Canberra's newest orchestra begins with Mozart and Schubert

Canberra's newest orchestra begins with Mozart and Schubert

Canberra Sinfonia performs Mozart & Schubert. Canberra Sinfonia conducted by Leonard Weiss. Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest. Saturday, July 21 at 3pm. $20/$15. More information:

One thing Canberra would not seem to be short of, given its size,  is music ensembles. But Leonard Weiss, who is already the conductor of two of them - the Canberra Youth Orchestra and the National Capital Orchestra - and is the latter's artistic director, has now taken on the dual role as conductor/artistic director with a newly created third. The Canberra Sinfonia, which is under the patronage of soprano Louise Page, a keen supporter of young musicians, will have its first concert on Saturday, July 21, in a joint venture with Wesley Music Centre.

Canberra Sinfonia conductor and artistic director Leonard Weiss, left and orchestra manager Helena Popovic.

Canberra Sinfonia conductor and artistic director Leonard Weiss, left and orchestra manager Helena Popovic.Credit:Sarah Crawford

Weiss formed the Canberra Sinfonia along with Helena Popovic as orchestra manager and Alison Mountain as media manager. He says one of the aims of the chamber-sized ensemble is to perform interesting repertoire not covered by the larger orchestras. They tend not to go back much before Beethoven, he says, and play music up to the present, so the Canberra Sinfonia will have its own style: smaller-scale, with a focus on late baroque and early classical music, from the mid-1700s to about 1825.

He says, "There's some really interesting repertoire to perform."


For the first concert, Weiss will conduct the Canberra Sinfonia - with 22 players -  in Mozart's Symphony No. 29 n A major, K. 201/186a and Schubert's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, D. 485.e

Weiss says of the 29 early symphonies Mozart wrote by the time he reached 18,  "Symphonies 25 and 29 stand out as beautifully sophisticated. It was quite an amazing period."

Alison Mountain is media manager of the Canberra Sinfonia.

Alison Mountain is media manager of the Canberra Sinfonia.Credit:William Hall

Weiss says Symphony No. 29 is a good demonstration of classical symphonic form. Mozart, he says, "takes small melodic fragments and finds clever ways to use them and to pass them to other instruments ... It's clever structurally."

Schubert wrote his fifth symphony at the age of 19 in 1816, the same year he completed 150 art songs. Weiss says it structurally follows in the same form as the Mozart symphony, making clever use of melodic fragments, but also shows development of the form.

"Mozart stayed very much in closely related keys; Schubert is a lot more adventurous."

As well as playing under-explored repertoire, Weiss and company had another purpose in forming the Canberra Sinfonia: they wanted to create a semi-professional orchestra that would provide opportunities for emerging professional musicians in the ACT.  Some are past or present members of the Canberra Youth Orchestra; others are younger members of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra; still others are young freelance professional musicians. They will be paid from ticket sales.

"There are two concerts scheduled for this year," Weiss says.  The Sinfonia will have its second concert - repertoire to be confirmed - on October 7.

"We'll see if it's a success," Weiss says.

If the ensemble does prove to have legs, Weiss hopes to have four concerts next and to take the Sinfonia to Goulburn to perform.

Among the composers he names as possibilities for future concerts are C.P.E. Bach and Boccherini, and he wouldn't turn up his nose at performing Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, either.

More information:

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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