After a ‘year they will never forget’, Co-Artistic Directors of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, Rachael Beesley and Nicole van Bruggen are excited to be returning to the concert hall. While their 2020 season was cut short after just one of their planned programs it certainly hasn’t been quiet for the pair, with highlights including performing in the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall live-streams, connecting online with colleagues and students around the world, and exploring and presenting new and exciting concepts on historical performance and music education. They say, “We participated in numerous online conferences and webinars including Teatro Nuovo in New York, Sydney Dance Company, Bell Shakespeare and the REMA European Early Music Network Summit as well as presenting our Young Mannheim Symphonists National Online Winter Academy along with a great deal of teaching, examining and tutoring at schools and conservatoires around the world.”
With all that behind them the orchestra embarks on their largest-ever season in 2021, presenting a beautiful series of concerts to audiences in both Sydney and Melbourne as well as further afield in western Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, Orange and the Blue Mountains.
Nicole and Rachael explain their choice of repertoire for 2021’s three main concert programs – Illuminate, Evoke and Emerge. “We are curious about the correlations between composers, their music and their historical contexts, and how these elements jostle, blend and react to each other. We research these interactions and use them to create dynamic and invigorating programs which bring new insights and deeper connections to the music. We are particularly interested in introducing our audiences to lesser-known repertoire by well-known composers or to fabulous works which have been regrettably lost through the passing of time”.
In 2021 they urge you to listen out for Max Bruch’s Serenade for Strings after Swedish Melodies in Illuminate, Franz Berwald’s Grand Septet in Evoke and in the final program Emerge, Christian Cannabich’s Sinfonia No.54 in E-flat major.
In addition, the orchestra have an ongoing focus on highlighting female soloists – Jacqueline Porter, soprano performing Benjamin Britten’s Les Illumination and Anneke Scott, horn performing Mozart’s Horn Concerto No.3 in E-flat major and on featuring Australian female composers Ella Macens and Clare Maclean with Sydney Chamber Choir in the Voyage of Musical Discovery concerts.
On top of this ambitious concert program the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra continue to work with their Young Mannheim Symphonists.
Launched in 2014, this unique program brings students together from around the country, establishing important networks and connections for aspiring young musicians. “It’s an amazing feeling to share our knowledge, expertise and experience with young musicians in the spirit of historically informed performance (HIP), and to observe how this then feeds their own imaginations and creates a learning environment of curiosity, experimentation and creativity.” says Nicole. The State Intensive orchestral training programs are based in NSW, QLD and VIC in 2021 while the annual National Winter Academy will be held in western Sydney with guest conductor Mario Dobernig sharing his delight and expertise for an Austrian inspired orchestral and chamber program.
So, how are Nicole and Rachael feeling as they look forward to 2021? “The overwhelming sensation at the moment is gratitude! We are incredibly grateful to Create NSW, Creative Victoria, our principal donors and all our loyal patrons who have supported us over the last eight years. We are so looking forward to the vibrant dialogues with our dedicated musicians in the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra which can only happen whilst being engaged in live music rehearsals and performances. It’s an honour to be invited to perform in festivals in Canberra and Blackheath which will bring new opportunities, new audiences and new connections for us.”
The orchestra will also establish a brand new subscription series in Newcastle and will tour to Orange and Muswellbrook, and continue their long tradition of collaborating with guest ensembles and artists. In 2021 this will include Nick Russoniello, saxophone, Sydney Chamber Choir and Taikoz, for the Voyage of Musical Discovery concerts. Nicole says, “This always brings new and unexpected ties between contemporary performance and 18th and 19th century repertoire so is something else to discover in our subscription series offerings.”
Together, the co-artistic directors say, “We can’t wait to surround ourselves with the enthusiastic and fearless energy of our fellow musicians on stage, exploring historical performances practices and concepts, and collaborating with wonderful colleagues and guest artists to create new perspectives on music from the Classical and Romantic periods. We are also very proud that a number of emerging artists from the Young Mannheim Symphonists will be performing alongside their mentors in the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra in our August Emerge program. We love sharing our passion and inquisitive approach to the performance of Classical and Romantic repertoire with our audiences and it will be amazing to be able to experience this live in concert again.”
Thanks Nicole and Rachael for sharing your insights and good luck for 2021 – the program sounds terrific and we can’t wait either! See you in February.