A SHORT READ BEFORE THE CONCERT BEGINS.
JONATHAN HENDERSON / CURATOR
Flute, viola and harp trios for the digital age.
Welcome to DIGITAL DEBUSSY, a recital of tranquil dreams, pastoral scenes and fragmented recollections performed by the sumptuous combination of flute, viola and harp. Across the next hour, we will perform three unforgettable trios for this curious, magical instrumental combination.
Contra Concerts are proud to partner with Southern Cross Soloists to be able to present this concert. I can think of no better project than one which brings my closest chamber partners and friends together to play in such an intimate setting – my favourite kind of music-making. We are excited to play for you today and thank you for attending our debut series.
flutist / curator
Friday June 11, 6pm
Holy Trinity Hall
Sunday June 13, 3pm
Toowoomba Grammar School Old Hall
Raucous Beethoven meets modern Australian chamber works for flute and piano.
Young soloists Alex Raineri and Jonathan Henderson continue their collaboration with music bursting with inventiveness and imagination. Alongside powerful Australian works by Lisa Cheney and Paul Dean, Beethoven chamber works promise to delight.
A SHORT READ BEFORE THE CONCERT BEGINS.
Katsushika Hokusai 'Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura),' from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei) ca. 1830–32
Using Debussy’s Sonata as a point of departure, today's recital unfolds in a chronological narrative, presenting two later composed works which make unapologetic reference to Debussy’s trio–ranging from subtle homage to overt quotations.
Shining light on music spanning an entire century–from 1915, to 1991, and finally 2021–there is an undeniable continuity of musical language; these three works are rich with fantasy and imagination; the images they evoke are not focused and literal, but abstract, suggestive, and dreamlike.
Sonata for Flute Viola and Harp L.145 (1915)
As is well known, Debussy was only able to complete three of six intended chamber sonatas as part of an ambitious large scale project. The Sonata for Flute Viola and Harp was published in 1915 and the world premiere took place on November 7, 1916 in Boston. The new sound that resulted from combining flute, viola and harp plays a considerable role in conveying the impression of a restrained melancholy. Debussy himself wrote that “it recalls a very old Claude Debussy – the Debussy of the Nocturnes, it seems to me”, stressing its unmistakable stylistic similarity to his own earlier compositional style of the 1890’s. Each movement is meticulously refined. Debussy’s Sonata endlessly meanders between his nostalgic and modern musical styles. Striking moments of ambiguity and avante-garde dissonance are at odds with dreamy languors in familiar pentatonic modes, shaded with inventive timbral sensitivities.
And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind (1991)
Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu pays homage to Debussy with his own trio in this musical depiction of the human subconscious which plays out across a series of interconnected musical episodes. Its title is drawn from Emily Dickenson’s poem “Like Rain it sounded till it curved,” and, in Takemitsu’s own words “has as its subject the signs of the wind in the natural world and of the soul, or unconscious mind (or we could even call it ‘dream’), which continues to blow, like the wind, invisibly, through human consciousness.” Takemitsu notates in scrutinous detail, creating a vast spectrum of sounds via the use of extended instrumental techniques. Despite these ‘impurities’ of sound, the sensitivity by which they are employed allows the music to retain a precious, jewel-bright edge throughout. In his dreamy mosaic of musical constellations, Takemitsu has perfectly shaped each phrase, yet a somewhat restrained indifference towards resolution or lack thereof is hard to ignore. In this otherworldly watercolour, Takemitsu’s trio inhabits the same world as Debussy’s sonata–his sense of an ever transient, rich and complex musical expression is undeniably at one with Debussy’s.
Notes by Jonathan Henderson
Hokusai Mixtape (2021)
World premiere: Saturday May 22, Brisbane
Hokusai Mixtape is an immersive, richly textured work comprising flute, viola, harp and live electronic sounds. The piece draws inspiration from Debussy’s Sonata and Takemitsu’s And Then I Knew 'Twas Wind. These two works occupy a similar space of dreamlike reflection and occasional surges of activity all wrapped up in an elusive sound world. Debussy was known to be deeply inspired by Japanese culture. A copy of Hokusai’s famous artwork The Great Wave off Kanagawa hung beside his desk. Takemitsu’s piece was written in response to Debussy’s and my new work, Hokusai Mixtape, acknowledges both pieces through subtle quotation, remixing and electronic manipulation of various elements. The piece takes the hypothetical form of an old cassette ‘mixtape’ where memories of different songs are collaged together and clouded by tape hiss, distortions and imperfections. There’s a link here with Debussy’s early piano roll recordings of him playing his own music. Although fascinating documents and a way to connect with the composer, they're not wholly reliable due to the nature of the recording process and subsequent copying. Are the curiosities in these recordings to do with the limitations of the technology or simply capturing Debussy’s sense of creative freedom? He was known to take great artistic liberties and generally preferred ‘messy’ performances with artistic integrity over cold and precise interpretations. Distant, fleeting clouds of piano sounds work their way into Hokusai Mixtape as a nod to these fascinating piano roll recordings.
Note by Tristan Coelho
ABOUT TODAY'S PERFORMERS
flute / curator
Jonathan Henderson trained with Europe’s leading flute professors and has carved out a multifaceted musical career spanning from Australia to the Nordic countries. Whilst still a student at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg, Jonathan was appointed Principal Flute of the Estonian National Opera Orchestra at age twenty-four. He has appeared as a guest principal flute with the Turku Philharmonic and Tampere Philharmonic Orchestras (Finland), and has performed with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Nordic Symphony Orchestra and MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra. Orchestral engagements and recitals have seen him perform at the Lucerne Festival, Tallinn Chamber Music Festival, Audi Sommerkonzerte and BBC Proms. As concerto soloist, Jonathan gave the world premiere of a new flute concerto composed for him by Australian Composer Lisa Cheney, commissioned by the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra. In Australia, Jonathan has performed as guest artist at the Craven Creek and Brisbane Music Festivals. In 2020 Jonathan was appointed as flute soloist with one of Australia's most celebrated chamber ensembles, the Southern Cross Soloists, after appearing regularly with the group as Associate Artist in their 2019 QPAC Subscription Series. Jonathan completed his early musical training at the Queensland Conservatorium (Australia), followed by further performance studies at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg (Germany) and the Haute École de Musique Genève (Switzerland).
James Wannan studied viola with Alice Waten in Melbourne and viola d’amore in Vienna with Marianne Rônez. He explores his passion for music from ancient to contemporary on a number of instruments. In 2015 James performed as violin soloist in Elliott Gyger’s opera Fly Away Peter featured at the Melbourne Festival, recorded a CD of music by Jack Symonds, collaborated on five Australian premieres and toured to China with the Sydney Symphony. As a soloist James has worked with orchestras including the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He has performed as a viola d’amore soloist in festivals in Austria and Germany, and has been invited to perform as guest principal viola with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. He toured Europe as principal viola of the Asia Pacific United Orchestra. He has toured as principal violist with the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. He has performed as guest principal viola with the Hong Kong Philharmonia Orchestra. He recently premiered a new viola d’amore concerto at the Bendigo New Music Festival.
Emily Granger (USA) has performed around the world as Guest Principal Harp with the Chicago, Sydney, and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Orchestra Victoria, and Opera Australia Orchestra. The 2021 season also includes performances at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House Utzon Room, Orange Chamber Music Festival, Hunter Valley Chamber Music Festival, Music Viva’s Morning Masters Series, and Ginastera’s Harp Concerto with the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra. 2020 saw Emily as an Artist-in-Residence at the Bundanon Trust and Mt. Wilson Old School and performed numerous programs for the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall and Phoenix Central Park and a pre-COVID tour of New South Wales and Queensland with flutist, Jonathan Henderson. Emily has performed at the Sydney, Ravinia, Craven Creek, Bellingen, Ear Taxi, and Lyon & Healy 150th Birthday Festivals and with artists and ensembles such as Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Janelle Monáe, Hugh Jackman, Sarah Blasko, International Chamber Artists, Flinders Quartet, Omega Ensemble and Nexas Saxophone Quartet. As an avid hiker, Emily has walked the 3,000 kilometer Te Araroa across New Zealand, Camino de Santiago, John Muir Trail, and countless walks around Australia and New Zealand. Emily is represented by Tier 1 Arts.
Tristan Coelho is Sydney-based composer who writes music largely inspired by either the natural world, especially the idea of amplifying otherwise soft and delicate sounds, or our digital, data-driven world. Project highlights include Rhythm City, for piano, live video sampler and electronics toured by Zubin Kanga in 2019; Smell of the Earth, commissioned for the Canberra International Music Festival and performed by Tambuco Percussion; read/write error, commissioned by Ensemble Offspring and finalist in the APRA Art Music Awards, and an interactive music soundscape walk inspired by the local surrounds of Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains. Tristan also works in the area of music for visual media and dance and his orchestration and arrangement credits include work for Japanese video game composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, Australian composers Brenda Gifford and Matthew Hindson, oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros, Sydney Dance Company and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.