CSO to highlight Aussie works in 2021

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Lorina Gore, artist-in-focus. Photo: Alastair Bett.

AN extraordinary 24 Australian works will sit alongside classics in the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s 2021 season, it has been announced this morning (October 23).

The season is the first for incoming artistic advisor, Jessica Cottis, who replaces outgoing chief conductor and artistic director Nicholas Milton after his 15-year tenure with the orchestra. Canberra-raised Cottis is best-known for having conducted the “Gallipoli Symphony”, part of the Flowers of War project, and now enjoys a flourishing career in the UK.

It’s also the first season for Australian Series curator Deborah Cheetham, who takes over from inaugural curator Matthew Hindson, and for Simon Hewett, who assumes the new position of principal guest conductor.

Artistic advisor, Jessica Cottis. Photo: Gerard Collett.

Cottis has chosen ANU-educated operatic soprano Lorina Gore as artist-in-focus for the year and has added in a series of chamber music classics to be performed by CSO musicians.

Old favourites remain, including the CSO Summer Prom at Government House, the annual matinee special, “Classic Afternoon”, directed by concertmaster Kirsten Williams, who will also be the featured performer in the CSO Gala, “CSO at the Cinema”, selections from films including “An American in Paris”, “Psycho” and “Star Wars”.

In a deliberate mix of musical genres, the CSO will be exploring works that Cottis says will “light up the imagination and dive into the depths of the powerful forces that shape our human experiences”, like Mahler’s fourth symphony and Stravinsky’s “Firebird”.

Concertmaster Kirsten Williams. Photo: Martin Ollman.

There’ll be world premieres from composers like Moya Henderson, Ella Macens, Peggy Polias and Canberra’s Brenda Gifford, while the European repertoire includes Clara Schumann, Schubert, Poulenc and Bartók.

In the eclectic opening concert, Llewellyn One, Cottis herself will conduct violinist Courtenay Cleary, Gore and the Barbershop Quartet in Stravinsky’s “Circus Polka”, Korngold’s violin concerto, young Sydney composer Holly Harrison’s “Fizzin’ Fury” and, the concert’s title work, Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins”.

Deborah Cheetham. Photo: Frank Farrugia.

While the major concerts will still be in Llewellyn Hall, the Australian Series shifts to the National Museum and some concerts are at the Albert Hall and Gandel Hall in the NGA.

Cheetham has divided the Australian Series into three concerts called “Sharing the Sky”, Within and Without” and “Reclaiming the Night”. She will also appear as singer and composer in the first and third concerts.

“Sharing my thoughts about this Australian Series feels more like writing a love letter than a program note,” she writes, explaining that she has themed the series within the context of “Return”, with commissions by Moya Henderson, Peggy Polias, Ella Macens and Brenda Gifford, as well as music from Paul Dean, Nat Bartsch, Leanne Bear and Canberra’s Sally Greenaway.

Principal guest conductor Simon Hewett. Photo: Penny Bradfield.

Hewett, who will revisit Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”, which he conducted for the Paris Opera Ballet in 2016, says, “I hope to bring the same emotional intensity to my performance with the CSO”. For him, Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite” will be another highlight in the final mainstage concert, which also features Elena Kats-Chernin’s flute concerto, written for guest soloist Sally Walker from the ANU.

Sales for the CSO’s 2021 concert season will initially only be available at 6262 6772 and in person at Level 5, 1 Farrell Place, Civic, 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday. All details here. Online ticket sales will open on December 1.

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