MCO’s Light + Shade can be heard on Thursday 18 April 7:30pm and Sunday 21 April 2:30pm at Melbourne Recital Centre.



CPE Bach (1714–88)
Sinfonia in B minor Wq 182/5
I. Allegretto
II. Larghetto
III. Presto


Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–88), the second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach and his first wife Maria Barbara, was an important and influential composer of the second half of the eighteenth century, composing more than 1,000 works including songs, oratorios, keyboard dance movements, as well as sonatas, concertos and symphonies.

Over his life, CPE Bach composed a number of sets of symphonies and they follow a three-movement pattern: fast-slow-fast. The six symphonies H657–62 (W182) were composed in the early 1770s and were commissioned by Baron Gottfried van Swieten, a Dutch-born Austrian diplomat, who was an amateur musician and is best remembered today as a patron of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

These symphonies are scored for four instrumental parts and continuo. The score indicates that the movements of the symphony are not separated. Interestingly the first and second movements have no repeats, however the two sections of the final Presto are marked to be repeated.

The opening Allegretto has an impetuous character with a marked rhythm and wildly contrasting changes in dynamics and texture. The lilting Larghetto provides a lyrical reprise before the dramatic drive of the Presto.

Valentin Silvestrov (b 1937)
Stille Musik (Silent Music)
I. Walzer des Augenblicks (Waltz of the Moment)
II. Abendserenade (Evening Serenade)
III. Augenblicke der Serenade (Moments of the Serenade)


Valentin Vasilyevich Silvestrov (b 1937) is a Ukrainian composer and pianist. Following the Russian invasion in 2022, he left Ukraine for Poland and is now living in Berlin. His compositions include nine symphonies, three string quartets, a piano quintet, three piano sonatas, and a range of chamber music, and vocal music.

Stille Musik (Silent Music) for string orchestra was composed in 2002 and received its premiere in two parts: the first movement in September 2002 and the second and third movements in October 2003 — both with Valeri Matjuchin conducting the Kyjivska Kamerata in Kyiv. The work is dedicated to the German record producer and the founder of ECM Records, Manfred Eicher.

The work is in three movements: Walzer des Augenblicks (Waltz of the Moment), Abendserenade (Evening Serenade), and Augenblicke der Serenade (Moments of the Serenade). Robert Carl writing in Fanfare says the work, “positively drips with fin de siècle world-weariness. Its three movements are a slow and ever-fading waltz, a melancholy but lilting serenade, and a suitably elegiac finale. I find the piece truly haunting in the beauty of its melodies and the deeply sincere love it expresses.”

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47)
String Symphony No 12 in G minor MWV N12
I. Fuga (Grave) – Allegro
II. Andante
III. Allegro molto – più allegro


Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47), like Schumann, was not only an important composer but also an influential writer and commentator. His music draws on the past (particularly Bach and Mozart) and his immediate contemporaries, Beethoven and Weber. In his music, he was pushing the boundaries of possibility in concept and realisation.

Prior to Mendelssohn publishing his first Symphony in 1824, he had composed thirteen string symphonies between 1821 and 1823 when he was a pupil of Carl Friedrich Zelter. Some writers have described the string symphonies as academic exercises; however they are much more than this.

The German musicologist Peter Wollny, who was the General Editor of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works, suggested that the CPE Bach symphonies Wq182 and 183 would have been among the models for Mendelssohn’s string symphonies.

Around this time, from 1822 to 1824, Mendelssohn produced five concertos, one for piano, one for violin and three double concertos (two for two pianos, and one for violin and piano) in addition to a range of choral and stage works. These precede some of his more remarkable youthful compositions, including the String Octet (1825) and the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826).

The String Symphony No 12 in G minor was composed in 1823 and is in three movements. The intense opening Fuga (Grave) moves into the Allegro which is a fugue and displays the young composer’s mastery of contrapuntal writing. The Andante provides a good sense of quiet with its gently meandering melodies. The Allegro molto – più allegro provides a return of masterly and spirited contrapuntal writing.

Brenda Gifford (b 1968)
Bardju (Footprints)

Brenda Gifford (b 1968) is a First Nations, Yuin woman from the Wreck Bay area. Her country, community and culture are the basis of her arts practice. She is a contemporary classical composer and creates music for ensembles, orchestras, choirs, dance performances, festivals and concerts. She works collaboratively and is a classically trained saxophonist and pianist. Her music has been performed at venues such as the Sydney Opera House and internationally, and is available through ABC Classics. She has completed a Master of Music (Composition) in the Composing Women program at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney.

The composer writes: Bardju represents our collective journey and tells us that we should tread lightly on Mother Earth; and it also represents my personal journey as a Yuin woman. Through this piece, I recalled my memories of country. My music grounds me in, and gives voice to, my culture. I do not create in a vacuum, and my culture is at the core of my creativity.

Edward Elgar (1857–1934)
Serenade for Strings Op 20
I. Allegro piacevole
II. Larghetto
III. Allegretto


Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934) was an English composer whose works include concertos for violin and cello, two symphonies, the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, and a wide range of choral works including The Dream of Gerontius.

The Serenade for Strings in E minor was composed between 1888 and 1892 and was first performed privately in 1892 by the Worcester Ladies’ Orchestral Class with Elgar conducting. The public premiere was in Antwerp in July 1896. The work is dedicated to the organ builder and amateur musician, Edward W. Whinfield, who was a great supporter of the composer.

The three movements provide a wonderful sense of youthful spirit and exuberance. The opening Allegro piacevole (a “pleasing” Allegro) provides a lilting, mysterious dance-like mood built around the opening rhythmic figure. The Larghetto is a beautiful dream-like movement filled with many overlapping ideas providing a rich and sonorous contemplation. The final Allegretto playfully brings together the ideas from the previous movements and concludes poignantly.

Nigel Westlake (b 1958)
Psyche: Concerto for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra (2022) (new version for chamber orchestra)‡
I. Goddess of the Soul
II. Launch
III. Mars Gravity Assist
IV. Arrival


Nigel Westlake’s (b 1958) career in music spans over five decades. Westlake trained as a clarinettist, touring Australia and internationally with numerous orchestras, ensembles and bands. From 1987 to 1992, he was a core member of the Australia Ensemble.

Westlake began composing in 1980, working across radio, theatre, circus, television and film. His film credits include Babe and Babe: Pig in the City, Blueback, Ali’s Wedding, Paper Planes, Miss Potter, Children of the Revolution, The Nugget and four IMAX films; television credits include documentaries, telemovies, news themes and station idents.

Westlake writes extensively for the concert hall, receiving commissions for orchestral, chamber and solo works. Accolades include two ARIA Awards, 15 APRA awards, the 2022 APRA Distinguished Services to the Australian Screen Award, the Gold Medal for Best Original Music at the New York International Radio Festival, and the Albert H. Maggs Composition Award. He is also a two-time winner of the prestigious Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize.

Westlake has conducted all the major Australian symphony orchestras, as well as the New York Philharmonic and RTE Symphony (Ireland). He holds an honorary doctorate in music from the University of New South Wales.

The composer writes: The rare metal asteroid known as 16 Psyche lies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Named after the ancient Greek Goddess of the soul by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis in 1852, Psyche was the 16th asteroid to be discovered.

On October 12th 2023, NASA launched a 3.6 billion km, 6-year mission to Psyche in the hope of providing a window into the evolution of the solar system and to examine its mysterious metallic exterior (the ore of which is thought to be valued at around $10 quintillion.)

The concerto is an imaginary fantasy which uses the idea of the NASA expedition as a departure point with which to explore a dialogue between trumpet and chamber orchestra.

I. Goddess of the Soul
Opening with a gentle slow-moving elegy, the 1st movement is a token of remembrance for Paul Goodchild, principal trumpeter with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 2021. Written the day of Paul’s funeral in April 2022, the solo is played offstage thereby conjuring an elusive and other-worldly presence.

II. Launch
The NASA launch of the Psyche mission is reimagined here in musical form, offering a brief, intense burst of driving energy and pulsing 5/8 rhythms that support an agile trumpet solo characterised by rapid fire articulated note groupings & dexterous flourishes.

III. Mars Gravity Assist
Suspended in space (despite travelling at 21,000 kph), the craft is tentatively pulled toward Mars where, using the red planet’s gravity to swing itself toward the outer part of the main asteroid belt, it gathers momentum and continues its journey toward Psyche’s orbit.

IV. Arrival
Depicting the safe arrival of the NASA spacecraft, the upbeat finale is based on a series of typical “clarion call” trumpet motifs that are teased and exchanged between soloist and orchestra in a playful dialogue. The forward momentum of the music is driven by the use of strong displaced accents and irregular time signatures.

Psyche was co-commissioned by the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra (soloist Owen Morris) and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (soloist Brent Grapes) and is a reworking and development of “Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra” which was commissioned for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and soloist Brent Grapes by Geoff Stearn and Janet Holmes á Court AC.

Program Notes: David Forrest