Date: Friday 26 March, 8pm
Where: Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Guest Conductor: Jessica Cottis
Repertoire: Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, Scherzo à la russe, The Symphonies of Wind Instruments & Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie
The Sydney Youth Orchestra starts the year with a celebration of a great twentieth-century musical revolutionary on the fiftieth anniversary of his death – Igor Stravinsky.
He literally caused a riot with the premiere of his 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring, composed for a huge orchestra. But when the ensuing First World War and Spanish flu pandemic put musicians in short supply, the Russian-in-exile switched down to smaller forces, creating a sound that shaped a musical century.
Stravinsky is here at his wittiest in the suite Pulcinella, based on the Baroque music of Pergolesi and characters from the commedia dell’arte, plus the circus-like Scherzo à la russe. The Symphonies of Wind Instruments, dedicated to the memory of his recently-departed friend Claude Debussy, are accompanied by the Frenchman’s own Première Rhapsodie for clarinet and orchestra, featuring SYO Principal Clarinet Katherine Howarth.
Returning to her native soil, Jessica Cottis, will lead the orchestra with her flair and dynamism for which she is known for.
Conductor: Jessica Cottis
A charismatic and erudite figure on the podium, conductor Jessica Cottis has earned critical acclaim for her intellect, natural authority, and profound musicality. She brings dynamism, intensity and clarity of vision to all her performances.
Named ‘2019 Classical “Face to Watch”’ (The Times UK), she is much in demand on the concert circuit, working regularly with leading orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, The Philharmonia Orchestra, Singapore Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa), Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as well as numerous re-invitations annually to the prestigious BBC Proms.
One of the most outstanding Australian conductors working today, the 20/21 season will mark Jessica’s new role in leading the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s artistic team, as Artistic Advisor. Recognised for her engaging, wide-ranging and thought-provoking/enlightened programming, her domain is music of the 19th to 21st centuries. This season she will conduct major works by Mahler, Stravinsky and Kurt Weill in Canberra, and make highly anticipated debuts with orchestras including Bremer Philharmoniker, Opéra Orchestre national Montpellier, Orchestre National Bordeaux, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, and at Opera Holland Park where she will conduct Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’. Jessica maintains a strong commitment to new music, most recently — along with composer Matthew Hindson AM — co-curating the Canberra Symphony’s Australian Miniseries, a significant new commissioning series of works by Australian composers including Liza Lim, Deborah Cheetham, and Ross Edwards.
A gifted communicator, Jessica works widely as an advocate for classical music. Described as a “cool, contained, super-articulate and engaging” in The Scotsman, she has filmed programmes for the ABC and BBC, and is a frequent contributor on BBC radio and television, commenting on a wide range of topics, from opera to architecture, synaesthesia, the environment and acoustics. In 2020 she led a series of courses for emerging female conductors for the Royal Opera House.
Jessica Cottis’ early musical career was as an organist. Her formative education took place at the Australian National University where she was awarded first class honours, and later in Paris, winning awards from the Royal Philharmonic Society and Royal College of Organists, and studying with pioneering French organist Marie-Claire Alain. After a wrist injury halted her playing career, she began conducting studies with Prof Colin Matters and Sir Colin Davis at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She was awarded the Academy’s top conducting prizes upon graduation in 2009 and appointed Manson Fellow in Composition.
Her early talent was further supported by mentors Sir Donald Runnicles, Charles Dutoit, and Vladimir Ashkenazy whilst Assistant Conductor at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Symphony. In 2015 she was honoured as an Associate of the Royal Academy.
Jessica Cottis experiences sound as colour. She resides in London, and outside of music is an avid lepidopterist.