Astra’s 68th year of concerts in Melbourne continues its path through the ever-changing surroundings of contemporary and choral music, where emerging works, styles and voices give rise to new historical perspectives on the recent and more distant past.
The procession of activities in 2018 begins in February, with the release of Astra’s latest CD in New York – first-recordings of choral works by Morton Feldman and five American contemporaries. In April, June, September, October and December, five concerts explore a wide terrain of works new and old, Australian and international, vocal and instrumental, filmic and theatric. Associated with the concerts, several additional Australian scores are launched in the Astra Publications series; and new recording projects are embarked on, with music of Romanian, Italian and Australian composers.
Familiar names from previous years of Astra concerts join the array of newer creations. The late composers Lawrence Whiffin and Keith Humble are present in premiered and little-known works. The 10th anniversary of the death of Mauricio Kagel is marked by two of his inventions in choral theatre. A specially revised symphonic-poetic work celebrates the 75th birthday of Australia’s leading expatriate composer Graham Hair. The Harmonic Labyrinth of pre-eminent Romanian figure Dan Dediu is revisited as part of a recorded retrospective of his music.
Charles Ives’s friend and contemporary John J. Becker is a ‘new older’ name awaiting rediscovery. And Melbourne’s Helen Gifford adds the new work Ancestress for viola and piano to her many contributions to the Astra series, which go back more than 50 years. Other premieres include a venture into musical performance with 16mm film and projectors, in a commissioned piece of expanded cinema by Hanna Chetwin and Rohan Drape.