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Newsletter No 1: 2017 Season

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From the President: Daniel Kirkham

Welcome to Zelman Symphony's 2017 season. This year is going to be one of our more ambitious, with our full concert débuts at both Hamer Hall and Melbourne Recital Centre. Before these two events, we will be bringing you some fantastic, youthful talent in our regular venues of Xavier EHPAC, Hawthorn Arts Centre and Daylesford Town Hall and will return to St Andrew's Church in Brighton after an absence of 18 years.

We look forward to seeing you at these concerts, and trust you will enjoy them as much as we enjoy putting them on for you. All are open for booking now.

In this newsletter, you can read about Zelman Symphony's proud history of female leadership as we farewell Mary Johnston and introduce you to our new leader, Susan Pierotti. There is also an article about our first soloist for the year, Phoebe Russell, who has returned from a very successful early career in Europe to take a position in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Welcome home Phoebe!

Daniel Kirkham
President, ZMSO Inc.

Prodigal Daughter returns as Soloist - Phoebe Russell

We are excited and delighted to welcome Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy double bass alumna, Phoebe Russell, as soloist in Bottesini’s Concerto for Double Bass No.2 for our first 2017 concert. Phoebe played this concerto in last year’s Carl Flesch Akademie Concerto Competition winning the Conductor’s Prize for best concerto.

Mary Johnston introduced Phoebe to Zelman Symphony in 2009. In 2010, aged 16, Phoebe was Zelman Symphony’s youngest ever section leader. She was also our youngest invited soloist when she and her teacher, Damien Eckersley, played Bottesini’s Passione Amorosa for two Double Basses and Orchestra that September.

Phoebe has since embarked on a huge musical career. She was a member of the ACO’s Qantas Emerging Artists Program and the Australian Youth Orchestra with whom she made a memorable European tour including a Royal Albert Hall Prom Concert — the BBC TV producer was clearly struck by her playing as the camera frequently returned to feature her during the live broadcast. After a year at ANAM, Phoebe fortuitously moved to Berlin, joined the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy and played with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra — light years from her start in Zelman Symphony! She was part of the Berlin Phil’s United States tour playing under Sir Simon Rattle in Carnegie Hall. She has also played with: Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Netherlands Philharmonic, Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Phoebe’s first love in grade two at school was the harp but she chose to play the double bass. Whilst here in Australia, she will be recording some Harp and Double Bass duets with a close friend, so watch out for that CD.

84 Years of Zelman Concertmasters

The first 76 years: 1933 to 2009

Over nearly all of the 84 years since it was founded, Zelman Symphony has been blessed to have had a number of charismatic long-term Concertmasters. The first was the legendary Bertha Jorgensen who had been a pupil of Maestro Alberto Zelman and played with his orchestra.

She became concertmaster of the MSO when it was formed in 1932 under Sir Bernard Heinze, a role she played until her retirement 40 years later. In parallel with that august position, she was Zelman Symphony’s concertmaster for 12 years from 1933 to 1945. Another pupil of Alberto’s, Connie Ziebell, filled the role for the next 37 years! She had been deputy concertmaster under Bertha Jorgensen.

The next 19 years saw Donald Hancock as leader. He continued playing after handing over the leadership in 2001 and retired from the orchestra in 2011 shortly before he passed away. Yik Ming Chim followed for the next four years.

The next few years saw the orchestra being led by guest concertmasters, including Mark Edwards, Bruce Clapperton and Mary Johnston.

2009 to 2016 – Mary Johnston

After she had played a few successful concerts as guest concertmaster between 2006 and 2009, Zelman Symphony was delighted to welcome Mary Johnston as its long-term concertmaster.

After majoring in composition and performance at Sheffield University, Mary gained a Postgraduate Diploma in orchestral studies in London training under such luminaries as Lorin Maazel, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Colin Davis and Sir John Elliot Gardner among others.

Mary studied the violin with Peter Cropper from the Lindsay Quartet and Rosemary Furniss, assistant teacher to Ivan Galamian.

After an orchestral career with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the West Australian Symphony and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Mary is now dedicating herself to teaching students including as Head of Strings at Melbourne Girls Grammar and as mentor for the Monash University Academy Orchestra.

Mary has also been conductor of the Melbourne Youth Chamber Strings and Associate concertmaster of the Tasmanian Discovery Orchestra at the University of Tasmania. In 2017 Mary will continue her tenure as Concertmaster of the Camberwell Camerata Orchestra, perform with harpist Vanessa Sundstrup in their newly formed duo MV2, and was invited to lead the production of Verdi's Il trovatore with maestro Gaetano Colajanni and CitiOpera at the Athenaeum Theatre in February–March this year.

The seven years of Mary’s tenure at Zelman Symphony have seen the orchestra grow from strength to strength. Mary brought new energy and ideas to the orchestra. Her dedication to the position was apparent with her expertise during rehearsals, her meticulous bowing of all string parts and her professionalism, which was a great inspiration for all members of the orchestra.

Under Mary’s leadership the orchestra flourished and expanded its horizons to include, amongst other highlights, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl concert and performances of Mahler 8 and Verdi’s Requiem in the Melbourne Town Hall, but more importantly, the general standard of the orchestra rose dramatically.

2017 - Welcome Susan Pierotti

Following two concerts with guest concertmaster Marianne Rothschild, we are delighted to welcome Susan Pierotti as Zelman Symphony’s next long-term concertmaster and to introduce her to you.

After inspiration as a child from attending music camps, followed by four years with the Australian Youth Orchestra, Susan went on to study at the Victorian College of the Arts. She then travelled to London where she played with London Sinfonietta, London Mozart Players and the Capicchioni Ensemble.

On returning to Australia, Susan freelanced with symphony orchestras, chamber music, teaching, theatre, film, recordings, live broadcasts and adjudicating. She has been closely involved in commissioning, performing and recording contemporary music for over three decades.

Susan was a founding member of Elision, Australia’s foremost contemporary music group, touring with them world-wide for 22 years. She has also performed with the Libra Ensemble and the Arcko Symphonic Project.

Susan was Section Leader First Violin for 17 of her 23 years with Orchestra Victoria. Susan is a qualified editor and proof-reader, having established her own writing business, Creative Text Solutions. She edits Stringendo, the Australian Strings Association Magazine.

You will be able to read more about Susan in our next Audience Newsletter.

2017 Concert Season

8.00 pm Saturday 25 March - Xavier College, Kew
St Andrew's Church Brighton 2.30 pm Sunday 19 March
Tchaikovsky - The Tempest Fantasy Overture
Bottesini - Concerto for Double Bass No.2
Phoebe Russell - Double Bass
Brahms - Symphony No.2

8.00 pm Saturday 27 May - Hawthorn Arts Centre
Daylesford Town Hall 2.00 pm Sunday 21 May
Beethoven - Coriolan Overture
Weber - Bassoon Concerto
Jack Schiller - Bassoon
Wagner - Siegfried Idyll
Beethoven - Symphony No.1

2.00 pm Sunday 25 June - Hawthorn Arts Centre
Boroondara Eisteddfod Piano Competition

2.00pm Sunday 17 September - Arts Centre Melbourne
Shostakovich Symphony No.13 Babi Yar 75th Anniversary
Harry Sdraulig - Crossway for Orchestra World Premiere
Elena Kats-Chernin - Flute Concerto Night and Now
Sally Walker - Flute
Shostakovich - Symphony No.13 Babi Yar
Adrian Tamburini - Bass Baritone

7.30 pm Saturday 2 December
Melbourne Recital Centre with Hoang Pham
Brahms - Academic Festival Overture
Rachmaninov - Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Brahms - Piano Concerto No.1

Bookings are open for all concerts.

Let's Fill the Gap!

We are making good progress with our fundraising for a fourth timpani, but there is still a long way to go. With the increased complexity and range of the orchestra's repertoire, more changes of pitch are required and a full set of timpani will add greatly to the soundscape demanded in these works.

Information on how you can help us fulfil this dream can be found on the donations page of our website. Donations to the ZMSO Donations Fund are tax deductible and can be made securely online via or at the Box Office at our concerts.

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Page last modified on March 11, 2017, at 04:38 PM