Ensemble Apex has announced its 2019 season with three concerts across the year. The orchestra, which started at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, has grown significantly since its debut four years ago.

“Over time, I think the most important lesson I have learnt is that if you give all your energy and dedication to a group of players, and they can see that a project is worth working for, they will move mountains for you,” Ensemble Apex’s Artistic Director Sam Weller tells Limelight.

Ensemble Apex, Sam WellerSam Weller conducting Ensemble Apex at last year’s The Miraculous Mandarin. Photo © Keith Saunders

Since its first performance in 2016, the fledgling ensemble has evolved from “a small student-run project to (almost) a proper organisation,” as Weller puts it, and has already made its mark on the Sydney scene, offering interesting programming and vibrant concerts, despite operating with scant resources.

“Running our season on a shoestring budget is always tricky,” Weller says. “We don’t have the luxury of big advertising campaigns nor can we book out large concert halls, however; each concert we have performed always feels intimate and I always feel like the orchestra has a dedicated network of friends that will always support the group.”

The Ensemble’s 2019 season will feature three concerts, named Small, Medium and Large. “Programming our seasons appears to get more challenging each year. We need to keep it fresh and exciting, sometimes I feel like there’s just too much music to choose from,” Weller says. “Each performance has been incredibly special and I have been lucky to perform them alongside some of my closest friends.”

“This year I wanted to feature the individuality and artistry of our musicians,” he explains. “When picking the repertoire I came back to a loose criteria: will this piece feature the individuality of our musicians? Can we say something with this piece that hasn’t been said? Will it engage the audience directly with the performers? Of course, I wanted to keep our focus on the music of the 20th century onwards, and I wanted to perform exciting repertoire that’s going to hook a first-time listener of orchestral music.”

The season opens in March with the Small concert pairing John Adams’ Chamber Symphony No 1 with a chamber arrangement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony by Klaus Simon, with soprano Katherine Allen as soloist.

The orchestra is deeply rooted in music from the 20th Century to today, Weller explains. “That being said, it’s important to play fresh interpretations of the western canon,” he says. “You’ll see quite an energetic and elaborate performance of Haydn’s 60th Symphony in our second program! Haydn himself was a bit of a radical so I think he fits well amongst the likes of Copland and Shostakovich, two composers that really switched up the craft of composition.”

The Medium program in August will include Giovanni Sollima’s Violoncelles, vibrez! (with cellists James Morley and David Moran), Abram Stasevich’s arrangement of Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet for string orchestra and timpani, Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto (with Oliver Schermacher as soloist) and Haydn’s Symphony No 60, The Comedy.

The season finale, Large, will open with Edgard Varèse’s Tuning Up and features György Ligeti’s Concert Românesc and Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite (in the 1919 version).

“I think the ‘small medium large’ format helps with the idea of featuring our instrumentalists,” Weller says. “It flaunts their flexibility and allows us to perform a whole range of interesting repertoire. This format also provides a trajectory to our final concert for the year which will be designed as a farewell as this year will be many of the founding members of Apex’s final year at the Sydney Con. Of course this is not the end for the orchestra but you’ll see us in even more different formats in 2020. I suppose this season is in preparation for that.”

Season Details