Spotlighting Australian classical and art music composers in world premiere chamber music performance

Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Series celebrates our local talent, with the first concert in its 2024 program exploring joy, love, loss and longing.
Michael Bakrnčev (left). Photo: Julian Dolman. Peggy Polias (right). Photo: Supplied. The photos have been edited to feature portraits of two people against a pink background. Michael is a man with cropped black hair, wearing rectangular glasses and a short beard. He is wearing a light blue shirt with a t-shirt underneath. Peggy is a woman with brown curly short hair, a small smile and pink lipstick. She is wearing a shirt with square patterns.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) occupies a unique position in the local, regional and national arts landscape, delivering spectacular orchestral concerts and intimate chamber music experiences across the Australian capital.

Whether it be a concert featuring First Nations artists at the National Museum of Australia, a blockbuster symphony at ANU’s Llewellyn Hall, an internationally acclaimed conductor delivering a world premiere performance at the National Portrait Gallery or an intimate chamber session in the drawing room at Australian Government House, CSO is uniquely placed to make it happen.

In May, the CSO will deliver the first concert, ‘Heart-Space’, in its award-winning Australian Series on 16 May at the National Museum of Australia.

Curated by CSO Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Jessica Cottis, ‘Heart-Space’ will see composers Ella Macens and James Henry present work alongside world premiere performances of new commissions by Peggy Polias and Michael Bakrnčev.

Polias’ Lacuna explores an ancient Greek text by the poet, Sappho, while Bakrnčev’s The Storm Glass was inspired by a chance meeting with Australian poet and novelist, Lisa Gorton.

Bakrnčev’s piece delves into French romanticism and neo-impressionism while channelling the voice of lyric soprano, Amy Moore, who makes her CSO concert debut in this grand performance.

In addition, Macens will bring A Love Worth Fighting For to this program, exploring joy, love, loss and longing, while Kamilaroi-Yuwaalaraay, Yorta-Yorta and Yuin composer Henry will perform Heart Like Snow.

On 22 and 23 May, the CSO returns to its premier concert hall at the Australian National University (ANU) to present the company’s first Llewellyn Series concert in this year’s Earth and Sky season.

Beloved classical duo, the Grigoryan Brothers (Slava and Leonard) will transport audiences to the teeming depths of Tasmania’s ancient rainforests in Edge of the World. The repertoire includes English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, featuring CSO Concertmaster, Kirsten Williams, as well as Nigel Westlake’s Toward Takayna, before concluding with Sibelius’ Second Symphony.

Back by popular demand, the CSO brings to life Handel’s timeless Messiah on 21 and 22 June, led by conductor Brett Weymark OAM.

Described as ‘a work that doesn’t require revival’ considering its sustained popularity over the 250 years since it was composed, Messiah will see the Orchestra and the CSO Chorus combine in a passionate performance.

Featured guest soloists include soprano Jacqueline Porter, mezzo soprano Hannah Fraser, tenor Robert Macfarlane and bass Christopher Hillier.

For bookings and more information on the CSO’s 2024 program, visit the CSO website.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram @lleizy_