The University of New South Wales’ Australia Ensemble turns 40 in 2019. The resident chamber group celebrates this significant milestone with six inventive programs, showcasing both its versatility and technique.
The Australia Ensemble and its Artistic Chair, Paul Stanhope. Photo © Keith Saunders
The season begins in March with The Age of Steam, referencing both the Industrial Revolution and the art created in this period of great change. It sees Mozart’s less familiar ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio performed alongside Dvořák’s Sonatina in G, Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet in B and the Australian premiere of American composer David Bruce’s Steampunk. Bruce’s 2010 work is an octet inspired by the Beethoven Septet, and was described by one critic as “a polished, wry chamber work that should find a wide following.”
Then in April, the Ensemble explores the expressive powers of the wind instrument in the aptly titled No Strings Attached. Joined by pianist Ian Munro, the program pairs Mozart’s Quintet for Winds and Piano with Martin Wesley-Smith’s intense and witty Janet, written for flute, percussion and piano. These works are followed by sextets from Poulenc and Thuille, as well as Ligeti’s playful Bagatelles.
The Ensemble then welcomes mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell and harpist Alice Giles in June for an evening celebrating folksong. They’ll give the world premiere of Andrew Ford’s Northumbrian Songs, which will be performed alongside Berio’s eclectic Folk Songs. The Ensemble ranges further afield with Vaughan Williams’ poignant Six Studies in English Folk Songs, Lutosławski’s Dance Preludes, and Dvořák’s evergreen Dumky Trio.
In August, the Ensemble presents a program of contrasts with Cool Fire, opening with Miriam Hyde’s Trio for flute, oboe and piano. Giving the program its name, Hyde’s work is followed by the Australian premiere of American composer Paul Moravec’s Cool Fire, intriguingly scored for flute and piano quintet. Capturing the spirit of the Belle Époque is little known composer Gabriel Pierné’s Piano Quintet, complemented by the sunny charm of Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F.
The Ensemble then gives the world premiere of its commission from Sydney composer Jessica Wells in September. Perhaps best known for writing the theme to ABC’s Q&A, her Rhapsody for solo oud received its world premiere at this year’s BBC Proms, performed by Joseph Tawadros. Accompanying this new work from Wells is the Brahms Clarinet Trio, Ibert’s Deux Interludes, and Mendelssohn’s boisterous String Quintet in B with guest violist Justin Williams.
Then in October, the Ensemble offers up a program dubbed Guilty Pleasures to bring the season to a close. They’ll perform Schoenberg’s early work Ein Stelldichein, a selection of tangos by Ernesto Julio de Nazareth, arranged by Ian Munro, and Brahms’ Serenade in D. They’ll also perform a favourite commission of theirs, John Peterson’s Guilty Pleasures, which gives the concert its name.