New Australian works written for MCO/ANAM collaboration

MCO’s June collaboration with students from the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) features two world premiere performances of works by Victorian composers. These works are composed for double orchestra/ensemble and are supported by a generous grant from the Robert Salzer Foundation.

As well as the world premiere works, the concert will feature two monuments of twentieth century music for double orchestra: Frank Martin’s Polyptyque and Michael Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra.

Gordon Kerry (born 1961) is one of Victoria’s most respected composers. Current projects include a violin concerto, and new works for Plexus Trio with tenor Christopher Saunders, and the Syzygy Ensemble. Recent works include Aroona Dawning, for the 2013 Huntington Festival, the opera Midnight Son (with Louis Nowra) for Victorian Opera; a string quintet for Musica Viva with whom he was Featured Composer in 2012; several works composed while holding the Ian Potter Established Composer Fellowship between 2009-2011, including a Symphony for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and a flute concerto, Captain Flinders’ Musick, for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Alison Mitchell. His book New Classical Music: Composing Australia was published by UNSW Press in 2009. He was ANAM’s first composer-in-residence in 2008.

He has composed a work simply entitled Music for Double Chamber Orchestra. It’s not Kerry’s first work for double orchestra. He explains: “My first work for two chamber orchestras was a Nocturne composed for the students at the Australian Youth Orchestra Summer Academy in 1995 and subsequently recorded for CD by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. As an aunt waspishly observed after the premiere, ‘it must have been quite a night’.”

Of the new work, Kerry says “This work is quite different in character, and has no extramusical intent. For matching ensembles of five winds (though with doubling winds in the second group) and five strings, it makes use of the various antiphonal possibilities of the band, as well as offering a huge range of solos, and more conventionally orchestral use of different groups.”

The work is written with a broad ternary structure, with fast, pointillistic textures in the ‘A’ sections and a more meditative slow central section. The work closes with an extended coda of new material. It is dedicated to Kerry’s friend Polixeni Papapetrou, an artist.

Peter de Jager is the composer of the other new work on the program, entitled Fugue, Forest, Chorale, and Toccata. Peter is steadily gaining more recognition as a composer, having already built a reputation as a sought after solo and collaborative pianist and harpsichordist. He studied composition with Elliott Gyger and Stuart Greenbaum at the University of Melbourne. In 2012 he was young composer in residence at ANAM, writing four works that were performed by students throughout the year. His influences are many, including Bach, Byrd, Frescobaldi, Plainchant, Rachmaninoff, Ligeti, Radiohead, Tori Amos, Sondheim, and Xenakis.

Of Fugue, Forest, Chorale, and Toccata, de Jager says it is “akin to a mini symphony in four short interconnected movements. I have used the opposing groups colouristically. Just as one would choose a specific instrumental colour for an expressive purpose, so too did I choose the specific way in which the ‘teams’ clash or join together. Essentially the work explores the way strict formal structures can exist not only as pure music, but as emblematic of a particular image or scenario.”

MCO’s Executive Director, Richard Jackson, says MCO is excited to be able to present these two world premieres. “This project really had its beginnings in a desire to commission new work in the context of twentieth century work, and to build a bridge for listeners between the two. In this case, I think the audience will enjoy the contrasting colours of the music of Martin, Tippett, Kerry and de Jager and the very different treatments of the possibilities of double ensemble.”

Double Entendre will be presented at ANAM, 210 Bank Street South Melbourne, on Friday 6 June at 7pm.

Tickets $59 standard /$54 concession. Bookings: Australian National Academy of Music

Enquiries: 9650 3365 (MCO) / 9645 7911 (ANAM)