Current Issue #488

ASO in 2018: An Orchestra for All Seasons

ASO in 2018: An Orchestra for All Seasons

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 season will be bolstered by three new artistic additions to its leadership team.

The new members of the ASO are all based in the northern hemisphere and are Olivier Award-winning English conductor Mark Wigglesworth (Principal Guest Conductor) and Australian expats Cathy Milliken (Composer in Association) and Grace Clifford (Emerging Artist in Association)

Principal Conductor Nicholas Carter, who is based in Berlin, says Milliken and Clifford were brought into the fold because the “work they are doing is of the highest order” rather than their international postcodes.

“Cathy lives in Berlin but she’s often in Australia and her music is universal, as all music is,” Carter says. “If she lived here we’d still be keen to make sure that happened. Similarly with Grace, she’s one of the most exceptional talents to emerge from Australia, a musical talent in a generation. It’s great that she’s at Curtis [Institute of Music in Philadelphia] surrounded by other incredibly talented musicians. It’s part of our mission to shine a spotlight on people who perhaps have a bit of a reputation and following overseas to remind us that this is who we as a country produce and should be proud of.”

Milliken won the 2016 APRA Art Music Award for Orchestral Work of the Year for her composition Earth Plays and the first of her three ASO compositions will be conducted by Benjamin Northey for the 2018 Adelaide Guitar Festival. Clifford, the 2014 ABC Young Performer of the Year, will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto as part of Grace & Grandeur, which will be conducted by Wigglesworth.

Carter says Wigglesworth, who quit the English National Opera (ENO) as its music director last year, is “one of the world’s leading conductors”.

“I’ve known him for years and assisted him at Melbourne Symphony and Sydney Symphony,” Carter says. “He’s a wonderful musician, a great colleague and the fact that he has come to Adelaide and says this is a real gem of an orchestra – that it’s Australia’s best kept secret orchestrally speaking – is great for us. Adelaide is one of his favourite places to visit.”

Did Wigglesworth leaving the ENO allow him the opportunity to take up this new position with the ASO?

“Running an opera company takes up an enormous chunk of your time, as I’m going to discover as I’m going to take up a position in the middle of next year [as chief conductor of Austria’s Stadttheater Klagenfurt and Kärntner Sinfonieorchester]. His tenure there was cut short, whether that opened up certain possibilities, who knows? Conductors are always guesting; it’s perhaps made it easier, so in one sense there’s always a silver lining.”

For Adelaide that silver lining includes Wigglesworth conducting A Time for Heroes and Love & War to mark 100 years since the end of WWI; the former will feature Holst’s The Planets, Wigglesworth’s arrangement of Walton’s Henry V and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 and the latter will feature Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8. Carter, on the other hand, is excited to use the Town Hall’s JW Walker organ for Organ Symphony with Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture, Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 and Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium to feature.

Bernstein is a major focus of next year’s program with Bernstein on Stage the ASO’s Adelaide Festival extravaganza, which will be conducted by Bernstein’s apprentice John Mauceri.

Leonard Bernstein (photo: Paul de Hueck)

“There are some interesting threads,” Carter says of the 2018 program. “Two-thousand-and-eighteen is obviously the centenary of Bernstein’s birth. So we’re doing the Serenade [as part of Organ Symphony] with James Ehnes. I knew of it but didn’t know it until James suggested it to us. It’s ferociously difficult for solo and orchestra and it’s a piece that needs a strong advocate and James is a strong advocate and he plays it better than anyone else.

“To bookend the homage to Bernstein is Chichester Psalms [as part of the Freedom & Joy concert in November]. We’re finishing the season with Beethoven’s 9th, which will be good fun, and then because we’ve got a chorus we thought we’d perform Chichester Psalms with its similar themes of humanity, redemption, brotherhood and peace.”

Other highlights include the Australian premiere of James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto with Amy Dickson — “we’ve got one of the most sought after and performed contemporary composers, to have this music here as part of our season is really important,” Carter says of MacMillan – and a live performance of John Williams’ score for a screening of Star Wars: A New Hope at the Entertainment Centre.

Header image: ASO Principal Conductor Nicholas Carter

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