How the Ady Ensemble came to give the Australian Premiere of Philip Glass’ 3rd Symphony

Le Grande Fromage talks about the first Australian performance of Glass’ 3rd symphony.

I had come across the Glass’ 3rd symphony several years ago, and had been fascinated not only bt its distinctive ‘Glassesque’ moments, such as those found in the First and Third Movements, but also by the more unique and challenging moments found in the symphony’s other two movements. Having undertaken several concerts already with the newly founded Ady Ensemble in 2011, which had included small string players, I was keen to undertake a concert involving larger numbers of strings. With this in mind we began at the end of 2011 to recruit players (and composers) who might be interested in being involved in a concert to be held in May, 2012, as part of the 4MBS Festival of Classics for that year. Although a considerable percentage of the program would see the strings in an accompanying role to the soloists involved (David Reichelt on Cor Anglais, and myself on trombone) it was important to me to include some pieces that featured the strings, making things more interesting for them to balance being utilised in an accompanying ‘mode’.

Along with new arrangements of Super Mario and Debussy’s sumptuous “Clar deLune”, Glass’ 3rd Symphony was also to be added to the program. The majority of the string players recruited for the performance were members of the Brisbane Philharmonic and Brisbane Symphony Orchestras. The Concertmaster for the performance, who also filled the same position for the Brisbane Philharmonic, was the talented Robyn Gray.

It became apparent, during the preliminary discussions to hire the work for performance, that the work hadn’t been performed in Australia- despite the fact that the work had been written in 1994 (and first performed in early February, 1995).

With just a few positions still needed to be filled, such as the bass section, I decided to give an old school friend, David Heckenberg, a call, to see if he was interested in playing bass for the performance. As it turned out, David was heavily involved with his stringed instrument repair and making business, but the pair decided to meet up to catch up and chat about a few things.

What occurred during that meeting (and which made me almost choke on his sushi), was when David offered to pay the hiring costs for the orchestral parts to the Glass Symphony (since the work hadn’t been performed in Australia previously, and therefore with no existing parts in the country, the costs for hiring a piece of music from overseas can be astronomical). Sometimes kind gestures of this sort can sometimes be merely token, or at least come with a set of conditions that need to be met. However, David was true to his word, and for this the Ady Ensemble will always be in his debt.

It is in performing this work this time around that we remember David’s kindness in helping to mount the first performance of this work. Given that this was the first important premiere by the Ady Ensemble, it seems appropriate that this work will be used to launch a long-term project for the Ady Ensemble: the Emerging Masterworks project, which will see the ensemble continuing its commitment to the performance of both newly composed works, & those works written from the beginning of the Twentieth Century to the present day.

Please join us for our next concert, “Broken Glass: a concert of transformation,” on the 8th of November, which will see the Ady Ensemble perform Glass’ 3rd Symphony, and the launch of the Emerging Classics and Dawn of the Symphony projects.