What began as a student-run chamber orchestra has now achieved proper symphonic proportions. Based at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and committed to the well-loved and unknown of the 20th century, Ensemble Apex, headed by Sam Weller, hurtles into 2018 with a programme marking the journey so far.

Ensemble ApexSam Weller, leader of Ensemble Apex. Photograph: supplied

“The 2018 season is bold, vibrant, daring and eclectic,” Weller says. “We are putting it all out there this year showcasing the strengths of the orchestra, along with the youthful virtuosity that its members posses.”

Opening its season with Anna Da Silva Chen playing Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, Ensemble Apex has commissioned a work by Nicholas Vines to ring in the New Year. Making their concert extra special is the leadership of Umberto Clerici, principal cellist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, who makes his conducting debut with Beethoven’s evergreen Fifth.

“Our first concert presents a taste of music through the ages – Beethoven’s Fifth straddles the classical and romantic periods, Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1 is an iconic modernist work, whilst we also perform the music today in our world premiere,” says Weller. “The orchestra is deeply focused on promoting classical music to a wide demographic and for that reason there is a bit of everything.”

“Anna is one of Australia’s leading young violinists who has appeared with many of Australia’s major orchestras – not to mention she is also a great friend of many members of the orchestra, and I know I can’t wait to collaborate with her on this project,” he adds.

The centrepiece of the season sees an exciting collaboration with choreographer Nelson Earl, a member of the Sydney Dance Company. He will head a cast of dancers from SDC’s Pre-Professional Year in a performance of Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite, while a variety of mixed media installations designed by leading composition students at the Sydney Conservatorium will be on display.

“To my knowledge Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin has not been performed with dancers in Sydney recently, thus we thought it would be a great opportunity to bring this thrilling work to life for local audiences,” says Weller. “The Bartók… is fiendishly difficult and I think the rehearsals and performance along with a cast of dancers will be tough yet extremely exciting.”

The third and final programme of the season marks the Ensemble’s second birthday with a celebratory collection of jazz-inspired works for orchestra. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with an as-yet-unannounced soloist headlines the concert, while Graeme Koehne’s Powerhouse, a rhumba for orchestra, reaffirms the Ensemble’s commitment to Australian composers. John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No 2 bring the season to a roaring finish.

In the spirit of keeping classical music accessible, programmes 1 and 2 are free to the public. 

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