25 Australian composers celebrate Ode to Joy in epic world premiere tribute

In what will be an epic world premiere music event, 25 Australian composers have been commissioned to write short variations on Beethoven’s iconic Ode to Joy to mark the 25th anniversary of the famous Goldner String Quartet. The piece will be performed by the Goldners in Townsville at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) on Saturday 24 July 2021.

In an absolute who’s who of Australian music makers, the 25 composers include Joe Chindamo, Robert Davidson, Brett Dean, Paul Dean, Ross Edwards, Andrew Ford, Paul Grabowsky, Iain Grandage, Maria Grenfell, Holly Harrison, Matthew Hindson, Mark Isaacs, Jakub Jankowski, Elena Kats-Chernin, Graeme Koehne AO, Liza Lim, Nicole Murphy, John Peterson, Andrew Schulz, Harry Sdraulig, Paul Stanhope, Clare Strong (formerly Johnston), Carl Vine, Natalie Williams and Elizabeth Younan.

The brainchild of AFCM Artistic Director Kathryn Stott, the piece, titled Goldner Variations on ‘Ode to Joy’ is inventive and brilliant! When asked how she came up with the concept, Kathryn Stott said, “For this very special 25th anniversary of the Goldners, I wanted to find an imaginative link to Beethoven and his 250th celebrations but with the very strong wish to create a work of longevity.”

Ode to Joy symbolises joy, hope and unity and what better way than to bring together 25 composers with whom the Goldners have very special connections. I suggested they take this glorious theme, and each write a 45 second Variation. From this the Goldners will construct the piece into the order they think fits best.”

“In the future, the work can be reassembled into a new order or performed with all, or a selection of the Variations. Goldner Variations is AFCM’s gift to the Goldner String Quartet and I am very excited at the prospect of this entering the repertoire after the world premiere on 24th July,” said Stott.

The AFCM’s Quartet in Residence, the Goldner String Quartet was formed in 1995 in honour of Musica Viva Australia’s Richard Goldner and since then, Dene Olding and Dimity Hall (violins), Irina Morozova (viola; an ex-pupil of Goldner) and Julian Smiles (cello) have played around the globe to great acclaim.

They have numerous internationally acclaimed CDs released on Tall Poppies, Naxos and ABC Classics including a DVD documentary, The Quartets with Peter Sculthorpe and 11 discs with pianist Piers Lane for the prestige UK label, Hyperion.

Major projects have included a retrospective of 20th Century String Quartets and the complete Beethoven Quartet cycle, which was recorded live and won the ABC Limelight Award for “Best Classical Recording” in 2009. In 2019 the Goldners were featured artists at the Venice Biennale.

Goldner Variations on ‘Ode to Joy’: The Governor’s Gala Concert takes place on day two of the Festival at the Townsville Civic Theatre and will be hosted by Cheryl Barker and Peter Coleman-Wright.

Concert Conversations 6 at the Pavilion, The Ville Resort on Saturday 31 July will also be devoted to the Quartet’s 25th anniversary. Hosted by Russell Torrance, it will be a different format to regular Concert Conversations, with the Goldners alternating between conversation and performance throughout the morning.

The 30th Australian Festival of Chamber Music (AFCM) will be held from 23 July to 1 August and feature 133 works, 112 composers, four world premieres and five Australian premieres. The festival will present more than 40 Australian musicians, 15 in their AFCM debut.

Over 30 music-filled years, the Festival has forged a stunning international reputation as one of the best chamber music celebrations in the world. For more information and full program, visit: www.afcm.com.au for details.

Image: AFCM Artistic Director Kathryn Stott (centre) with The Goldner Quartet: Dimity Hall, Julian Smiles, Irina Morozova and Dene Olding (supplied)