Brahms Double by National Capital Orchestra at Llewellyn Hall on October 21

Brahms Double by National Capital Orchestra at Llewellyn Hall on October 21

The Canberra premiere of local composer Natalie Williams' work Chambers of the South will also mark the first time she's had a piece played by the National Capital Orchestra. It will be part of the orchestra's final Llewellyn Hall concert for 2017.

Williams is a lecturer in Composition, Music Technology and Music Theory and Analysis at the ANU School of Music and a prolific composer with more than 60 compositions to her credit. She says Chambers of the South was rehearsed during an orchestral workshop put on by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra on September 10, 2001.

Composer Natalie Williams

Composer Natalie WilliamsCredit:Mercury Megaloudis

"It was the day before September 11 - that's why I remember."

The concert featuring her piece was performed on September 12 with the events of the previous day on everyone's minds.


"It went well."

She was inspired by a photo by astrophotographer David Malin who had had an exhibition in Melbourne.

"I liked a photo of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades ... the photo was captivating - deep greens and reds."

In Chambers of the South, she says, she tried to convey an idea of the light, colour, and depth of the stars in musical terms, writing in a reflective orchestral style to evoke the pulse of the star cluster.

Williams heard the National Capital Orchestra's performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana last year and was impressed and had met its conductor, Leonard Weiss, through his work at the Australian National University and the Canberra Youth Orchestra so was happy to have the NCO perform Chambers of the South.

Weiss,coming to Chambers of the South as a conductor, says it has "an ethereal quality to it which I really quite enjoy musically".

He says that in places it is similar to another piece on the program, Belkis, Queen of Ottorino Respighi, whose other works include The Pines of Rome and Ancient Airs and Dances.

"It's one of his lesser-known pieces but such a masterpiece. It alternates between reflective atmosphere and bombastic fanfares and processionals ... It really shows the extremes of what he can write for orchestra."

Finally, married couple Dimity Hall on violin, and Julian Smiles on cello, will be the soloists in a performance of Johannes Brahms' Double Concerto Op. 102.

"It's a real highlight of the repertoire," Weiss says.

"Brahms really knew what he was doing as a composer."

Hall and Smiles are members of the Sydney-based Goldner Quarter but also perform outside it, and when they perform together it's usually the Brahms work, Weiss says.

"We've really struck gold with these soloists."

Smiles grew up in Canberra, where he studied with Nelson Cooke at the Canberra School of Music and during this time was mentored by such luminaries as Charmian Gadd, Richard Goldner and John Painter. He subsequently undertook postgraduate studies with cellist János Starker at Indiana University.

Hall studied with Alice Waten in Sydney, followed by postgraduate studies with Herman Krebbers in Amsterdam on a Netherlands Government Scholarship, where she won the Concertgebouw Orchestra Friends' Award for young soloists.

They have performed with numerous ensembles including the Australian Chamber Orchestra as well as teaching and adjudicating in competitions.

And Weiss, the orchestra's conductor and music director, has recently been the musical director of Dramatic Productions' presentation of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street among other musical activities. In January, he will take part in the Australian Conducting Academy Summer School with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under its Principal Guest Conductor Johannes Fritzsch.

Brahms Double. National Capital Orchestra. Dimity Hall, violin. Julian Smiles, cello. Leonard Weiss. conductor. Llewellyn Hall. Saturday, October 21, 7.30pm, pre-concert talk in the Athenaeum 6.30pm.

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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