with the orchestra is that of Emerging Artist in Association, which will see violinist Grace Clifford join the organisation. “I think she would be the top young, emerging violin virtuoso coming from Australia at the moment,” says Carter.

Violinist Grace Clifford. Photo © Anthony Browell

“Grace’s relationship with the orchestra goes back a couple of years,” he says. “I think she’d just turned 16 and she won the [ABC Young Performer of the Year Award] competition here in Adelaide with the performance of the Beethoven Concerto, which I didn’t hear live, but I heard a broadcast and it was spectacular.”

“Those who were playing in the orchestra that night, and those who were in the auditorium just said something freakish was going on – this girl of 16 years had the musical maturity of someone 60 years her senior, and not only technically just completely proficient but a musical profundity which is just so rare,” Carter says.

“I performed a Sibelius Concerto with her at the end of last season,” he says. “Again it was quite an event and she’s becoming a huge favourite with audiences here. So she’ll be coming back and performing with Mark Wigglesworth in Masters 3, the Mendelssohn Concerto, and then there are a number of other chamber concerts and bits and bobs that are spread through the year.”

The season will also see a number of guest conductors perform with the ASO, beginning with Eivind Aaddland conducting Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto – with soloist Konstantin Shamray – in April.

“Arvo Volmer, my predecessor is coming back for a great programme,” says Carter. “Some Sibelius, Arvo Pärt – the Australian premier of his Swansong.” Volmer’s programme in June will also feature Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. “He’s performing it in the Vladimir Ashkenazy orchestration, not the Ravel,” says Carter. The piece has a particular resonance for Carter, from his days as Assistant Conductor with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. “This is a piece that I actually assisted Ashkenazy with in Sydney,” he says. “I got to know the piece with him quite well, because the orchestra did it a couple of times, and it’s a fantastic orchestration. He told me at the time, you know, he loves the Ravel, it’s a great orchestration, but it’s very French – Ravel makes the Mussorgsky sound French and Ashkenazy thought he could keep the Russian essence, the Russian DNA more truthfully.”

“So that’s going to be great,” Carter says. “I’m not sure that edition of the Mussorgsky has ever been performed here in Adelaide.” The same programme will also see Stephen Hough join the orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Karina Canellakis. Photo © Todd Rosenberg

American conductor Karina Canellakis, who will also be performing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra next year, is making her ASO debut. “She’s making an enormous career for herself,” says Carter,” a lot of really top-notch orchestras in the States re-inviting her back – she’s on the big circuit over in Europe as well, so she’s one of the most talented young conductors of this next generation and we’ve been trying to get her for a while. She’s going to be doing some Sibelius – the Seventh Symphony – and the Stravinsky Firebird Suite as well.”  That programme will also feature Mozart’s Haffner Symphony and violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto performing Bruch’s First Violin Concerto.

The season will also feature a brand new oboe concerto by Judith Weir, which will be premiered by ASO oboist Celia Craig in October. “That commission came through our Director of Artistic Planning Simon Lord, who knows Judith from his time when he was at the BBC Scottish, and he was able to bring this commission about with Adelaide, Tasmania and Western Australia – so it’s a real Australian commission for this, which is really exciting, and we’ve got the world premiere. It’s always good to get your dirty little hands on the world premiere of a piece like that!” The concerto will appear opposite Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony and will be conducted by Douglas Boyd. “He’s a favourite of the orchestra here,” Carter says,” they really love working with him.”

2018 will also feature a number of special event concerts, including the Australian premiere of Brett Dean’s new opera Hamlet – which Carter will conduct – and a concert of Bernstein highlights, conducted by John Mauceri, at the Adelaide Festival. The orchestra will ring in the Christmas season with Handel’s Messiah – featuring soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell, tenor Henry Choo and bass Morgan Pearse – in December.

Carter is brimming with excitement for the season ahead, particularly his final concert for the year. “It’ll be my first Beethoven Nine! It’s not a piece that comes up often for a 31-year-old, so I jumped at that opportunity,’ he says. “Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony as well, and the Bernsteins – this’ll be great fun!”


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