Looking forward and looking back – is the fitting way artistic chair Paul Stanhope describes the Australia Ensemble’s historic 40th season for 2019.
The Australia Ensemble, resident at UNSW Sydney, was set up in 1980 and has become widely regarded as this country's finest chamber music group.
The ensemble consists of seven of Australia's leading instrumentalists, performing a wide range of pieces during its annual subscription season of Saturday evening concerts.
This year’s season kicks off on Saturday, 16 March with a concert at the UNSW’s Sir John Clancy Auditorium entitled ‘The Age of Steam’, with further concerts scheduled to take place in April, June, August, September and October.
With this being the 40th season, Mr Stanhope has crafted a program that includes many of the players’ favourite pieces, as well as new music never heard before in Australia.
"This year, there are some retrospective things that the players really wanted to share with the audience such as the Pierné Piano Quintet, which is not so well-known, but is a late-Romantic gem," Mr Stanhope says.
"We also have some of the players’ favourite pieces such as the Brahms Serenade which is the very last piece in the whole season.
"But looking forward, there are new pieces – including a new commission by Jessica Wells who is a Sydney composer," he adds.
"We’re also doing the Australian premieres of a couple of pieces. In the first concert we have David Bruce’s Steampunk and later in the year we have a piece by Paul Moravec. They are both really established composers in America, but we don’t really get to hear much of their music over here.
"One of the things we like to do is introduce new pieces to our audience and I’m especially interested in the Steampunk piece. It’s really lively and there is a theatrical element to it as well, which I think the audience is really going to love."
Although the Australia Ensemble has a significant loyal following of music lovers, Mr Stanhope is keen to welcome people who may never have attended one of their concerts.
And he believes this is the perfect season to come along and experience a wide range of different styles.
"There is something about these programs that keep drawing people back. We have a very loyal audience, but we do want new people to come along and discover what we think is some of the best chamber music being performed in the country," he says.
"The programs are full of diversity. It’s not just a string quartet performing all night, there are different combinations of instruments that come together, plus guest artists such as mezzo soprano Fiona Campbell and harp player Alice Giles. Those new people bring a new energy to the performances."
The Australia Ensemble has been resident at UNSW since 1980. L-R Ian Munro (piano), Dene Olding (violin), Irina Morozova (viola), Julian Smiles (cello), Geoffrey Collins (flute), Dimity hall (violin), David Griffiths (clarinet). Centre: Paul Stanhope (Artistic Chair). Photo: Quentin Jones
Although the 2019 season is yet to start, Stanhope already has one eye on next year when the Australia Ensemble will celebrate 40 years since their very first concert back in 1980.
Plans for potential pieces are underway and the group’s artistic chair believes it will be a momentous occasion.
"We’ve got our thinking caps and hoping to find something appropriate to mark the occasion, so watch this space," he reveals.
"But I want to acknowledge the university’s support during what has been 40 years of great music-making.
"It was a real leap of faith that the university originally made to put on a profession ensemble like this and it’s become something of a trademark that they should be justifiably proud of."
Concert dates for the 2019 subscription series of the Australia Ensemble @UNSW:
- Saturday March 16, 8pm - The Age of Steam
- Saturday April 27, 8pm - No Strings Attached
- Saturday June 8, 8pm - Folksong
- Saturday August 17, 8pm - Cool Fire
- Saturday September 14, 8pm - Heart * Beat
- Saturday October 12, 8pm - Guilty Pleasures
(All concerts will be held in UNSW’s Sir John Clancy Auditorium)