Church of All Nations, 180 Palmerston St, Carlton
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4th Lawrence Whiffin Concert
Six new works from Australia and Italy are heard for the first time in Astra’s final concert for the year, in a program of both choral and instrumental performances. Special guests Phoebe Green (viola) and Michael Kieran Harvey (piano) join the Astra Choir and pianists Kim Bastin and Joy Lee in an array of premiered compositions that reach back six decades, from 2018 to 1958.
The occasion is Astra’s fourth Lawrence Whiffin Concert – an irregular series commemorating the late composer and teacher (1930–2012), whose musical life was spread between Australia, France and Italy. Alongside Whiffin’s own music, each concert celebrates some of his special enthusiasms – for new work from Australian composers of different generations, for Australia’s outstanding contemporary instrumentalists, and for the musical culture in his other countries France and Italy.
Even six years after his death, the program brings world-premiere performances of two Whiffin works – a Sonatina for solo piano which includes an original singing component, and a previously unknown Sonata for Viola and Piano, found in the Whiffin archive and restored for performance by Melbourne composer Allan Walker. The manuscript contains signs of inserted details written in the hand of Whiffin’s teacher in Paris, the celebrated composer and conductor René Leibowitz.
Phoebe Green and Michael Kieran Harvey are soloists in another premiered work of the concert, written especially for them this year – Ancestress for viola and piano by Helen Gifford, in which she invokes “the unearthly music for singer and instrumentalist that was created by my ancestress.” From the younger generation of Melbourne composers comes a premiered choral setting of Walt Whitman by Jena Capes, whose teachers have included Helen Gifford.
Joining these varied new works from Australia and France, the concert also profiles the Italian composer Marco Molteni, a graduate of the Milano school in composition. Two of his choral works are performed for the first time, including a setting in the Armenian language of a remarkable poem by the Istanbul-based poet Zahrad (1924–2007).
Three new score productions in the Astra Publications series are launched at the concert: solo piano works by Lawrence Whiffin, including the brilliant Études, one of which is performed by Michael Kieran Harvey, and Helen Gifford’s new viola & piano work Ancestress.
Phoebe Green viola, Michael Kieran Harvey piano
Kim Bastin piano, Joy Lee piano
The Astra Choir with solo voices conducted by John McCaughey
Lawrence Whiffin, Viola Sonata (c. 1958), Sonatina (1985)
viola & piano and solo piano - 1st performances
Helen Gifford, Ancestress (2018), viola & piano - 1st performance
Marco Molteni, a lentil – a stone (2015), Kirie (2016)
poem by Zahrad, 8-part choir - 1st performances
Jena Capes, All Became Part (2018)
poem by Walt Whitman, choir - 1st performance
with solo piano and choral works by
Michael Praetorius, Alban Berg, Johannes Brahms,
Dorian Le Gallienne, Marco Molteni and Riccardo Vaglini