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  1. CSO Mixtape: Leanne Bear

    Leanne Bear, Violin (Image: Peter Hislop)

    Violinist and composer Leanne Bear graduated from the University of Queensland and travelled on scholarship around Europe with violin and purple suit, performing her avant-garde violin works and learning from acclaimed teachers. Back in Australia, she married Tor Frømyhr and moved to Canberra in 1997. Since then, Leanne has enjoyed performing regularly with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO), as well as other Australian orchestras including the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and as Concertmaster of varying ensembles from the Opera Orchestra in Brisbane to the Canberra Bach Ensemble.

    Leanne is an enthusiastic chamber musician; memorable performances include: Pereira/Australian String Quartet for the Leigh Warren and Dancers Quiver tour (1998), performing and tutoring at Mt Buller Chamber Music School (2003), National Music Camp, Taabinga chamber music schools and festivals, and conducting at Coffs Harbour String School (2015).  In 1999, Leanne played solo violin in Andrew Ford’s Furry Dance with the CSO. While still a student, Leanne became a tutor at the University of Queensland in harmony / counterpoint and aural. She was also director of the Contemporary Ensemble at the ANU School of Music until 2012.

    As a composer, Leanne has focused on large-scale chamber works since 2011. A career highlight was conducting and performing the highly acclaimed Imaginessence concert (2012), featuring her piano sextet and cello ensemble work among others – the first concert of her major works to be presented in Canberra. Other highlights include her Postcards to Hungary piano trio, commissioned and performed in Budapest by Fezek Music Club and Kodály Liszt Academy (2015); Märchen aus dem Wienerwald for salon orchestra, Bruckner Hall, Linz (2015); Auvergne for cello and piano commissioned and performed, Auvergne, France (2016). A 2018 highlight was her CSO commission, Art Nouveau, premiered in the Recital Series by Bernadette Harvey (piano) and Julian Smiles (cello) and described by a CityNews reviewer as “…the work of a major composer….who is making Australian history”. In 2019, the renowned PLEXUS trio commissioned and premiered Leanne’s Nôtre Gothique at the Melbourne Recital Centre – PLEXUS will perform the work in the CSO’s 2021 Australian Series.

    Marriage, three children and a property in the Yass Valley seem to be a vibrant environment for this versatile artist’s forest of inspiration.
    More about Leanne

    Selected listening notes

    As I listen to the music and write these notes, I’m sitting outside on my deck, absorbing the sights and sounds of this lush springtime amongst rural bliss. The garden is flourishing and fragrant, wildlife abounds and the boronia and roses form a beautiful foreground to the mountains in the distance.

    I feel fortunate to be able to enjoy this scenery, not just because of current world crises, but also after years of crippling drought followed by firestorms in Australia. I dedicate this mixtape, “Evocative Landscapes”, to those who wish a musical escape into serene beauty for healing and refreshing, and to celebrate landscapes from around the world.

    Whilst featuring Nordic and French composers, from late Romantic to early Twentieth Century, missing from the mixtape is a host of other composers and pieces that celebrate nature, like Pēteris Vasks’ recent string music or his piano landscapes, late Liszt, Messiaen, Rautavaara, Janáček, Delius, and Kodaly… as well as scenes from so many other countries and Australian composers – but we would be here for weeks! Therefore, I have just included music that reflects the mood I am in now, with some of my favourite pieces that blend together or that feature a performer / composer I admire, to form a cohesive playlist.


    Joseph CANTELOUBE Chants d’Auvergne 2. Bailero

    We begin this musical adventure in the mountains of the Auvergne in Southern France, where Canteloube was born. These folk-song arrangements reflect the composer’s love of his rural homeland and form the priceless heritage of his collection of folk tunes throughout France. Baïlèro is famous for its beauty; one can imagine the shepherd and shepherdess calling out to each other across the hills in their native Occitan, but how often do we hear the other richly evocative songs from all five suites?

    So here is another:

    Joseph CANTELOUBE Chants d’Auvergne 5. Pastorale

    I chose a similar piece – another shepherd’s song, which begins with a Mahler-esque evocation of spring, the clarinet cuckoo, cor anglais and flute, and rustlings of rebirth. One can almost see the lush spring meadows brimming with life. The colours and contours of orchestration are skilful and empathetic, often with woodwind solos of chromatic and modal figures, and the golden voice of Kiri Te Kanawa soars above. As with Grainger, Canteloube is most famous for his folk-song settings, but it would be wonderful if his other works could be better known. Reminds me of Puccini and English composers of the time.

    Edvard GRIEG Holberg Suite, op. 40 I. Preludium (Allegro vivace), II. Sarabande (Andante), III. Gavotte (Allegretto) – Musette (Poco piu mosso) – Gavotte (Allegretto)
    Helsinki Strings conducted by Géza Szilvay 

    This was the first piece I listened to for this project, and I was moved to tears by the power of the music after a long drought of music-making. My mother instilled in me a love of Grieg who we later learned was Nordic / Scottish – given she is mostly Scot and I’ve married a mostly-Norwegian, this is musical home! Included here are three of the five movements of this well-loved work.

    I had to include some recordings by the celebrated Helsinki Strings – not only do they produce the most lush and harmonious sound, with astonishingly beautiful interpretation, but I was astonished upon hearing this music to learn that they are a youth orchestra conducted by their teachers: Géza (violin) and Csaba Szilvay (cello), the Finland-based Hungarian brothers who created the Colourstrings method! I was compelled, hearing their music, to go and study with Géza, and later had the honour of conducting the Helsinki Strings in a workshop of my music. His brother Csaba introduced my music to the Liszt Academy in Hungary where I had commissions and whole concerts of my music! This has been the musical highlight of my life.

    Edward ELGAR Serenade for Strings in E minor, op. 20 III. Allegretto
    Helsinki Strings

    The entire work is warm and expansive and reminds me of Brahms sextets. I’ve included just the third movement here – I wanted to include his monumental Introduction and Allegro, but the serenade better fits with the atmosphere.

    Jean SIBELIUS Rakastava Suite, op. 14
    Helsinki Strings conducted by Géza Szilvay 

    I. The Lover

    Throughout his illustrious composing career, Sibelius wrote often for strings; being a violinist himself, his consummate mastery of string writing and possibilities is clear. Rakastava, “The Lover” seems a shimmeringly sensitive and passionate expression of a love story.

    II. The Path of the Beloved

    This scherzo-like movement seems to gather momentum through a winter expanse, and the bells (triangle) perhaps signal imminent arrival.

    III. Good Night – Farewell
    Featuring Lea Tuuri (violin), Csilla Szilvay (cello)

    I love the insistent suspension. The coda really does sound like a tearful farewell. The interpretation is so poignant and moving.

    Jean SIBELIUS Symphony No. 6 in D minor, op. 104 i. Allegro molto moderato
    Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi

    The ultimate blissful Spring symphony by Sibelius. Lush and lyrical – but surprisingly short, and described by the composer as “pure spring water”. You can actually hear the rustling birch forest, nature exploding in its brief warm season. At the poignant moment of cherished bliss, it modulates with dissonance that reveals the incoming key, and continues. Then, once again startling in the double ending. Search out the other movements and enjoy another joyous musical celebration full of momentum, and a surprising finale that drifts off into another world.

    Jean SIBELIUS Lemminkaïnen suite op. 22 I. Lemminkaïnen and the Maidens of the Island

    The Kalevala is Finland’s national saga, passed down orally by the Poets for centuries, and treasured most in the areas of Karelia which is now part of Russia. The Kalevala is a limitless source of inspiration for Finnish artists; Sibelius delved into these legends for his music. I actually visited the area north-east of Finland closest to the Russian border, and was utterly captivated by this unique Karelian culture. Having absorbed as much of Sibelius’ works as I could find – soaking up the violin concerto, all seven symphonies, the Karelia and Kuolema suites, Tempest, Oceanides, Tapiola, and as much of his string orchestra music as I could find – it came as a total surprise to hear this early work of his. I was blown away by the opening horn chords; the rest is a gorgeous musical legend.

    I know I’ve included a lot of Sibelius, but I had to put this one in for it to be more recognised. Can you hear the symphony 2 & Karelia sounds that swirl up to a passionate dance, and, later on, a violin solo? Enjoy the inimitable Sibelian long climax that swirls the listener along with the musical drama irrevocably to the finish.

    Marin MARAIS 4ème Livre de Pièces de viole: Le Badinage
    Featuring Jordi Savall (viol), Rolf Lislevand (théorbe) 

    A poignant tune from the 1992 film Tous les Matins du Monde (featuring Gerard Depardieu and his son), about the young Marin Marais who travels to the countryside hoping to learn from the austere master violist Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe. Grief-stricken after the death of his wife, Sainte-Colombe builds a tiny hut and retreats there to endlessly play his viol. With only a chair, a table, some bread and wine, and the vision of his dead wife, he writes his impassioned compositions in a large leather book (I love that scene and have tried to recreate it at times!). The viol music is so complex and rich.

    It’s no surprise therefore that my son now learns the viola da gamba, and that we drove down to Melbourne to see Jordi Savall perform.

    Gabriel FAURÉ Après un Rêve
    Janos Starker (cello) 
    Claude DEBUSSY Beau Soir, L. 6
    Janine Jansen (violin)
    Edvard GRIEG Våren (orchestral version)
    Barbara Bonney (soprano)

    Various arrangements exist for these three love songs, but I think these versions beautifully capture the atmosphere of each poem. We get swept along by the musical beauty, poised on a precipice. The wistful and dreamlike “after a dream” on cello, the ecstatic moonlit tryst of “beautiful night” (also a favourite violin piece), and the colours of “last spring” shimmer in the orchestra with the crystalline beauty of Barbara Bonney’s voice. I adore her CD Diamonds in the Snow of Scandinavian gems for voice and piano.

    Erik SATIE Gnossiennes: No. 4
    Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)

    Satie is famous for his Gymnopedies and Gnossienne No. 1, but the other four Gnossienes are just as original and charming, evocative of an ancient Greek scene, perhaps picturing rugged sun-drenched hills, with olive trees or the stone steps of architectural ruins.

    Variously described as a genius or a joker in his lifetime, his music is now celebrated as revolutionary. From the early Gnossiennes onwards, Satie got rid of bar lines, and wrote surreal notes in the score for the performer, and was the inventor of furniture music. I have long admired his Bohemian lifestyle and collaborations with the avant-garde artists of his day. When I visited Paris for the first time in 2015, I stayed in Montmartre near to Satie’s flat and paid homage.

    Maurice RAVEL Miroirs, M. 43 No. 2, Oiseaux Tristes
    Jacques Rouvier (piano)

    Totally enraptured by Ravel, I played this incredibly atmospheric piece as a teen, learning how to really sing notes on the piano – Jacques Rouvier explains this in his masterclass on YouTube. Just watching him play those bell-like sounds is revelatory. It evokes a languid summer scene; one can imagine the heat shimmering, the silent expanse broken by the call of the lonely bird. Recalling the songs of the Auvergne, it’s a similar kind of scene to Ravel’s birthplace in the mountains of southern France.

    Further listening: The rest of the Miroirs, Gaspard de la Nuit (piano original), everything by Tzigane.

    Sergei RACHMANINOFF 10 Preludes, op. 23 No. 4 in D major

    Another “landscape of the soul”, as I call these wondrous pieces that transport us to somewhere in our imaginations, in our hearts. I had to throw in this favourite, heart-wrenchingly sublime piece of Rachmaninoff.

    Franz SCHUBERT String Quintet in C, D. 956 2. Adagio
    Miklós Perényi, Takács Quartet

    I’m transported by this serenely beautiful work by Schubert. I also wanted to include a work featuring my favourite cellist, Miklós Perényi. Along with the Takács , his musicality and devotion to the score is supreme.

    Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No. 3 ‘Pastorale’

    The title says it all, save for utterly unique sound world that is Vaughan Williams – each of his symphonies is so novel! Notable string writing – luxurious and textured, as in his Thomas Tallis piece. Listen for the beautiful violin solo reminiscent of Lark Ascending, as well as surprising modal transitions and suspensions similar to those that Sibelius and Canteloube employ. But essentially, be carried away on a luscious symphonic fantasy.

    Curator profile: Leanne Bear

    Briefly introduce yourself – tell us your name, your instrument, where you’re living and how you’re connected to the CSO.

    Hi, I’m Leanne Bear, violinist, and I live on 17 acres on the Yass River. I’ve been playing violin in the CSO for over 20 years now!

    How did you come to be a musician?

    My mother was a piano teacher; I think I was born listening to Bach. Mum taught me the piano – and at 90 she is teaching my daughter fourth grade! – and I started learning violin at school. But it was an overall love of music that was there from the start such that I couldn’t be anything else.

    If I wasn’t able to be a musician I would be a creative of some sort – an artist or a writer. I think I already am really, I just love splashing paint on a canvas and I’m currently writing a story with music for a young friend. My grandfather was a one-man newspaper and I’ve inherited a love of typography and stationery.

    What’s your most treasured childhood memory related to music?

    Growing up in country Queensland, my musical opportunities were few, but when I attended McGregor Summer School in Toowoomba at 13 I was utterly blown away by the experience of playing in a full symphony orchestra – playing Sibelius 2 and Prokofiev’s Troika from Lieutenant Kije! – and also the total absorption into chamber music and the love of music shining through the influence of tutors Len Dommet, Nelson Cooke, Rob Harris, and many more.

    Tell us a bit about someone who had a formative influence on you in your creative development.

    I want to mention an unsung hero: my first violin teacher at age 11, Glenys Shannon. Glenys started with nothing and built up an entire string school in Hervey Bay / Maryborough, thanks to her devotion to music and persistence. I also want to mention Spiros Rantos, a teacher I saw monthly in Toowoomba, whose impeccable musicianship and Viennese technique taught me how to play Mozart.

    Describe a memorable music experience you enjoyed as an audience member.

    When I was studying in London I went to a prom concert at Albert Hall. Ruggiero Ricci was playing but all I could focus on was a single pink balloon that was cycling through the expansive ceiling draughts, poised at once on the rafters and then floating down, directly towards Mr Ricci! You could hear a collective intake as the balloon nearly touched down on his esteemed head before slowly drifting up to the ceiling and bouncing gently across the rafters, before the ineffable drifting downwards again. Ricci was utterly unaware of the circus going on above his head! I was trying so very hard not to laugh. How did these Britons do it?

    Name three places in Canberra that hold some significance for you.

    Canberra is the best place to bring up adventurous children! The National Botanic Gardens, Parliament House café and the National Museum of Australia are memorable places because they had child-friendly, free, open spaces where I could hang out with my tiny children and let them joyfully run about!

    What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the past year?

    I’ve learned this past year that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that there will be lush regrowth and recovery in nature.

    What advice would you give to your younger self?

    Just because someone is in an influential position, that doesn’t make them right. Don’t listen to the rubbish that selfish people spout and stick to your instincts. If only I’d known that I had ADHD, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself and so misunderstood. Locked in tiny cupboards to practice … Bear, go outside and practice under a tree!

    Name three people you’d like to invite to dinner, living or dead.

    Well, I always feel for the incredible artists who died unrecognised or forgotten, but being limiting to three is hard! Let’s have Van Gogh, Schubert and a lucky dip draw of a female composer. Hopefully they wouldn’t mind that I’d be too overawed to cook!

    If you were a piece of fruit, which would you be and why?

    A cloudberry. They live forever and don’t get wrinkles or something?

    What’s something you love doing that has nothing to do with music?

    It was the most rewarding experience when my beautiful red border collie Rosy had six pups. Is there anything better in this world than being clambered all over by fluffy, cute, loving puppies?

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  2. CSO Mixtape: Matthew Witney

    Matthew Witney, Violin (Image: Martin Ollman)

    Matthew Witney was inspired to learn the violin at the age of three after watching Playschool Meets the Orchestra. He studied the violin in the Suzuki Philosophy before completing his AmusA (AMEB) diploma at the age of 13.

    Matthew attended the Young Australian National Academy of Music, a program for gifted secondary school students, until its closure in 2008, and has travelled through Europe playing with the Chamber Strings of Melbourne. He has studied with Dr. Evgeny Sorkin, Nelli Shkolnikova and Tor Fromyhr.

    As well as playing violin with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, Matthew  is currently completing a PhD in Immunology at the Australian National University. His research involves trying to understand how the body recognises and responds to viral infections. More about Matthew

    Selected listening notes

    Good music should go beyond just sounding beautiful. The pieces in this mixtape elicit memories, inspire me to be a better person, or just feel so real I can nearly feel the notes!

    Many of these works were inspired by stories or historical events. Others elicit personal, visual landscapes associated with particular memories from when I first heard them. My hope is that these pieces help you to find time to recall and enjoy past memories, or find new inspiration in your future endeavours.


    Eugène-Auguste YSAŸE Sonata for Two Violins in A Minor III. Finale (Allegro vivo e con fuoco)

    Ysaÿe composed several sonatas for solo violin, which are often played at recitals and violin competitions. In contrast, this sonata is a duet for two violins. It’s a particular favourite piece of mine because of the full texture of the piece, as the two violin parts meld together. This movement is full of contrasts, alternating between delicate themes that give way to soaring melodies, before finally evolving into an energetic dance.  

    Graeme KOEHNE Capriccio III. Scherzo

    I learnt about the Australian composer Graeme Koehne when I toured with the Chamber Strings of Melbourne through Europe in 2010. This piano concerto is full of surprises, light orchestration and a cheeky piano part!

    Richard STRAUSS Don Quixote, op. 35 TrV 184:5-6 Variation 2, Variation 3

    I discovered Strauss’ tone poems after playing the Don Juan overture with the CSO in 2014. However, my favourite has always been Don Quixote, full of musical delights describing the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The highlight for me has always been the viola and cello solo in Variation 3, which occasionally inspires me to pick up the viola!

    Alexander ARUTIUNIAN Piano Concertino

    I discovered some of the Armenian composer Arutiunian’s pieces as a teenager. Arutiunian also composed for several films; to me, this concertino could easily be part of film music. It’s full of descriptive, visual themes, with each section describing a different scene. The second movement is a real gem.

    Peter SCULTHORPE Port Essington

    This suite was inspired by a failed attempt to establish a colony in Northern Australia in 1824. Each movement integrates an element from the historical event, including describing the harsh landscape of Northern Australia, acknowledging the historical presence of Indigenous peoples, and describing the hardship of the ill-fated colony. To me, this piece exemplifies Sculthorpe’s exploration of the physical and cultural landscape of Australia through music.

    Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Clarinet Quintet in A major

    Every year, a recording of this piece would play in the background at the annual family camping trip to the Kosciuszko National Park in December. I associate this Clarinet Quintet with driving through the winding roads of the Kosciuszko region in the early morning, the wind rushing in through the windows and the burnt, grey snowgums stretching into the distance.  

    Scott JOPLIN The Easy Winners (arr. Itzhak Perlman)

    Always a fun piece to play!

    Fritz KREISLER Syncopation

    Syncopation is a light, fresh piece that I first heard played by my violin teacher, Dr. Evgeny Sorkin. To me, the jocular style of this piece, as the violin interacts with the piano, seems to speak words instead of just elicit emotions.

    Jean SIBELIUS Six Humoresques for Violin and Orchestra: Humoresque V op. 89c in E flat major

    One of six humoresques composed by Sibelius. Each movement represents a distinct, and often cheeky theme. In this movement, I can’t help but hear the sound of a cuckoo echoing throughout.

    Antonín DVOŘÁK Humoresque No. 7 in G flat major, op. 101

    I learnt a simplified version of Dvořák’s Humoresque as a child, and this piece has remained one of my favourites. Although originally composed for piano, this arrangement features Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma on violin and cello and perfectly suites the piece!

    Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Violin Sonata No. 21 in E minor, K. 304

    When I was ten years old, I was introduced to the Mozart violin sonatas by a school teacher with a background in piano performance. The following summer holidays became a crash course in learning several Mozart violin sonatas at home, followed by attempts to play through each work with the piano. This sonata remains my favourite.

    Richard CONNOLLY and Rosemary MILNE Hip Hip Hooray! (Play School theme)

    I asked my parents if I could play the violin after seeing PlaySchool Meets the Orchestra at the age of three. Initially reluctant, as they preferred the piano, I eventually convinced them and was given a violin for my fourth birthday. I’ve included this piece not for its musical calibre, but as an acknowledgement of the importance of this kind of musical outreach to young children!

    Curator profile: Matthew Witney

    Briefly introduce yourself – tell us your name, your instrument, where you’re living and how you’re connected to the CSO.

    Hi, my name is Matthew Witney. I live in Canberra and play violin with the CSO.

    What’s the hardest part about being a musician?

    The hardest part about being a musician is finding a way to be satisfied with your work. Although I’m not sure this is specific to being a musician!

    Who or what motivates you to pursue music?

    I grew up surrounded by music, it just seems a necessary part of my life! For me, music has a way of making emotions, ideas and memories become physical sensations instead of just auditory. Music is therefore intricately tied to my childhood memories, and remains a constant source of inspiration.

    Name three careers you could see yourself in if you weren’t a musician (and tell us why).

    I’ve always had a curiosity for understanding the world beyond music.  Possible non-musical careers could include being an immunologist (medical research) due to my interest in tiny, disease-causing microbes and the eradication of preventable diseases! I’ve also always had a fascination with the outdoors, so could see myself working as an ecologist, or park ranger. Finally, I find it rewarding and motivating to teach music and in another life I could have become a secondary school teacher.

    What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the past year?

    Over the past year, the increased isolation, as well as fewer opportunities to rehearse with other musicians due to the pandemic, has really crystallised the concept that music means more when you share the experience.

    Name a composer you admire (and tell us why)

    If I have to shortlist my favourite composers, those who were also scientists will rank highly! These include Alexander Borodin (a doctor and chemist) and Edward Elgar (a chemist).

    Do you think any of the pieces you’ve chosen are underrated? Why?

    Some of the pieces in this mixtape are what I consider to be hidden gems. For example, I’ve never heard anyone mention the composer Arutiunian except for the teacher who gave me a CD with a recording of his Piano Concertino. I suspect Arutiunian is lesser known because his pieces seem ‘lighter’, with less dense orchestration, which makes it harder to compete with so-called ‘serious’ classical pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto. Or perhaps he is just not well known in Australia!

    Other works, such as the Sonata for two violins by Ysaÿe, and the Sibelius’ Humoresques, are probably just less well known because the composers are known for other masterpieces which dominate the recording landscape!

    Do these pieces bring to mind any particular memories or associations?

    Many of the pieces I’ve chosen have particular associations with locations, people or holidays. When I ‘discovered’ many of these pieces, I would often play them on repeat for days, or even weeks! So, each piece is closely associated with a particular time in my life. For example, I closely associate Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet with summer holidays in Kosciuszko National Park, while the Koehne Capriccio reminds me of touring Europe with the Chamber Strings of Melbourne.

    What’s your most treasured childhood memory related to music?

    One of my most treasured childhood memories is of playing the violin on top of Mt. Kosciuszko as the sun rose on Christmas Day with my family (it was freezing!). Taking a violin on holidays became a bit of a tradition during my childhood; I have fond memories of playing the violin in campsites in French Polynesia, Kosciuszko National Park and Queensland’s Fitzroy Island. No violins were harmed in these endeavours!

    How would you be enjoying this music in ideal conditions? How is it best enjoyed in iso?

    If you listen to music like I do, play these pieces on repeat in the background until you could sing them! Some were inspired by stories – take the opportunity to read about Port Essington, reach for the dusty edition of Don Quixote lying on your bookshelf, or immerse yourself in some German classical literature.

    Alternatively, I hope these pieces help trigger some memories in your past that can help inspire you like they do for me!



  3. CSO Mixtape: Doreen Cumming

    Doreen Cumming, CSO Principal Second Violin

    Doreen started violin studies at the Canberra School of Music at six years of age, with renowned Julliard graduate Vincent Edwards. Over the following nine years, Doreen studied with some of the country’s finest pedagogues including Charmian Gadd, Larry Sitsky AO, FAHA, and John Painter AM.

    Doreen’s performance career started in 1984 with her first professional appearance with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra at the age of thirteen. During her career, which spans over thirty-six years, Doreen has played with most of the symphony orchestras around Australia, including holding a full-time position with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO). She has also been regularly invited to play with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Sydney Philharmonia, and the Opera Australia Orchestra. Doreen has toured extensively around Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In 2002, she held a contract with the Orquesta Sinfónica De Galicia in the north of Spain.

    Doreen also studied conducting with TSO’s chief conductor, David Porcelain. After being a finalist in the Westfield Young Conductors competition, Doreen went on to conduct professionally with the TSO, touring and recording for ABC television and the ABC label.

    Doreen currently works in Orange, New South Wales as the Founder/Director of Strings On Sampson. She ss the Principal Second Violin with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. More about Doreen

    Selected listening notes

    Everyone has those moments that seem to freeze time, all-consuming moments of our lives that live like YouTube links in our minds.


    We are shaped by them, stories told time and time again. They never change, preserved for life by the emotional print they forged in us.

    Like most musicians, many of my vivid memories are formed by music. For as long as I can remember, I have fully succumbed to particular journeys composers and musicians intended to lead me on, inextricably drawn to their depiction of a time, a place, a situation, a person. The following captures just a few of these moments, music I have either heard or played that has left its mark on my life.

    In compiling this list, I noticed an undeniable trend towards dark, unsettling works. I’ve always known these are the pieces that really captivate me; compiling this mixtape gave me the opportunity to think about why. I’m not a particularly tortured soul – quite the opposite! The more I thought about it, and tried to understand what it was that drew me to these deeply emotional works, the more I understood my obsession with them. Rather than focusing on the subject matter, I focused on what the composer was trying to relay.

    The fathomless compassion and empathy these composers felt inspired them to capture the devastation they witnessed, or were affected by. This is really what we are consumed with as our emotions are tested by a haunting phrase or a jarring harmony. They allow us a rare insight into history, far more powerful than any written reference. An unforgettable slice of empathy, a reminder of humanity, that we can hopefully call upon should a similar event rear its ugly head.

    The other works in my mixtape paint such detailed pictures of a country – the landscape, temperature, light, flora and fauna, even the culture. Far beyond widely recognisable folk music, these works evoke an image, a feeling, all with transient sound. A passport to the world.

    I would like to dedicate this playlist to my wonderful CSO Principal Second Violin chair sponsor, Ms Joanne Frederiksen.



    The Bonnie Lass O’ Bon Accord

    This gorgeous Scottish air is a favourite of my parents. I have played it for almost as long as I can remember. Recently, however, it has become a bit of a musical signature of mine: the encore after a performance, a demonstration piece, a farewell to friends that have left us, a light switch to the past. I got as close as I’ve ever been to my heart exploding with joy when my father, who has dementia, looked up and sang along as I played this piece for him.

    Max BRUCH Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 – Adagio On Hebrew Melodies For Cello And Orchestra (Adagio ma non troppo)

    This piece represents one of the most powerful turning points in my musical journey. I knew that playing music as a profession was my future during the first few bars of learning this piece with my teacher, Vincent Edwards. The transition to the major section cemented my calling. I have played and taught this piece many times over the years and it still gives me goosebumps. 

    Richard STRAUSS Tod und Verklärung Op. 24, TrV 158

    This tone poem takes us through the the final moments of a man’s life. The pain is palpable as it racks the dying man, interrupted by reminiscent ponderings of happier days. Laboured breathing is beautifully threaded throughout the piece up to the moment he lets go and his soul leaves his body. The “transfiguration” is achingly divine.

    Igor STRAVINSKY Le sacre du printemps

    From the first notes of this epic piece in the Disney movie Fantasia – with the dinosaurs and volcanic eruptions – to the thrill of performing it, I have loved The Rite Of Spring. I feel immense privilege being a part of music like this, so close to such greatness.

    Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Op. 110, String Quartet No. 8

    My parents gave me a boxed record set of the Borodin String Quartet playing the Shostakovich quartets for my thirteenth birthday, it was not long before my father had to transfer them to cassette for fear I’d wear out the records. I wore out the cassettes!

    The eighth quartet is the foundational cornerstone of my love of music. The terrifying, repeated three-note motif can be heard in the fourth movement, an achingly mournful Jewish violin melody finishes this movement. The highlight for me, however, is the cello solo in the final movement. It brings tears to my eyes every time.

    Max BRUCH Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, op. 46 I. Introduction: Grave, Adagio cantabile

    This is another favourite of the Cumming clan and one of the first concertos I played as a student.

    In 1990, I was in the far north of Scotland staying with family. I found myself on a bench seat on Thurso beach at sunrise one morning after a particularly fun evening, watching the light skim over the choppy North Sea. It was like mercury and strawberry milk (no, I hadn’t taken anything illicit), with the colours changing to grey and deep green once the sun rose. I’ve always had that image in my mind as I played this movement.

    Aaron COPLAND Appalachian Spring: Suite for Orchestra

    Another wonderfully descriptive work, so accurately depicting the Appalachian mountains. I’ve never been there – I’ve flown over a few times – but I could paint you a picture from this piece…if I could paint!

    Copland received a Pulitzer prize for creating this masterpiece, well deserved in my humble view.

    Johannes BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 73: I. Allegro non troppo

    I first played an excerpt from this piece for my audition for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. A few months later I was playing the full work, in the orchestra I loved, with a very sick Stuart Challender conducting. He passed away not long after this final visit to Tasmania. It was the only time I worked with him and the concerts for me were emotional rollercoasters.

    Peter SCULTHORPE Irkanda IV

    Sculthorpe was the Ken Done of music, unashamedly Australian and a great ambassador for this country. I have always enjoyed playing his music, creating the sounds of the outback with a healthy dose of seagulls. I was lucky enough to attend his eightieth birthday in Vienna whilst on tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. I think we were even sporting the Ken Done uniforms on that tour! 

    Jean SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 43 IV. Finale – Allegro moderato

    When I play or hear this piece, I can’t help thinking this is what Finnish people must feel like when the long, dark winter is finally over and there are a few life-giving hours of sunny daylight to enjoy.

    For me, this is such a satisfying work to perform, rousing and proud. It’s hard not to grin like a Cheshire cat once you finally reach the climactic D major section. What am I saying… I’ve never tried not to grin!

    Curator profile: Doreen Cumming

    Briefly introduce yourself – tell us your name, your instrument, where you’re living and how you’re connected to the CSO.

    My name is Doreen Cumming, Principal Second Violin in the CSO. I live in Orange, New South Wales.

    My connection to the CSO began in 1984 when I was a student at the Canberra School of Music. I remember the rehearsals in Albert Hall, it was freezing in winter! Our conductor was Leonard Dommett OBE and Concertmaster Vincent Edwards. I was so privileged to play with some amazing musicians in the orchestra, it taught me so much about music and orchestral playing.

    What’s your most treasured childhood memory related to music?

    My parents were Scottish Country Dancers: my introduction to music was through their dancing and the wonderful Ceilidhs we attended and played at as children. We were dressed in white blouses with round collars, tartan kills, little white socks and shiny black shoes. Yes, there are photos. No, you can’t see them!

    Name three careers you could see yourself in if you weren’t a musician (and tell us why).

    I can see myself as a forensic scientist, a detective or a medical examiner – I love solving puzzles and riddles. As an avid reader of crime novels, I always wondered what it would be like to work in this field. 

    For what in life do you feel most grateful?

    There are many, many things but I’d have to say living my somewhat colourful teenage and young adult life before social media.

    Name three places in Canberra that hold some significance for you.

    1. My childhood home in Lyons – my mother still lives there after almost 60 years.
    2. Garema Place – In my youth orchestra days, we had Saturday rehearsals in the old Griffin Centre. At the break, we’d all run across to the takeaway for potato scallops and lollies. In my teenage years, Garema Place with the old carousel was a popular hang out.
    3. The Canberra School of Music – When I left school in Year 8, this became my second home. I spent every waking moment there, with the most incredible people who have remained lifelong friends. It was a tight-knit community: we practised, learned, made incredible music, and wandered in and out of the common room on level 6, sharing stories, forming relationships, participating in a rotating game of 500 that must have gone on for the best part of a decade. They say it takes a village to raise a child – this was my village. It was a spectacular place.

    Are you a cat person or a dog person?

    Both. I love all animals. I have a doofus of a blue Great Dane called Monte Cristo, and three spoilt cats: Truffle, Sacha, and Saffron. Growing up, we had cats, dogs, chickens, a male pheasant, bee hives, a pet magpie, budgies, guinea pigs… It was a busy house.

    What’s something you love doing that has nothing to do with music?

    I am a trained chef. I LOVE to cook. It’s a kind of therapy for me to take on my Gordon Ramsay persona and crash around the kitchen yelling at inanimate objects. My family is quite used to it now, they know it’s harmless and they get to sample the spoils.

    Name three people you’d like to invite to dinner, living or dead.

    Antonio Stradivarius, Ernest Hemminway, Leonardo da Vinci.

    Name a musician you admire (and tell us why).

    I love listening to Itzak Perlman play. His joy of music comes through in every piece, across all genres. I have a record called A Different Kind of Blues= where Perlman teams up with Andre Previn, Shelly Manne and Red Mitchell to jam. It’s so inspiring to see a brilliant musician constantly expand his musical paradigm.

    Name a composer you admire (and tell us why).

    I’ve always loved the energy Bernstein brought to his compositions and conducting. The relentless activity is captivating. Bernstein said: “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

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