It’s going to be a romp, says cellist Julian Smiles of his return to the Llewellyn Hall stage on 18 and 19 July with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra to perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for Cello, Violin and Piano, the third instalment of the ActewAGL Llewellyn Series.
“There is a lot of joy in this piece, it’s boisterous, while the slow movement is very beautiful and simple. The musical ideas are very simple, not complicated, and joyous throughout. A romp is a good word to describe it,” said Smiles from Sydney where he lives with his son and wife, violinist Dimity Hall, with whom he will be performing.
The couple is one half of the Goldner String Quartet, and have been playing together for more than 25 years, now having what Smiles called an extra-sensory connection on stage.
Joining them will be London-based pianist Piers Lane, with whom he has a 15-year playing relationship.
Smiles is the inaugural CSO Artist in Focus, which he sees as great honour and recognition of his long relationship with the orchestra where he began his cello career as a boy.
A central figure in cello performance and teaching in Australia for over 25 years, Smiles has performed with many ensembles including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australia Ensemble@UNSW, but most famously for his work as a founding member of the Goldner String Quartet.
As a graduate of the Canberra School of Music, Smiles played with the CSO in years past and captivated audiences with an emotional and heartfelt performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto in 1988.
Falling in love with the ‘human’ sound of the cello, Smiles began playing in the cello section when he was about 13 and continued through to the end of his studies in Canberra.
“From the first moment I met a cello, I put the bow on the string and this beautiful sound came out, which was human voice range and not too high for me to be uncomfortable with,” he recalled.
“The cello was appointed to me a by a bunch of gentlemen at the Canberra School of Music who were running elementary strings studies and I just went in with no preconception of what instrument I would play and they just looked at me and said, ‘Ah, he looks like a cellist’.”
Those gentlemen included Nelson Cook, who became his teacher, Wilfred Jones, Vincent Edwards, all great names in Canberra musical history.
For Smiles, Beethoven is one of the most human of composers. “You can relate to him, you can hear in his music he was a person who had very ordinary feelings, had good times and bad times,” he said. “Some composers go into the exalted other worldly things, which is very beautiful as well, but Beethoven’s music is essentially about humanity and what it is to be a person and deal with life.”
The orchestra will be conducted by Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Nicholas Milton, with whom Smiles has a ‘terrific’ working relationship.
“He’s a really great conductor and, being a string player himself, he has a great understanding of how to accompany string players. I always feel very comfortable when he is conducting the orchestra,” Smiles said.
Milton calls Smiles one of the pre-eminent soloists of the nation and one of the most extraordinary artists this country has ever produced.
For Smiles, who performs recitals most of the year, joining the orchestra on stage is always a special occasion and “something I get keyed up about”.
The CSO will also perform the magnificent, yet mysterious, Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar – a work that explores the friendships of an introvert with a hidden melody that has not been identified even to this day.
On Sunday 15 July, Smiles and Hall will perform in the more intimate Recital Series at Wesley Music Centre – three duos and two solos, including the world premiere of a work by Matthew Hindson.
Later in the year, he will perform at the National Portrait Gallery with pianist Bernadette Harvey in a program of 20th and 21st Century Australian compositions, including two world premieres.
For more information go to https://cso.org.au/event/actewagl-llewellyn-three/