ENSEMBLE FRANÇAIX: TERRA INCOGNITA
Our final Fellowship concert
It’s near the end of our ANAM Fellowship, and we’re so thankful to have had this opportunity to present some unique programs of mixed ensemble music. Organising and performing the concerts has helped us grow as a team and clarified our artistic vision for Ensemble Françaix in the years ahead, and the enthusiastic response from the audience encourages us to keep striving for greater things ahead.
It’s been a particular pleasure to share the love by commissioning some of our colleagues to create new works for the unusual combination of instruments that we have presented to them – ANAM’s very own pianist extraordinaire Peter de Jager, Sydney-based performer-composers Natalie Wong and Katia Beaugeais, and Turkish-German composer Hakan Ulus, whom I (Nicholas Young, piano) first met and collaborated with in Salzburg in late 2015. Each of these talents are developing their name nationally and internationally in unique ways, and we’re proud to be a part of it.
Each of the first two concerts in our Fellowship series – Ensemble Françaix at the Pictures and Ensemble Françaix & The Harp – presented different challenges, but the third and final concert, Ensemble Françaix: Terra Incognita, will by far be our most difficult, and at the same time, the most exciting. It wasn’t accidental – in developing the program for the series I was keen on stretching our limits and comfort zone in the finale, which I hope will further extend our capabilities and give us much confidence to take on modern and contemporary techniques of performance and score-reading.
Beaugeais’ Terra Incognita requires the oboist and bassoonist to begin by playing inside the piano. While this sounds simple enough, the importance of posture and angling a woodwind instrument towards the resonating soundboard and lid of the piano, while still being able to read the score, is no mean feat – not to forget the weight of the bassoon that Matthew has to carry! The oboe and bassoon are also tasked with executing a range of multiphonics and glissandi that, even at the best of times, are tricky to play beautifully.
Previn’s Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano – full of jazzy syncopations, twists and turns, has ironically become the most familiar and comfortable work of the program for us, as we’ve performed it quite a few times earlier in the year during our preparation for the Osaka International Chamber Music Festa. It’s a wonderful reply to Poulenc’s Trio for the same instrumentation, which is still considered the definitive work of the genre, but Previn comes close to matching its novelty and, in the heart-wrenching slow movement, its understated profundity.
In the second half of the concert, we’re joined by a number of ANAM’s wonderful musicians to form a larger ensemble. Ulus’ Tāriq is not written in standard notation for any of the instruments, as it is performed almost entirely with extended technique, from flutter tonguing and lip pizzicato to exhaling and inhaling inside the woodwind instrument, with and without reeds attached. The piano will be prepared and played using tuning forks suspended between the strings, and the percussion instruments include timpani, drums, finger cymbals, glass bottles, a thunder sheet and a Pringles can. We’re grateful that Hakan will be down in Melbourne this week to work with us in the lead up to our world premiere performance, and as he progresses through his PhD with Liza Lim at the University of Huddersfield, now also teaching at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, we hope that his personal and professional relationship with Australia continues.
The final test of concentration will be Andriessen’s Workers Union, which has been championed by mixed ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird. It’s for any instrument combination and there are no prescribed notes: only melodic shapes, and rhythms that are to be performed by all in unison. The rhythms are different each time, and the repetitions of bars or passages is inconsistent, making reading errors a real possibility. If one or more of us goes out of time, you’ll hear it for sure, so the stakes are high. But Ensemble Françaix has always revelled in walking the tightrope, and we couldn’t think of a better way to bring this formative series and fellowship to conclusion.
Thank you ANAM, and to all who have come to watch and cheer us on!
Written by Nicholas Young
Image: Ulus, Hakan. Tāriq. 2017
Join Ensemble Françaix in their final ANAM Fellowship performance for 2017.
ENSEMBLE FRANÇAIX: TERRA INCOGNITA
TUE 22 AUGUST 6.30PM
BEAUGEAIS Terra Incognita
PREVIN Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano
ANDRIESSEN Workers Union
Emmanuel Cassimatis oboe
Matthew Kneale bassoon
Nicholas Young piano
Donations to Ensemble Françaix’s 2017 commissions are warmly accepted on the day and through their Australian Cultural Fund campaign: www.ensemblefrancaix.com/ACF