Led by internationally acclaimed musicians David Griffiths (clarinet), Svetlana Bogosavljevic (cello) and Timothy Young (piano), Ensemble Liaison is lauded for its imaginative programs and stellar collaborations with leading Australian and international performers.
Not limited to performance alone, these passionate chamber musicians are also keen arrangers and composers themselves. Pianist Timothy Young talks to us about the music and inspiration behind their next concert, Für Elise, featuring his new Fantasy based on Beethoven’s masterpiece, and the Ensemble’s own arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
Timothy Young (TY): More than any other composer who ever-lived, Beethoven’s works can touch us in the most profound way. He loved humanity and wrote works to bring out the best in us. In these challenging times, what better music is there to help us face issues head on, work together and find solutions.
TY: With all great artists, Beethoven’s depth and breadth of understanding and expression are of the highest order. As time passes and we reflect and reconsider works of art, one continues to find things you had not seen or understood before, even after many years. I would say that my reverence for the great man has only grown.
TY: I have toyed with the idea for many years about writing something for my trio Ensemble Liaison, and finally, at one of our meetings to discuss repertoire around Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, I thought ‘Rather than play the solo piano masterpiece Für Elise, why not write a Fantasy on it that we can all play?’ It was fascinating during the compositional process to note that in my mind I was hearing the way ensemble members David (clarinet) and Svetlana (cello) would play it!
TY: Für Elise was one of the first pieces of Beethoven I loved playing as a child and is perhaps one of his most popular piano miniatures. It has a bit of everything with great themes and plenty of drama and contrasts. I’ve aimed to capture the inner detail of the material and expand on his very distilled and succinct journey so that it retains the organic feel of the original. It also became apparent that thinking in this style also meant I was calling upon so much of his other music, and inevitably this all became woven into the fabric. It is a fun piece and should be listened to as such.
TY: Our Ensemble Liaison & Friends series is all about providing our listeners with a musical journey. We like to contrast our styles and the journey that Mussorgsky provides is an extraordinary way to enter into your own creative world. He literally invites you to ‘promenade’ between the Pictures of the Exhibition, with each repetition of this theme slightly altered in register, harmony and length to depict the changing emotional response to what has been viewed. It is very powerful music.
TY: Mussorgsky’s Pictures in its original piano solo form seems already orchestral in its conception and range of expression, so to adapt this to three instruments is not problematic. I confess what is difficult these days is not to hear it with Ravel’s famous orchestration(!), but the material is so unique and imaginative that it is no wonder it appealed to so many great composers. Capturing Viktor Hartmann’s original drawings in sound was Mussorgsky’s genius and the musical realisation is so strong that any arrangement is really just an effect and interpretation on the top.
Timothy Young is a founding member of Ensemble Liaison and Head of Piano and a resident artist for nearly 20 years at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). He has toured Australia with violinist Ray Chen for Musica Viva, performed with the Australian String Quartet, the Australian Brass Quintet, the ANAM orchestra, the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and most recently as a soloist with the Australian World Orchestra with Simone Young conducting. Frequent festival appearances recently include the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, Adelaide Festival, Huntington Festival, Canberra International Music Festival, the Novi Sad Music Summer Festival in Serbia, the Kotor Arts International Festival in Montenegro and the opening recital at the Capraia Festival of Music in Italy. His internationally acclaimed discography includes numerous recordings for the Tall Poppies and Melba labels and his most recent releases are the complete works of Percy Grainger for two pianos with Penelope Thwaites for the Heritage label U.K. and an all-Australian CD of chamber works with ABC Classics with Ensemble Liaison.