The Canberra International Music Festival 2015. Photo by Anthony Browell.

The Canberra International Music Festival 2015. Photo by Anthony Browell.

Creating Bold New Music

The Festival is proud of its history  of investment in exciting new works that challenge people to think about music a little differently. Some of our commissioning highlights include:

  • 2009-present. Each year since 2009, generous Festival supporter Betty Beaver has commissioned a new version of the Festival opening fanfare by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin. The piece is appropriately titled‘Beaver Blaze’;
  • In 2013, the Festival presented the Great South Land, a major reworking of Peter Sculthorpe’s previous work Quirós, an opera written for ABC television in 1982. The work commemorates the explorations of Spanish navigator Pedro Fernández de Quirós, and highlights the historical bonds between Spain, Australia and the Pacific, and the part Spain played in early Australian history. The Commission was generously supported by the Spanish Embassy, the Cervantes Institute, Acciona Australia and individual contributors;
  • 2011. The Australian Polish community banded together with a series of organisations to commission Peter Sculthorpe’s Shining Island, which premiered at our 2011 festival and has subsequently been performed at the City of London Festival and by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales;
  • 2009. Arvo Pärt’s most extensive instrumental work, his 4th symphony was co-commissioned by Pro Musica for the 2009 Festival and subsequently released by ECM Records. Arvo Prt wrote afterwards “I am simply thrilled by this interpretation of my 4th Symphony … Such stunning quality … You obviously understand what my notes are trying to tell”
  • 2010. The late Henryk Gorecki's masterwork “…songs are sung …” was performed in an arrangement for string orchestra in the 2010 Festival shortly before his death.  It was his last major work to premiere;

 Other creations and re-inventions:

  • Numerous neglected or rarely heard scores have been reworked, refashioned or revived for recent Festival programs, including works by Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Eric Korngold, Elena Kats-Chernin, Graeme Koehne, Calvin Bowman, Nigel Westlake, Ross Edwards and Peter Sculthorpe.
  • The Festival has also discovered and presented lost works such as the Gallipoli Violin Sonata by Australian Frederick Septimus Kelly, composed in the trenches of Gallipoli. This work was presumed lost for 80 years until previous  Festival Artistic Director, Chris Latham, found the manuscript in Florence in 2010.

2015 Commissions

The Festival is committed not only to playing, but to creating bold and exciting music.

In 2015, the Festival commissioned four internationally acclaimed composers to create original music to be debuted at the Festival. Three commissions received their world premier at the Festival and three works had their Australian debut.

The Festival’s 2015 program featured the following commissions:

  1. Kate Moore*: a new work for the Opening Gala on 1 May - subtitled Beaver Blaze and scored for saxophone, percussion, baroque string, keyboard, electric guitar and voice. Commissioned by Betty Beaver.
  2. Kate Moore*: new piano installation for Lisa Moore and performed at Mount Stromlo on 5 May. Commissioned by Lisa Moore with assistance from the Australia Council.
  3. Rosalind Page: Being and Time 111 for cello solo performed at the National Gallery of Australia on 8 May. Commissioned by Margot Woods and Arn Sprogis.
  4. Andrew Ford: A pitch dark night for piccolo, trumpet, piano and baritone performed at the National Library of Australia on 8 May
  5. Andrew Ford: Common Ground for double quartet performed at the Fitters’ Workshop on 9 May. Commissioned by Barbara Blackman.
  6. Brian Howard: Full Fathom Five performed on 9 May at the Fitters’ WorkshopCommissioned by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
  7. Nigel Butterley: a new work for Carillon. Commissioned by the National Carillon.

These commissions would not have been possible without the generous support of all our sponsors. If you are interested in supporting a commission or want to find out more about the different sponsorship opportunities we have, please contact Roland Peelman, our Artistic Director on 02 6230 5880 or send him an email. Please note, all of our staff are part-time and may not be immediately available to answer your call, please send an email and Roland will be more than happy to call you back.

*2015 Composer in Residence.

2016 Commissions

The Festival’s 2016 program featured the following commissions:

  1. Gerard Brophy*: Canticles. Commissioned by Margaret and Peter Janssens
  2. Gerard Brophy: Dervish, our 2016 Beaver Blaze which is commissioned each year by long term Festival supporter, Betty Beaver, and features in our Opening Gala concert.
  3. Kon Koukias: Ancient Voices for ondes martinet.
  4. Tristan Coehlo: Smell of the Earth, Percussion quartet for Tambuco Percussion.
  5. Sally Whitwell: Treasure Chest, a children's song.Commissioned by an anonymous donor.
  6. Michael Sollis: Ear of the Cat, a work for children.
  7. Other new works premiered at the 2016 Festival but not directly commissioned by the Festival: Gerard Brophy - Rua B Fogo, J.Wells work for carillon commissioned by the National Capital Commission.

* 2016 Composer in Residence

2017 Commissions

The Festival’s 2017 program featured the following commissions:

  1. Robert Davidson: White Australia, our 2016 Beaver Blaze which is commissioned each year by long term Festival supporter, Betty Beaver, and features in our Opening Gala concert.
  2. Ben Drury: new work for double based to be performed in the Turrell Skyspace at the National Gallery of Australia.
  3. Hing-yan Chan: Double Happiness.
  4. Nick Ng: Gold Rush
  5. Other new works premiered at the 2017 Festival but not directly commissioned by the Festival: 10 Carillon Minatures, works for carillon commissioned by the National Capital Commission with support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Robert Davidson - Stalin's Piano, Frank Nuyts - Piano Sonata, works by Chen Yi*.

* 2017 Composer in Residence

The Festival would like to thank all of the supporters who have so generously given to our commissioning program. To find out more about supporting a commission, please visit our support us pages here.