The Magic of Paris

We are delighted to be joined by some talented Sydney artists for our next concert on Saturday 28th June, 1:30pm at the Glebe Justice Centre. Owen Torr (harp), Alex Fontaine (oboe), Vanessa Tammetta (violin), Ella Brinch (viola), and members of Sirius Chamber Ensemble present a concert of French music for woodwinds, strings, harp and piano.


View of the Canal Saint-Martin, Paris, oil on canvas by Alfred Sisley, 1870; in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.


The Magic of Paris will explore music composed and premiered in the French capital between 1876 and 2012. Central to the program is music by early twentieth century impressionist composers, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.

The Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet was hastily written by Ravel in 1905 and first performed in Paris in 1907. The commission came from Érard, maker of harps and pianos, to promote the newly crafted double action pedal harp. As such, the harp plays a dominant role in this septet.

Claude Debussy wrote the Sonata for flute, viola and harp in 1915 while suffering a terminal illness. Planned as one of six sonatas for various combinations of instruments, only three works of the cycle were completed before the composer’s death in 1918.

Moving to French music of the present day Guillaume Connessonhas been described as… incontestably the most gifted, demanded and versatile composer of his generation in France today – La Terrasse, Jean Lukas, 2003. Disco Toccata for clarinet and cello, written in 1994, is a modern interpretation of the Baroque form, usually a keyboard piece. The Adams Variations for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (pub. 2011) is a set of six variations based on the letters of American minimalist composer, John Adams.

The program also includes Elegie for cello and piano (1880) by Gabriel Fauré and Quintette in G minor for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn (1876) by Claude-Paul Taffanel.


Sirius Chamber Ensemble

Ian Sykes (clarinet)

Alison Evans (bassoon)

Melissa Coleman (flute)

Julia Zeltzer (french horn)

Martyn Hentschel (violin)

Georgina Price (viola)

Clare Kahn (cello)

Claire Howard Race (piano)


When: Saturday 28th June, 1.30pm

Where: Glebe Justice Centre (formerly Glebe Café Church Space), corner St John’s Rd and Colbourne Ave, Glebe.

Tickets: $30/$20/$10 available at or at the door


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Maurice Ravel: Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet.

Watch this lovely performance by harpist Isabelle Moretti and French chamber musicians, of Ravel’s composition commissioned by instrument making company Erard for the double action pedal harp. The composition marvellously displays the expressive range of the harp.

Come to listen to Sydney harpist Owen Torr and Sirius Chamber Ensemble play this work by Ravel, as well as music of Debussy, Taffanel and Connesson at the Glebe Justice Centre on Saturday 28th June, 1:30pm.

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June 15, 2014 · 3:22 pm

Hungarian Dances and Songs

Our first concert for 2014 features the compositions of Hungarian 20th century composers, including György Ligeti and Béla Bartók. Joining Sirius member, Ian Sykes (clarinet), are Paul Myers (piano) and Martyn Hentschel (violin) to perform Bartók’s Contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano. Paul and Martyn will also perform Bartók’s Romanian Dances for violin and piano. Other music on the program include Sholem-alekhem, rov Feidman! for clarinet and piano by Bela Kovacs, Old Hungarian Dances for wind quintet by Ferenc Farkas, and the Trio for flute, clarinet and bassoon by Zoltán Székely. So what is the connection between all these composers? Many were influenced by each other, but all have a common interest in the folk music of their country of origin.


Hungarian Parliament in Budapest


György Ligeti (1923 – 2006)

Six Bagatelles for flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn (1956)

Ligeti was born in Transylvania, Romania to a Hungarian Jewish family. In 1944, following the German occupation of Hungary, Ligeti was sent to a forced labour brigade, while the rest of his family were interred in concentration camps. Following the war, Ligeti studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, studying with Zoltan Kodaly and Ferenc Farkas amongst others. Similarly to earlier Hungarian masters such as Kodaly and Bartók, Ligeti pursued his studies into Hungarian folk music in Transylvania. After fleeing to Vienna in 1956, Ligeti explored many compositional trends, experimenting with 12-tone serialism, electronic music and minimalism, before developing his own unique style, which he dubbed “micropolyphony”.


The Six Bagatelles for wind quintet, originated from Musica Ricercata (1953), 11 pieces for piano. Ligeti structured the suite around the number of tones used; the first piece is restricted to just two notes of the chromatic scale, the second using three notes and so on to the final piece in which all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are present. Shortly after the work’s completion, Ligeti arranged six of the pieces for wind quintet. The Bagatelles were performed first in 1956, but not in their entirety – the last movement was censored by the Soviets for being too “dangerous”. The work finally received its first complete performance in Stockholm 16 years after its composition.


A Bagatelle suggests a mere trifle; however, these six pieces are diminutive in length only. Each piece inhabits its own sound world, creating a suite of contrasting moods, from playful, sorrowful to downright crazy. While Ligeti’s admiration of folk music is clearly shown in the Bagatelles, so are characteristics of the avant-garde for which he would later become well known for, particularly his experimentation with form and tonality. The Fifth piece is dedicated to the memory of Bela Bartók. His influence on Ligeti, along with that of Stravinsky, is evident throughout the suite.

Notes by Ian Sykes


When: Saturday 26th April, 7.30pm
Where: Glebe Justice Centre (formerly Glebe Cafe Church), corner St John’s Rd & Colbourne Ave Glebe
Tickets: Available at or at the door
$30 adult/$20 concession/$10 child

BYO food/drinks/alcohol
Tea, coffee and refreshments available

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Concert Series 2014 Launch

We are pleased to announce an exciting program for 2014, which will include three evening concerts and smaller recitals throughout the year.

For our recital series, we have chosen diverse repertoire that features our combination of wind and string instrumentalists. We are excited to be joined this year by guest artists including Paul Myers (piano) and Owen Torr (harp). Also, we will premiere new music by Sydney-based composers Christine Draeger and Paul Smith.

Our first concert this year will be in a new venue – Glebe Café Church Space (cnrs St John’s Road and Colbourne Ave, Glebe) – an intimate and relaxed venue with excellent acoustics and comfortable lounges, where BYO food, drinks and alcohol are welcome. Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available.

Concert series tickets are available at or at the door.
Adults $30 / Concession $20 / Child $10

Concert 1 – Saturday 26 April 2014, 7.30pm
Hungarian Dances and Songs

Program includes:

  • Bartok Contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano
  • Ligeti Six Bagatelles for wind quintet
  • Bartok Romanian Dances for violin and piano
  • Kovacs Sholem-alekhem, rov Feidman! for clarinet and piano
  • Farkas Four Antique Hungarian Dances for wind quintet

Concert 2014 program details can be viewed under 2014 Concerts. Concert dates and venues will be confirmed throughout the year.

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Australia Day Recital

The Sirius woodwind trio, Melissa Coleman (flute), Ian Sykes (clarinet) and Alison Evans (bassoon) will be performing at St Stephen’s Uniting Church as part of their Australia Day recital series.

Our short program begins at 1.30pm and will feature music by Piston, Greenbaum, Washburn and Szekely. It’s the perfect way to escape the heat in the middle of the day if you’re celebrating Australia Day in the city and best of all, it’s free!


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Sirius Trio to perform at Avondale College

Sirius Chamber Ensemble are delighted to be performing for Avondale College of Higher Education on Tuesday 24th September. A selection of solo works, duo and trios for clarinet, cello and piano will be performed. The program includes the virtuosic Le Grand Tango for cello and piano by Astor Piazzolla, a set of English bagatelles for clarinet and piano by Gerald Finzi, the Disco Toccata for clarinet and cello by Guillaume Connesson, as well as trio music by Beethoven and American composer, Robert Muczynski.

Performers: Ian Sykes (clarinet), Clare Kahn (cello) and Claire Howard Race (piano).

When: Tuesday, 24 September 6.30pm
Where: Avondale College Church
Avondale College of Higher Education
582 Freemans Drive
For more information and tickets please visit the Avondale website

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Singleton Arts Festival

On Saturday 27th July we took the ensemble to the Sacred Spaces Reception Room, Singleton to perform in the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music, 2013 Visiting Artists Series. We enjoyed performing for and meeting with the local chamber music enthusiasts. Special thanks to Adam Wills and Rebecca Erskine from the Conservatorium for inviting us to perform. We felt privileged to play in the series funded in part by Arts NSW, through the Regional Conservatoriums Grants Program. Thanks also to the Sisters of Mercy Convent for making us feel so welcome.

Sirius Chamber Ensemble on tour

Sirius Chamber Ensemble on tour

And what better way could there be to enjoy the day after the concert with seeing the sights of Singleton, and tasting local produce in the Upper Hunter.

The World's biggest sundial in Singleton

The World’s biggest sundial in Singleton

Until next time we can tour we are busily at work preparing for The Americas concert this Saturday 10th August, 7.30 pm at St Philip’s Church. Program to include North American composers, Kenneth Fuchs and Robert Muczynski and from South of the border, Astor Piazolla and Julio Medaglia.


Scenic drive through wine country

Scenic drive through wine country

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The Americas

America the Beautiful Country

Join Sirius Chamber Ensemble for a musical journey through the Americas. We will feature two compositions by US composer Robert Muczynski, Time Pieces for clarinet and piano and Fantasy Trio for clarinet, cello and piano. Kenneth Fuchs’ music for Quiet in the Land, an Idyll for flute, clarinet, cor anglais, viola and cello, suggests the open spaces of North America. A stark contrast follows with Argentinian composer Astor Piazolla with his virtuosic Le Grand Tango for cello and piano. To conclude is the joyous Belle Epoque in Sud America for wind quintet by Brazilian composer Julio Medaglia.


Muczynski – Time Pieces for clarinet and piano

Fuchs – Quiet in the Land, Idyll for flute, clarinet, cor anglais, viola and cello.

Piazolla – Le Grand Tango for cello and piano

Muczynski – Fantasy Trio for clarinet, cello and piano

Medaglia – Belle Epoque in Sud America for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and french horn.


Ian Sykes (clarinet), Alison Evans (bassoon), Melissa Coleman (flute), Angus Lindsay (oboe/cor anglais), Julia Zeltzer (french horn), Georgina Price (viola), Clare Kahn (cello), Claire Howard Race (piano).

When: Saturday 10th August, 7.30pm

Where: St Philip’s Church, York Street

Tickets: Adult $35 / Concession $25 / Child $15


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Sirius Chamber Ensemble to perform in Upper Hunter

We are looking forward to performing one of our Wind Quintet with Piano programs at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music. The program will include Beethoven’s Quintet for piano and winds, Francis Poulenc’s Sextet for piano and winds, Julio Medaglia’s South American dance suite “La Belle Epoch in Sud-America” for wind quintet, and Australian music by Kristofer Spike.

Saturday 27 July at 5pm

Singleton Sacred Space Reception Room

Tickets: $20 Adult $15 Concession

See the event program here


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Homeland and Victory

Sollertinsky (right) with close friend Dmitri ...

Sollertinsky (right) with close friend Dmitri Shostakovich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It may seem that the three pieces that we have chosen for our first concert this year – Saturday 25 May – a little melancholy. All three compositions were written either during the Second World War or written in a significant time of the composer’s life. These were grave days but underneath their political and emotional torment there lies a sense of hope. Their music is influenced by the folk music they learned to cherish, out of solidarity for their homelands and for their closet friends. Here’s what our performing artists have to say about these works.

Dimitri Shostakovich – Piano Trio No 2 in E minor, Op.67 (1944)

It is within the E Minor Trio that the horrors of the Second World War combine with the devastation of personal tragedy. It is a work dedicated to the memory of Shostakovich’s closest friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, whose sudden death in February 1944 occurred as Shostakovich was composing this trio. Sollertinsky, a Russian-Jewish intellectual, theatre, ballet and music critic, and who became concert lecturer for the Leningrad Philharmonic concerts, was a mentor to Shostakovich. Sollertinsky introduced to his friend the music of the Austrian-Jewish composer Mahler. Shostakovich recounted of Sollertinsky that his mentor was, “always trying to expand my world-view”. Later he wrote to Sollertinsky’s widow, confiding that “I cannot express in words all the grief I felt when I received the news of the death of Ivan Ivanovich”.

Sergei Prokofiev – Flute Sonata, Op. 94 (1943)

Composed in the midst of the darkest days of the Second World War, it has been said that the work provided Prokofiev with some relief, due to its playful elegance. However this is a work of extremes, and the darkness that must have prevailed in Prokofiev’s life at this time is also surely evident here.  Sweet cantabile melodies and light, playful moments often soon turn to darkness, grunt, and melancholy, brought about by sinister harmonies and aggressive, militant rhythmic motifs. Neoclassical in style, this sonata beautifully displays Prokofiev’s gift for writing classical formal structures with clear, transparent sonorities, whilst also employing edgy twentieth century harmonic techniques. Indeed, perhaps this work is more conservative in style than some of Prokofiev’s earlier works. Given the fierce regime of the time, it is possible that this style of writing was Prokofiev’s attempt to conform in order to remain safe and viable as a composer in his homeland. It is interesting to note that the rhythm we hear repeated during the first and fourth movement – three semiquaver triplets followed by single quavers – when translated into Morse code spells out the word “victory”. This remarkable fact shows us that Prokofiev was looking forward to the day when the war would be over, for peace when he would be free from the harsh regime that he – and many others – felt suppressed by. This is his powerful message to us; that is, even in his darkest days he could still look ahead with positivity and hope, and so too, can we.

Bohuslav Martinů – Nonet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, french horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass, H. 374 (1959)

The Nonet for wind and strings was composed during the last year of Martinů’s life, being premiered by the Czech Nonet at the Salzburg Festival just one month before he died. Despite this, the Nonet is generally a joyous and delightful work filled with folk songs and dances as well as driving, complex rhythms. The first movement draws on Moravian dance tunes, crystallizing these ideas into a poised and refined movement through neoclassical stylistic structures inspired by Martinu’s study of the music of Haydn. The second movement is more introspective and melancholy, featuring a plaintive cello tune and some unsettling rhythmical accompaniment. Finally, the third movement is again primarily driven by dance tunes, with regularly changing rhythmical patterns creating an energy and joy that shows no shadow of the death that Martinů would have known was not far away.


But please don’t stay away for fear that this concert will be dreary. May I leave you with words from Martinů himself – words which fully describe – why composers must write what they must write and why we must continue to perform this music today.

“The artist is always searching for the meaning of life, his own and that of mankind, searching for truth. A system of uncertainty has entered our daily life. The pressures of mechanisation and uniformity to which it is subject call for protest and the artist has only one means of expressing this, by music.” — Bohuslav Martinu


The notes on the above three compositions have been written respectively by Claire Howard Race, Melissa Coleman and Clare Kahn.

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