Sam Weller and his Ensemble Apex musicians might be young, but they sure know how to put on a show. The orchestra performed its final concert for the year on the stage of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Verbrugghen Hall, and while this was a more formal setting than the Powerhouse Museumor the Lower Town Hall– there was no lengthy beer queue snaking around the edge of the audience – Weller and the band conjured up an exciting, boisterous atmosphere in this program of Varèse, Ligeti and Stravinsky.

Ensemble Apex Ensemble Apex. Photo © Ant Geernaert

The formality and conventions of orchestral tuning were lampooned in the opening work, Edgard Varèse’s Tuning Up, sketched – but never completed – for the 1947 film Carnegie Hall, and performed here in a version pieced together by Chou Wen-Chung. Brash flourishes bloomed out of the drone of the orchestra’s tuning note, in a wild, tumultuous work full of surprises and sirens. The piece contains quotations from Varèse’s own music, with flashes of more familiar fare emerging from the chaos – a flicker of Paganini’s ninth Capricefrom Concertmaster Amanda Chen, a few notes of...

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