Tag Archives | Kevin Purcell

2019 Event 4: Keys of Life (Special Event)

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine”

Alan Turing (1912-1954)

Featured on the Australian edition of 60 Minutes in 2016, Daphne Prioetto is a remarkable woman teaching the piano to children with autism in Melbourne, Australia. Focusing on the development of motor skills and aural acuity, she has achieved truly astounding outcomes with the children she has taught, and far beyond the expectations of what was previously assumed to be possible for children with this disability.

Founded on establishing a rapport not only with the child, but with the family as well as means to long-term musical development and ongoing success, Daphne’s work is defined by realising the potential in all children to experience and explore music-making irrespective of the challenges they may face in day-to-day living. Watching Daphne’s students perform in concert is a testament to the finest possibilities of the human spirit.

Whatever you have planned on this day, cancel it, and experience an event to make your heart soar.

Marianne_RothschildIn addition to Daphne’s Keys of Life students, ADO Principal Violin, Marianne Rothschild, performs Vaughan Williams’ hauntingly beautiful solo in The Lark Ascending preceded by C. Armstrong Gibbs’ enchanting waltz, Dusk. ADO Principal Conductor, Kevin Purcell directs.


2019 Event 3: The Sir Arnold Bax Music Festival

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

The inaugural Sir Arnold Bax Music Festival, created by ADO Principal Conductor, Kevin Purcell, reflects the ongoing renaissance of the music of Arnold Bax (1883-1953) that began with the Lyrita record label recordings in the early 1970s of which Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 were conducted by Maestro Purcell’s British conducting teacher, Myer Fredman. Over a number of years the late British maestro passed on his intimate knowledge of Bax’s orchestral output to his protégé. Appropriately, Purcell has now created a biennial festival to explore every aspect of this titan of 20th-Century British music.

This is the first festival in the world devoted to the music of one of Britain’s most fascinating and original composers who was appointed Master of the King’s Music during George VI’s reign in 1942.

The inaugural Festival (Aug.31 – Sept. 1) will feature two orchestral concerts.  The first of these on Saturday evening will be performed by our guest artists, Pro-Musica Orchestra, conducted by John Ferguson with Elgar’s marvellous, but rarely heard, King Arthur Suite as well as Bax’s charming Mediterranean.

On Sunday afternoon, the ADO will present two seminal Bax works works composed in 1917 – the thrilling tone-poem, Tintagel, and the Australian premiere of the ballet suite From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. The concert also includes a rare performance of the Lament (For Catherine, aged 9 “Lusitania” 1915) by Frank Bridge – another British composer whose music is far too-little represented on the concert stage.

A delightful chamber music concert of works by Bax, Bridge and Eugene Goosens on the Saturday afternoon fills out the Festival along with a newly commissioned, short-documentary, film examining the reasons for the unjustified and inexplicable neglect of Bax’s orchestral works in orchestral concert programming to the present-day.

Don’t miss this incredibly exciting new biennial classical music festival in Melbourne by Australia’s most innovative orchestra.


On Not “Blowing Up the Orchestra”

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen

In an article by Anthony Tommasini in the March 7 edition of the New York Times, the very fine Finnish conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen; music director designate of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, muses on the future of the orchestra in the 21st-Century.

The article itself is not terribly well-written, suffering from the same lack of focus in logically expounding the concepts and ideas that the maestro makes attempts to articulate. Albeit the conceptual foundations for Salonen’s ideas; being largely self-intuitive and arguably unproven outside his own efforts with the Philharmonia Orchestra – successful and insightful as they have been, warrant attention.

The most important virtue of the article is the clear intent in which Salonen is engaged with the myriad issues besetting the future of symphony orchestras around the world.  It’s called ‘leading from the front’ and it is to be thoroughly admired.

I don’t agree with Esa-Pekka on every point.  I certainly do not see that the future of orchestral programming being so rigidly tied to concerts in which masterworks of the repertoire  are “present[ed] alongside comparably ambitious modern and contemporary works.”  This is an approach that has yielded fairly poor results over many years for multifaceted reasons.

I do agree with him unreservedly, nonetheless, that an orchestral concert becomes an event of “human energy, human expression — and people react strongly to that.”

It is the elemental proposition of maximising the importance of the level of human expression possible that, at least in my view, is the key.

Orchestras do remarkable things; so remarkable in fact, that we often lose sight that what orchestral players do is viscerally thrilling to audiences.  But we don’t advertise that to the general public.  As Salonen rightly remarks, “The message…is often conveyed — “come and hear an immortal masterpiece performed by Maestro So-and-So and a great symphony orchestra” — is actually off-putting. Lots of concert halls look like shrines or temples, like a Parthenon,” he added. “You climb up to make yourself worthy” and “walk out a better person.”

It will come as no surprise to learn for those of you who peruse my personal blog that I hold deep and abiding concerns about marketing departments of many symphonic organisations who commonly seem bereft of ideas of how to promote classical music to new audiences.  As I pointed out in a recent post, it is actually proven that audiences generally don’t care who is conducting, but what music is being performed!

It is through the music itself that connections are made to the human experience.

The challenge is how to articulate the meaningfulness of the experience to an audience through the mechanisms that contemporary audiences evaluate and experience in their daily lives.

When we solve that issue – and something we spend a lot of time at the ADO thinking about and developing – then we’ll be on a path that can lead to only better outcomes.

Kevin Purcell

Orchestra Musicians Never Fail To Amaze Me

Kevin_PurcellI had the great pleasure last weekend of working with an essentially ‘scratch’ orchestra comprised predominantly of musicians teaching instrumental music in Schools in Melbourne and regional areas; including some musicians from the ADO roster, all of whom gave so generously of their time.

The ADO, through Managing Director, Janine Hanrahan, and Artistic Administrator, Briony Buys, was asked to curate this concert for the inaugural Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) Arts Learning Festival. I was delighted to return to Melbourne to work with the orchestra on a program of music specifically composed for Children.

We really need to celebrate the capacity of orchestra musicians who live in Australia: their willingness to tackle difficult music – with far too little rehearsal time; an undaunted enthusiasm for the task of finding their musical way through a barrage of notes, rhythms, dynamics and endlessly shifting tempi and, ultimately, their conviction that they can “pull it off” when the moment really counts – the concert!

We underestimate and under-appreciate orchestra musicians generally.  I believe this is true in most places in the world with very few exceptions. What is asked of them – in terms of the minutely exacting technical and artistic expectations  – is a continuing feat of human dexterity and skill-level that belies any general understanding of what they individually and collectively accomplish in the process of making music. Continue Reading →

Two Weeks Until ISV Festival

Briony_BuysBeing part of a Festival is always an enormous commitment by everyone involved.  The organizational logistics are enormous, complex and time consuming.  The upcoming Independent Schools Victoria, Arts Learning Festival kicks off in just under two weeks.

Our maestro too, is flying in from New York especially for the ADO’s special collaboration with the Festival to conduct two Australian premieres of two American symphonic works composed for younger audiences.

The first piece, Miranda’s Waltz, by Susan Kander is for narrator and orchestra.  The piece is about a small girl – aptly named ‘Miranda’ – who learns to navigate the big, wide world through the assistance of an even smaller mouse over three days visiting her local park.  Miranda starts out not very confident in dealing with the grown-up world but, by the end, with the help of mouse and her friends, has been shown not to be afraid and whilst little, she is so very capable!

Inside the park Miranda meets an assortment of characters including a kind and gentle old man (who feeds mouse his cheese whilst reading to him!) ducks, a tenacious cat, a noisy dog, and myriad grown-ups who enjoy the park with their young children.  There is also an amazing kite-flying sequence not to be missed!  It is delightful in every way.


The last work on the concert is the remarkable Imaginary Symphony No. 1 by fellow New York composer, Anthony Piccolo.  As well as a very fine composer, Tony is also Director of Children’s Chorus at The Metropolitan Opera, a job that is infinitely demanding in one of the world’s great Opera houses.  His work is scored for large children’s chorus and orchestra.  The symphony is in three movements with chorus text drawn from a variety of well-known and unknown poetry.  I think my favorite text is from the second movement Scherzo (‘Explore’) warning the unwary: Continue Reading →