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Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Llewellyn Two’ embracing colour and emotion

It will be classical music at its most colourful and emotive this week, Wednesday 12 and Thursday 13 May, when the Canberra Symphony Orchestra graces the stage of Llewellyn Hall for Llewellyn Two: Longing and Desire.

The main substance of the program is the selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet score.

Orchestra artistic director Jessica Cottis told Canberra Weekly the piece is “one of the great works of the last century”.

“I first knew Shakespeare’s play before I ever heard Prokofiev as a teenager,” she said.

“I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking nobody could match Shakespeare’s genius in terms of telling this story, and then thinking ‘wow, he’s done it’.

“The music is emotionally devastating and extremely expressive and powerful.”

Complementing the showcase work will be Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, familiar to many through its inclusion in countless cinematic scores; Cottis described it as “one of the most popular and loved concertos of western classical history”.

Acclaimed Australian pianist Andrea Lam will accompany the Orchestra for Piano Concerto No. 2.

“I think she brings a wonderful blend of humanity and poetry to her playing,” Cottis said.

Rounding out the program is the evocative and vibrant Viridian by Australian Richard Meale, who happens to be one of Cottis’ “favourite composers”.

“His music is, I believe, not performed as much as it could be,” she said.

Meale was a synesthete, like Cottis – meaning they both see music as colour upon hearing it. A piece titled Viridian by a synesthete could, quite reasonably, be expected to be colourful.

“For me, there is a very personal connection with this work and the way that he uses orchestral sounds to create colour almost in a physical sense,” she said.

It’s as though emotion or colour has been made into a substance through the act of playing music.

Jessica Cottis

“With so many colours, they provoke emotions, so this musical world and concert for me is fully formed and an achingly tantalising and wondrous place to exist in for those few hours.”

Llewellyn two CSO Jessica Cottis
‘Llewellyn Two’ will be Jessica Cottis’ last performance in Canberra for the year before she returns to the UK for the summer season.

Llewellyn Two will be Cottis’ last performance in Canberra for the year before she returns to the UK for the summer season.

She said having an extended three-month stay in her hometown has been “very special” and has allowed plenty of time to “invest into our future planning and our vision for the Orchestra”.

“It places the Orchestra in excellent stead for the future because we’ve been able to have this time to really explore and question and examine,” she said.

While her engrossing summer schedule will involve a week of concerts in Germany before a season of opera in London followed by an extensive tour of the USA, the work in Canberra won’t stop for Cottis.

“Wherever I am in the world, we stay in touch online,” she said, “which is very important within the structure of our artistic planning.

“The beauty of programming and shaping the season and future seasons is that as long as there’s an internet connection, it can be done from anywhere.”

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s Llewellyn Two: Longing and Desire will be performed at Llewellyn Hall, ANU, 12-13 May 7.30pm; cso.org.au/longing-desire

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