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From the Beatles to Bernstein: ASO’s 2018 showcase


The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 season will take audiences from the music of George Michael, The Beatles and Studio 54 to Masters concerts celebrating composers including Bernstein, Rachmaninov and Sibelius.

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To be launched tonight at the Adelaide Town Hall, the program comprises 51 concerts, including several premieres.

An early highlight will be Bernstein on Stage, to be presented over two nights during the Adelaide Festival, which will showcase the composer’s music for stage shows such as West Side Story, Trouble in Tahiti and Candide.

2018 marks the centenary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, whom the orchestra will also celebrate in Master Series concerts featuring two of his compositions: the violin concerto Serenade, after Plato’s Symposium and Chichester Psalms.

“There’s plenty of Bernstein to showcase the astonishingly broad compositional palette that he had,” says ASO principal conductor Nicholas Carter.

“He could write something like West Side Story or Candide, but then also Chichester Psalms, which is to all intents and purposes a modernist piece for the times … it’s not Broadway.”

The flagship Masters Series will feature 10 programs covering what the orchestra describes as “everything from Baroque through Classic, Romantic and the modern music of today’s eras”, with works by composers including Bartok, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Chopin, Holst, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Wagner.

Award-winning conductor Mark Wigglesworth, who has been appointed principal guest conductor for 2018, will conduct three of the concerts, one of which – Grace & Grandeur – will see young violinist Grace Clifford perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Clifford, who at 16 was named ABC Young Performer of the Year in 2014 and is described by Carter as “a completely extraordinary talent”, is another new appointment for the ASO, taking up the role of emerging artist in association.

Cathy Milliken joins as composer in association, with her first new composition for the orchestra to have its world premiere at the Adelaide International Guitar Festival in August.

ASO managing director Vincent Ciccarello says the appointment of Clifford and Milliken demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to nurturing new work and talented artists.

“We believe that, as a critical part of the music sector, not only do we have a professional and moral obligation to support them but that doing so ultimately assists the ASO to secure the next generation of audiences.”

Helping to broaden the breadth of that audience is a program of crowd-pleasing Showcase concerts that begin in February with George Michael: Listen to your Heart. It will  feature the orchestra alongside a yet-to-be-announced cast of singers paying tribute to the late musician with a symphonic presentation of hits including “Careless Whisper”, “Faith” and “Freedom”.

George Michael: You gotta have faith. Image: ASO program

The Studio: 54 Reasons to Party (in June) will see ASO members join with a cast including Kate Ceberano to re-create disco hits of the legendary Studio 54 New York nightclub, while All You Need is Love (March) promises to showcase the creative genius of The Beatles through orchestrations of some of their most famous songs.

Composer John Williams’ blockbuster movie scores from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Star Wars will be performed in two separate concerts at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, where the films will be projected onto a giant screen.

Rounding out the Showcase series will be Mad for Love, featuring Korean bel canto singer Sami Jo and Argentine-born baritone José Carbó.

Carter, who will enter his third year as principal conductor, told InDaily he believes 2018 will be an exciting season, with the Masters program offering works that cater to a large range of classical music tastes.

Alongside Milliken’s new work for solo guitar, soprano and orchestra, there will be three other premieres: Arvo Pärt’s Swansong, which will be performed at the Master Series 4 concert Beyond Pictures; James MacMillian’s Saxophone Concerto (Master Series 5: Romantic Rachmaninov) and Judith Weir’s Oboe Concerto (to be played by the ASO’s Celia Craig during Master Series 8: Sibelius Ablaze).

Carter says the new works are a particularly important program feature.

“Artistically, it goes a long way to showing that it [classical music] is not just a museum art form where we’re simply playing Brahms and Bach and Mozart, as great as those are … but to have elements throughout the program showing that classical music is still a living, breathing organism and it’s got potentially its best composers and its best moments ahead of us, that’s really important.

“You commission a composer because art needs to live, it need to breathe, it needs to be out there in the world.”

As announced last week, another 2018 highlight will be Australian composer Brett Dean’s operatic adaptation of Hamlet, directed by Neil Armfield, which will be presented by the Adelaide Festival with the ASO under the baton of Carter.

The season will also see the return of the popular Classics Unwrapped series with Guy Noble and Gigs at Grainger.

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