Australia Ensemble UNSW 2023 Subscription Concert: Ecstatic Science

CS233589 Australia Ensemble 2023 - Programs - 1080x1920px5
Saturday September 16, 7.30pm to 9.30pm
Sir John Clancy Auditorium

Some music delights in pattern for its own sake. Bach glimpsed limitless possibilities in the one theme that inspired his Musical Offering, while Missy Mazzoli and Nigel Westlake create fascinating and vibrant works out of ornament and elaboration. Chemist and composer Alexander Borodin drew his patterns from the songs and dances of his native Russia. 

J.S. BACH | Ricercar a 3 BWV1079/1 (1747) 

Nigel WESTLAKE | Piano Trio (2003) 

J.S. BACH | Ricercar a 6 (1747) trans. Stanhope (2022) 

Missy MAZZOLI | Ecstatic Science (2016) 

Alexander BORODIN | Piano Quintet in C minor (1862) 

David Griffiths, clarinetDene Olding, violin; Dimity Hall, violin; Irina Morozova, viola; Julian Smiles, cello; and Ian Munro, piano 

with Emeritus artist Geoffrey Collins; and guest artist Joel Brennan, trumpet

When Frederick the Great presented ‘old Bach’ with an idiosyncratic theme to improvise upon, he can’t have foreseen the composer’s 12-part compendium of counterpoint, which revels in the purely abstract patterns of note against note and line against line. Bach improvised the three-voice Ricercar on the spot, and later wrote the six-voice piece, one of the most extraordinary works of its type. Paul Stanhope has arranged it for the ensemble. 

US composer Missy Mazzoli also enjoys the play of abstraction. In her fascinating and beautiful Ecstatic Science ‘chord progressions are drawn-out, multiplied, condensed, and layered. Melodies are flipped upside-down…the horizontal becomes vertical.’ Nigel Westlake’s Piano Trio has the same elegant organisation, delighting in intricate mosaics of metrical patterns, and deeply-felt lyricism. 

Chemist Alexander Borodin saw pattern as structure, inventing the aldol reaction to create carbon-carbon bonds. As a composer (and one of the ‘Mighty Handful’) he was unapologetically Romantic and Russian, as we hear in his tuneful, open-hearted Piano Quintet. 

Buy Tickets

Single Ticket Prices Adult $56/ Senior $43/ Concession $34 (plus booking fees)


To subscribe to our season, please contact the box office (02) 9385 4874 or email