Violist Stefanie Farrands will use the $20,000 scholarship to commission new works for her instrument.

The Principal Violist of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Stefanie Farrands has won the prestigious Freedman Classical Fellowship 2016 following a performance in the ABC’s Eugene Goossens Hall on Saturday. The $20,000 scholarship will allow her to commission new Australian repertoire for the viola and promote it internationally through recordings and performances.

Competing against two other finalists – percussionist Kaylie Melville and pianist Alex Raineri – Farrands performed a recital, broadcast live on ABC Classic FM, in which she premiered a brand new work by Australian composer Natalie Williams, Talking Points, Miniature Suite for Viola and Piano.

Stefanie Farrands, photo © Karen Steains

“It was an honour to give the world premiere of Natalie Williams’ Talking Points,” Farrands told Limelight. “I felt so lucky to have her write this gorgeous little suite for me. I can’t express how much of an honour it is to bring a new work to the concert stage. She did me such a wonderful favour, so I wanted to play them for her. She is a beautiful composer and her zest for life and openness to all possibilities is a huge inspiration to me.”

The judges – Claire Edwardes (a previous winner of the award), Matthew Hindson and Timothy Matthies – commented: “Stefanie’s performance was natural, confident and utterly convincing. She showed depth of musicality and an ability to convey extreme technical facility to the audience.”

The Freedman Classical Fellowship is an annual prize that awards an instrumentalist up to 30 years of age with a scholarship to undertake a career-enhancing project. Previous winners have included oud player Joseph Tawadros, guitarist Karin Schaupp, recorder player Genevieve Lacey, didgeridoo player William Barton, flautist Lina Andonovska and pianist Tamara Anna Cislowska. Last year’s winner was clarinetist and bass clarinetist Aviva Endean. The award is funded by the Freedman Foundation, administered by the Sydney Improvised Music Association and organised by the Music Trust.

“The Freedman Fellowship, unlike most competitions for classical performers, makes no requirement that candidates perform particular works or composers or even classical genres,” said Director of the Music Trust, Richard Letts. “We invite them to programme the music that best shows their ability and musical interests. It is very interesting, in these circumstances, that we do not hear much Rachmaninov. These young Australian performers have a strong interest in the music of our time, often written by Australian composers. Indeed, in the finalists’ concert, of the five composers represented in the programme, three were women. And all but one of the works were contemporary and one was a world premiere!”

“I feel so lucky to have been given such a life changing opportunity,” said Farrands. “It’s an honour to be able to be part of the creative process of commissioning works for the viola by Australian composers and become a bigger part in championing the viola and adding works to it’s repertoire. Australian Composer and violist Brett Dean will act as a mentor throughout the project- and I couldn’t imagine a better person to help me along this journey.”

“Stefanie will be a very effective champion for her instrument,” the judges said. “She believes there is a shortage of solo viola repertoire and is very committed to a project to commission new Australian repertoire and to promote it internationally. In Brett Dean, perhaps Australia’s most famous living composer and himself a violist of international distinction, she has chosen a mentor of the highest possible calibre.”

“My heart lies in chamber music,” said Farrands, “it is what motivates me and fires me to develop and grow. It is what made me fall in love with the viola. Having such an opportunity to expand my artistic abilities will only make me stronger and give me the chance to be on a world platform where I can simply be me.”