Momentum Ensemble are a dynamic group of performers powered by the Australian Youth Orchestra. This group aims to bring new interpretations and unconventional works to audiences and perform in venues that transcend the boundaries of the traditional recital hall.
In an exciting collaboration, Momentum Ensemble will be joining forces with internationally acclaimed violinist Jack Liebeck for a one-off program at the picturesque Spring Bay Mill in Tasmania!
Jack took time out of his busy schedule (including serving as the first Émile Sauret Professor of Violin at the Royal Academy of Music) to chat to us about the project.
The performance on Saturday 11 November will reimagine the barriers between artist and audience with an enthralling chamber orchestra program. Tickets are free but bookings are essential – find out more here.
How did the collaboration with AYO’s Momentum Ensemble come about?
As with most good things, it happened while drinking a glass of wine. I was in Sydney in March, launching the program for this year’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music, and bumped into Kimbali Harding [CEO of Australian Youth Orchestra] for the first time.
We were chatting away about the orchestra and how it operates, etc, and then said it would be great to collaborate on something at some point. I let her know I was coming down to Melbourne in November for this Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concert, and basically it was like, ‘Let’s make something happen!’.
How did you approach choosing the string orchestra repertoire for the project?
I had great help from AYO’s Artistic team because the funny thing is string orchestra repertoire is surprisingly, annoyingly limited! There just isn’t that much out there for some reason. We have the usual suspects with the Serenade for Strings pieces by Elgar and Tchaikovsky.
I had done a project about a year ago with this wonderful arrangement of the Ravel String Quartet in F, and it immediately came to mind as it’s a difficult play. I thought it sounded just right for Momentum Ensemble as they are the elite group of the AYO. The piece requires real autonomy of mind, and for players to take ownership of their own playing. The program was built around the idea of doing this piece.
AYO’s Artistic team then came up with some really great suggestions for pieces to add. It’s quite a soulful program actually! We’ll be performing Cantilena Pacifica by Australian composer Richard Meale and Frederick Septimus Kelly’s Elegy for Strings, as the concert will take place on Remembrance Day. And of course, one of my favourite pieces to play, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. It’s a tricky program and I’m really looking forward to it.
These are young people who are just in or out of education so their playing is in the top form of its life, so I will be on my toes! I’m twenty-something years past that point, I’ve got to maintain my playing.
You’re the Artistic Director of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. What excites you the most about the art form of chamber music?
Chamber music is the absolute pinnacle of classical music making, as far as I’m concerned! It forms the basis of all other music making. If you are a good chamber musician, you would be a good flexible orchestral musician. If you are a good chamber musician, you would be a good soloist.
When I do work as a soloist with orchestras, I consider it just a large chamber ensemble. Everyone should basically be listening – obviously you need the conductor there sometimes, as a conduit to communicate something complicated to a large group of people.
But chamber music is the essence of closely listening to your colleagues, being responsive, sending messages without words… so it’s the finest music making there is in the classical world!
It’s exposed, so there’s no hiding in amongst the texture. There’s great clarity of sound so everything can be balanced and heard. But I don’t think it should be any different to playing in an orchestra. Everyone in a great orchestra takes the initiative themselves even if they’re sitting in the back desk.
What excites you the most about this project?
It’s really exciting to work with fabulous young musicians.
Firstly, it’s exciting because the level is high, I know the level of young musicians in Australia is incredible. So I’m really intrigued what it’s going to be like to work with them.
It’s also great to work with musicians who’ve not been on the scene for twenty years and are like, ‘Oh yeah, whatever, the grind of the business…’ and are excited to be playing!
Also to pass on experience that I’ve gained over the last 25 years of doing it. I can learn from them as well. The thing that is refreshing for someone like myself, is that they are probably very excited and intrigued about what their future holds as a musicians, whereas I kind of know what my futures entails now and I’m just doing it. So to work with enthusiastic and talented people is going to be fabulous. And I have a little bit of wisdom which I can pass on – but I’m sure they’re going to be in top form themselves!