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21 November 2013

Composer & performer news, November 2013

Gillian Whitehead's monodrama <em>Alice</em> (CD cover). Image: Gillian Whitehead's monodrama Alice (CD cover).  

Our bulletin from the composing/performing world, with new releases, performance news, awards. Featuring: Gillian Whitehead, Liza Lim, Steve Newcomb, Luke Styles, Daniel Blinkhorn, Brett Dean, Kristian Ireland, Jessica Wells, Andrián Pertout, David Hush and Michael Leighton Jones, among others.

A separate news article covers Australian music in concert programs announced so far for 2014. See also our Scoop page with more reviews of current concerts and CDs with Australian music - you can help make this list more comprehensive by sending us review links .

New releases

Gillian Whitehead's monodrama Alice, to Fleur Adcock's text, has been released on a CD by the NZ record label Atoll, performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Marc Taddei, with soloists Helen Medlyn (mezzo-soprano) and Carolyn Mills (harp). For details, see the Atoll website.

Liza Lim's work Tongue of the Invisible, has been recorded for the Wergo label by the German Musikfabrik - the CD was released some months ago and received a very favourable review recently in the 5:4 blog: 'Tongue of the Invisible is a searching, searing work, never for a moment relinquishing its grip on the intense subject matter at its core', wrote composer-blogger Simon Cummings (5:4, 15 October). The CD is available through the Wergo site.

Steve Newcomb's latest record (CD and digital album) Caterpillar Chronicles on Listen/Hear Collective got a 4-star review from The Australian's John McBeath. The album is available here.

Brett Dean's works The Lost Art of Letter Writing (Concerto for violin and orchestra), Testament for 12 violas and Vexations and Devotions for SATB choir, children's choir, large orchestra and electronics have been released on CD by the Swedish record label BIS. The orchestras on the recording are Sydney Symphony (conducted by Jonathan Nott, with Frank Peter Zimmermann as violin soloist) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Robertson. The CD is distributed in Australia by Select Audiovisual and also available online (see: details on MusicDirect website).


Luke Styles has won the biennial Stephen Oliver Award (UK), intended for assisting young composers with the cost of bringing a music theatre work to performance. Styles's award will go towards the 2014 UK tour, by Opera Up Close, of his opera Unborn in America.

Daniel Blinkhorn has been awarded one of the German Giga-Hertz Prizes for electronic music. Blinkhorn got one of two encouragement prizes, jointly with German composer Leo Hofmann. The Grand Prize was presented to John Chowning (US) and Francis Dhomont (France).

Brett Dean has won the 2013 Melbourne Prize, awarded yearly to a Victorian musician, or group of musicians, whose work has made an outstanding contribution to Australian music. Also shortlisted for the $60,000 prize were composer and pianist Tony Gould, musician and composer Mick Harvey (The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party), singer-songwriter Shane Howard and violinist Wilma Smith. In addition to the main prize, the Outstanding Musician Award of $30,000 went to guitarist Stephen Magnusson (also shortlisted: Ros Bandt, Grigoryan Brothers, Gian Slater, Eugene Ughetti, Erkki Veltheim, Bart Willoughby, Ainslie Wills, Julien Wilson and Lisa Young). The $13,000 Development Award went to jazz pianist/vocalist/saxophonist and composer Kate Kelsey-Sugg. The shortlist for the Development Award also included Michael Bakrnčev, Helen Croome, Jessica Jiang and Adam Katz.

Composer and postgraduate student of the University of Western Sydney, Holly Harrison, has won the 2013 Pyeongchon Art Hall International Chamber Music Composition Competition with her work Red Queen, White Queen, Alice and All.

Decibel new music ensemble and sound artist Kynan Tan were among the five nominees for the WA Music Awards in the Experimental Act of the Year Category - the award went to Laura Jane Lowther's electronic project Kučka. The Jazz Act of the Year Award went to pianist Graham Wood - also shortlisted were pianist Tal Cohen, composer and band leader Mace Francis and the modern jazz trio Nick Abbey/Chris Foster/Ben Falle. For full shortlists and winners, see the WAM Awards website.

Performances and other news

Ensemble Offspring concluded its 2013 season with a double-bill at the Campbelltown Arts Centre on 16 November, featuring works by Griswold, McNamara, Kats-Chernin, Moore, Stanley, Shlomowitz and Singh. Just back from their European tour, Offspring has received news from the Australia Council about three-year funding as part of the Australia Council's list of key organisations.

WA-based Decibel starts its European tour from Krakow on 24 November and continues to Italy, with concerts in Venice, Turin, Trieste, Naples and Palermo (8 December). Composers featured range from Cage and Scelsi to Vickery, Hope, Tonkin, Stewart, and others. More details on the website.

Peter McNamara's work Distorted waters (2007) received a passionate performance by flutist Sylvie Lacroix and cellist Roland Schueler (members of the Austrian ensemble Phace) in Vienna on 11 November as part of this year's ISCM World New Music Days. The work was selected from the Australian ISCM Section's submission to the festival.

Kristian Ireland's music recently featured at two prominent international festivals: on 28 October, the complete clearing (2007-2008) received its premiere performance by the Arditti Quartet at Wien Modern (Vienna, Austria), at the Wiener Konzerthaus Mozart-Saal (Mozart Hall). On October 6, clearing (I) was performed by Quartetto Maurice at the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia), Italy, in the Sala delle Colonne, Ca' Giustinian. Kristian Ireland is currently a DAAD Postdoctoral Researcher in Berlin, Germany.

A symposium and a concert to mark Raymond Hanson's centenary will take place at Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Saturday 23 November. Performers of the all-Hanson program include pianists Michael Kieran Harvey, Stephanie McCallum and David Miller, and violinist Susan Collins.

Jessica Wells's music for the Peter Shaffer play Equus was premiered during the Sydney Fringe in September in a well-received production by Nomadic Artists, directed by Michael Campbell.

Andrián Pertout's Navigating the Labyrinth for string orchestra was given its Australian premiere by the Southern Cross Philharmonia in September, conducted by Gerald Gentry. This was 11 years after the work was completed and no less than 13 performances in Chile alone. Pertout recently attended a performance in Singapore of his Aequilibrium at the 31st Asian Composers League (ACL) Festival & Conference. He was also key-note speaker at the UiTM Composium (Universiti Teknologi MARA) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (read Pertout's article about these events).

Michael Leighton Jones's new musical setting of the Anglican Eucharist, inspired by swing music, was heard for the first time at the end of October at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, along with a new psalm setting and anthem composed by Philip Matthias. The new works were commissioned by the not-for-profit aged care provider Benetas to recognise the valuable contribution older people have made, and continue to make, to society. The music for the 'Celebration of Ageing' service was performed by the Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne, accompanied by organ/piano and brass quintet, with Michael Leighton Jones conducting.

Two new works by David Hush had their world premieres earlier this year at the Australian Academy of Science - this 'symbolic handshake between music and science' was the first event of its kind organised at the Academy. Virginia Taylor (flute) and Kristen Sutcliffe (bassoon - both from the ANU School of Music) performed Hush's works Celtic Runes and Largo.

The Australian String Quartet confirmed its new line-up in November - violinist Kristian Winther and violist Stephen King are joined by cellist Sharon Draper and violinist Ioana Tache who have both in fact already played in the quartet for several months. See: ASQ website.


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