Young violinist Rebecca Gill has a very busy time ahead, having used her Kruger Scholarship from Fine Music to commission a new work which she will perform next month. Premiering at Fine Music’s Live from the Joan concert at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith, three horizons actually comprises three pieces for piano and violin composed by Gill’s longtime friend Chris Williams. Gill was also in the process of recording the work at the studios of Fine Music when she spoke to the magazine about what the Kruger Scholarship has so far enabled her to achieve.
“Part of my initial inspiration for the program was to look at the relationship between Australian composers and their European forebears. Although some of our cherished composers, like Peter Sculthorpe and Ross Edwards, are famous for trying to find a truly Australian voice, I think the European tradition of composition was an inescapable presence throughout 20th century Australian composition.
“When I looked through the work and lives of composers like Margaret Sutherland and Raymond Hanson I felt a strong engagement with English and European composition and also an innate Australian flavour,” says Gill.
Chris Williams studied in Oxford and has now made another shift to Washington D.C, explains Gill. “To me he represents a new generation of composer continuing this distant cultural conversation.”
Looking into the works of Margaret Sutherland and Raymond Hanson was particularly interesting for Gill as she was not as familiar with their writing compared with other Australian composers.
“Chris’ compositions were not designed to be played in order, one after the other, so I can weave in amongst them some of the great Australian chamber pieces that may not get quite as much air time as, say, a Brahms Sonata,” says Gill.
“I’ve also come across some great works by Stuart Greenbaum and am still exploring what else would make the concert even more interesting and entertaining for my different audiences.”
Gill has a special affection for chamber music and recital performances as they present an opportunity to express her “musical personality directly to an audience”. Gill graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium in 2013, with a Masters of Music Performance (Research) studying with Janet Davies, and has already toured extensively in Australia and internationally, working with artists such as Pekka Kuusisto, Sir Mark Elder, Elizabeth Wallfisch, Pinchas Zukerman, Gautier Capuçon and Charles Dutoit. She first met Chris Williams at High School in Newcastle and there began a collaboration that continues to the present day.
Although, after completion of their studies at the Sydney Conservatorium and Williams’ move to Oxford to undertake a Masters, Gill regretted that they “hadn’t collaborated on a work or in concert before he moved to the other side of the world”.
When the opportunity to commission a work came up, through the Kruger Scholarship, Gill immediately thought of Williams: “It’s so exciting to have each come so far from that classroom in Merewether and to be able to finally join forces”.
“When I engaged Chris in this commission he was also involved in a project with his long-term mentor and friend, Australian composer Nigel Butterley. Like Chris and me, Butterley has a strong connection to Newcastle,” said Gill.
Two of the three pieces within three horizons have been titled after Butterley’s personal art collection, ‘cloud, ground, trees’ and ‘white, sea, bird’. The third piece’s title was appropriated from Australian poet Michael Dransfield’s Geography Poems, ‘valley’s of the sky (chapels of pure light)’. For Williams, three horizons is “a trinity of trinities”. Its titles celebrate three Australian artists, the work pays homage to “the trinity of Rebecca, Nigel and Newcastle and was itself conceived and composed across three horizons: England, Australia and the USA”.
Gill says: “The varied nature of my work sometimes feels a little like juggling but I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be making this my career. To have your passion as your job must be the ultimate privilege”.
– Samuel Moore