The Bourbaki Ensemble

The Bourbaki Ensemble is a chamber string orchestra based in Newtown, Sydney, Australia. Our main aim is to perform works from the string orchestra repertoire, which, though it includes many masterpieces, is often overlooked in favour of music for full orchestra. We are also committed to programming works by Australian composers, and in thirteen years of concerts have performed music by Betty Beath, Anne Boyd, Colin Brumby, Nigel Butterley, Ric Charlton, Bill Cotis, Stephen Cronin, Robert Davidson, Derek Davies, Wayne Dixon, Ross Edwards, Andrew Ford, Eugene Goossens, Percy Grainger, David Keeffe, Aaron Kenny, Graeme Koehne, Stephen Leek, Georges Lentz, Richard Meale, Christine McCombe, Mark Oliveiro, George Palmer, Alex Pozniak, Warwick Pulley, Daniel Rojas, Andrew Schultz, Peter Sculthorpe, Johanna Selleck, Colin Spiers, David Stanhope, Paul Stanhope, Margaret Sutherland, Greg van der Struik, Phillip Wilcher, Christopher Willcock, Richard Willgoss and Chris Williams.

The name…? Don't ask! If you really want to know where it came from, read some of our concert programmes by clicking on the links further down. Be warned, however,… while the concert information in these programmes is apposite and entertaining, the information about the "Bourbaki" name ranges from misleading to totally false.

The Bourbaki Ensemble was founded in early 2001, and since then has been conducted by David Angell. Most of our concerts so far have been given in St. Stephen's Church, Newtown, with additional concerts presented at the Garrison Church in The Rocks, Macquarie University, Camden Uniting Church and Hunter Baillie Memorial Presbyterian Church. St. Stephen's is located at 189 Church St, Newtown; just three minutes' walk away, King St provides an ideal venue for coffee or a meal either before or after the performance (or both!)

To ensure that you always have the latest information about the Bourbaki Ensemble, join our mailing list by sending your email address to David Angell. Those on our mailing list are also sometimes eligible for special prices on tickets or other offers!

David Angell is also the conductor of Orchestra 143, a classical chamber orchestra based in Turramurra. Orchestra 143 is dedicated to the performance of works composed in the 143 years from 1685 to 1828, a period spanning the lives of J.S.Bach and Franz Schubert and including many other composers, both the familiar and the lesser-known.

 Bourbaki Ensemble concert, April 2006 (photo: Charles Moess)

Welcome!

Charles Denis Sauter Bourbaki

Welcome to the Bourbaki Ensemble website! For general information about the Ensemble see the sidebar. Future concert plans are detailed below, followed by records of past performances. For information about General Charles Bourbaki, click on our programme note links for past concerts. After reading these, some people have expressed doubts about the exploits, or even the very existence, of General Bourbaki… unbelievable isn't it?? But yes, he really was for real, and you can find out more about him at the Bourbaki Panorama Lucerne.

Forthcoming Performances

The Bourbaki Ensemble


The Bourbaki Ensemble concert songs from south and north will take place on Sunday 29 June at our regular venue of St. Stephen's Anglican Church, Newtown (map), commencing at 2:30pm.

The concert will include the world premiere performance of a song cycle by Wollongong composer Wayne Dixon, setting English translations of the French poet Paul Verlaine.

Along with Wayne Dixon's work, which has roots in both hemispheres, we present three decidedly northern settings by the Norwegian Johan Svendsen, and a piece by Carl Nielsen which combines a tune from his native Denmark with one from continental Bohemia.

The mood of Dixon's Verlaine settings is matched by the wistfulness of Delius' string quartet movement, famously rescored for string orchestra by his amanuensis Eric Fenby. The concert also includes Elgar's well–loved Serenade.

The concert programme is available in PDF here.

To keep up to date with the Ensemble's activities, the best thing you can do is to join our mailing list. Just send an email to David Angell and we'll send you a reminder about a month before each concert.

Downloads

The Bourbaki Ensemble's October 2012 concert (more information) featured the world premiere performance of Aaron Kenny's Chernobyl, for solo violin with string orchestra, written especially for soloist Alastair Duff–Forbes. You can listen to it on this site, or watch the video on YouTube.

2011 concerts by the Bourbaki Ensemble included Arc of Infinity by Australian composer Colin Spiers. The piece is a gentle and moving memorial to a former colleague of the composer's at the Newcastle Conservatorium (read more, PS or PDF). We are very grateful to Colin for permitting us to make the recording of his fine work available on our website.

We are also delighted to present three live recordings from Bourbaki's 2010 concerts.

Two Bourbaki Ensemble performances from 2009 are still available for download.

Bourbaki CDs

Mermaids

Bourbaki Ensemble concerts in July and August 2010 saw the launch of the Ensemble's latest recording. Mermaids is a collection of music by Wollongong composer John Wayne Dixon. The title track, scored for eleven solo strings, is performed by Bourbaki under the direction of David Angell. The disc also includes a variety of Wayne's vocal and instrumental compositions. Click here for an excerpt from Mermaids. Clips of other items on the disc, as well as online purchasing information, can be found at the Wirripang website. Mozart in Love

In February 2008 the Bourbaki Ensemble, with conductor David Angell and soloists including Rachel Tolmie (oboe and cor anglais), spent a few evenings in St. Stephen's Church recording a set of pieces to be released on CD. Entitled Mozart in Love, the disc made its first "public appearance" at our concert in August 2008. Tracks include Australian composer Colin Brumby's genial Scena for cor anglais and strings, and the Concertino for the same combination by Alan Ridout. The Ridout admirably exploits the dark tone of the solo instrument in its first movement Plaint, while the finale features haunting string chords strongly reminiscent of Sibelius' Swan of Tuonela. There are three American compositions: the popular Quiet City by Aaron Copland (also including trumpet soloist Andrew del Riccio); a brief song without words The Rainbow in which the originality and quirkiness of Charles Ives' compositional thought is evident; and the charming Four Celtic Pieces by Swan Hennessy.

The recording also includes three works by Sydney composer Phillip Wilcher; these have already appeared on a CD entitled Into His Countenance, celebrating Phillip's 50th birthday. The title track features flautist Amanda Muir with the Bourbaki Ensemble; Mozart in Love and 1791 are pieces for oboe and strings. In addition, this disc includes music by Phillip for piano solo, and for oboe and piano.

Mozart in Love was recently noticed in The Studio, the journal of the Music Teachers' Association of NSW. Reviewer Rita Crews wrote,

…simply a beautiful disc… Rarely does one hear a disc almost entirely devoted to works featuring the cor anglais and as usual it is a pleasure to hear Tolmie's performance.

Under the direction of David Angell, the Bourbaki chamber string ensemble admirably supports the soloists… [the disc] will be particularly valuable for woodwind teachers and in particular, students of oboe and cor anglais.

Click here for previews of 1791 and Mozart in Love. Both CDs can be purchased online from Publications by Wirripang.

St.Stephen's Church (photo: Charles Moess)

St. Stephen's Church, Newtown

St. Stephen's Church, designed by leading colonial architect Edmund Blackett, has marvellous acoustics and is a superb venue for small ensemble concerts. A ramble around the church and the surrounding cemetery will disclose fascinating reminiscences of famous and infamous characters from Sydney's early history. You may care, before or after a Bourbaki Ensemble concert, to take a self-guided tour, assisted by the pamphlet which is available from the church. For an online exploration of Camperdown Cemetery, have a look here.

Past Repertoire and Programmes

Charles Denis Sauter Bourbaki

Here is a catalogue of past Bourbaki Ensemble concerts. Programme notes are available in PostScript or PDF: the PS looks better but may not be accessible to everyone. Both formats are designed for an A5 page so we suggest you resize your viewer accordingly. Comments on the programmes are welcome!

If you couldn't be bothered scrolling down the page you can jump directly to 2001 or 2002 or 2003 or 2004 or 2005 or 2006 or 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or 2010 or 2011 or 2012.

Concert 1, music for strings and harp, February 2001. A commitment to programming Australian music begins with our very first performance (and is still continuing!) There follows one of the great pieces of the solo harp repertoire, and then Mahler's glorious song for strings and harp, extracted from his turbulent fifth symphony. To conclude, one of the recognised masterpieces of the literature for string orchestra.

For programme notes, details of performers and more, choose PS or PDF.

Concert 2, music for string orchestra, August 2001. Popular short pieces for strings by Holst, Barber and Grieg, and an attractive concerto, sometimes vigorous, sometimes plaintive, by Margaret Sutherland (1897–1984). The concert finishes with the intense and tragic Chamber Symphony arranged by Rudolf Barshai from the eighth string quartet of Dmitri Shostakovich.

The programme for concert 2 is here in PostScript and here in PDF.

Concert 3, music for strings and percussion, March 2002. The addition of percussion to the string orchestra allows a composer to create a variety of unusual and fascinating sounds. In this concert we perform works ranging from Mozart's vibrant Serenata for strings and timpani to Sibelius' magical suite and Sculthorpe's memorial to his father. Also on the programme are string serenades from the English and Czech schools of composition.

For more information please read the programme:
PS or PDF.

Film soundtrack, Compost Monster, April 2002. The Standing Committee presents Compost Monster, a not-entirely-serious horror film. Directed by Genevieve Mortiss, the movie is set in suburban Sydney and demonstrates the dire consequences which may flow from discarding meat scraps in the compost heap... Musical concepts by The Standing Committee, orchestrated by David Angell. Soundtrack recorded in St. Stephen's Church, Newtown, performed by the Bourbaki Ensemble and conducted by David Angell. The world premiere of Compost Monster took place on Tuesday 7 May 2002 at the Valhalla Cinema, Glebe. In August the film was screened as part of the Portobello Film Festival in London. Here's a link to scenes from the movie.

Concert 4, dance and verse for strings, July 2002. A programme of twentieth century music, built around three works with literary connections. Britten's justly famous Serenade sets texts by six different poets; Nigel Butterley's Goldengrove was inspired by Gerard Manley Hopkins' Spring and Fall; the two short pieces for strings by William Walton originated as part of the score for Olivier's film of Shakespeare's play. The concert begins and ends with "dance" episodes: Eastern European from Bartók, and French from Peter Warlock.

Further details available here (PS) and here (PDF).

Concert 5, Baroque and beyond: music for strings, November 2002. The third of Bach's magnificent Brandenburg Concertos precedes two seasonally appropriate Baroque works, while Villa-Lobos' homage to Bach in Brazilian style is matched with Respighi's loving look at old Italian music. Colin Brumby's piece for strings and harpsichord was inspired by Shakespeare's poem of the same name.

Click here for programme notes and misleading Bourbaki stories in Postscript or PDF.

Concert 6, Eastern European classics for strings, February 2003. Tchaikovsky's Serenade is one of his most joyful compositions, and is counterpointed by Dvořák's elegiac Nocturne. Weiner and Lutosławski are represented by works based on their national musical traditions, while Brisbane composer Betty Beath's intense Lament commemorates the suffering occasioned by recent events in Kosovo.

The concert programme is available
here in PostScript, and here in PDF.

Concert 7, music for recorder and strings, May 2003. A programme featuring one Baroque and one modern recorder concerto, and the world premiere performance of Colin Spiers' deep and evocative composition. We begin with Purcell's music for a Restoration tragedy and end with Biber's startling and sometimes eccentric battle suite. The recorder concerto by Arnold Cooke is also receiving its first performance in Australia.

Click (PS or PDF) for programme notes and further details.

Concert 8, three centuries of music for strings, August 2003. A concert given at The Garrison (Holy Trinity) Church in The Rocks as part of the church's "Concerts by Candlelight" series, and consisting of shortish, mostly well-known pieces.

The concert programme in its original printed form is not available, but programme notes can be read in PS or PDF.

Concert 9, music for guitars and strings, October 2003. The programme is built around two solo pieces and a double concerto for guitars. We begin with a short and energetic composition by Warwick Pulley, concertmaster of the Bourbaki Ensemble, and include a delightful suite by Gustav Holst. Alan Rawsthorne's Concerto for String Orchestra boasts a striking and powerful opening and continues with music which is by turns turbulent, elegiac, and serene.

Read the concert programme in PS or PDF.

Concert 10, string music from Britain and beyond, March 2004. Elgar's Introduction and Allegro is one of the great works in the English tradition of music for strings, while John Woolrich's meditative Ulysses Awakes is a recomposition of motives from Monteverdi's opera The Return of Ulysses. The St. Kentigern Suite by Scottish composer Thomas Wilson has been described as "dazzling" and "beautifully written for strings". We also include two "foreign" compositions having some kind of British connection: an Australian setting of English folk songs and a German piece written in memory of King George V.

Read the programme notes from this concert by clicking here (PSPDF).

Concert 11, a Mediterranean odyssey for string orchestra, July 2004. Our Mediterranean concert begins with an Australian composition! Colin Brumby's delightful suite comprises settings of folk music from Turkey, Crete and Cyprus. We also perform two short Spanish compositions, a setting (in Italian!) of words by Shelley, and a twentieth-century French symphony for string orchestra.

Programme notes can be read or downloaded in PostScript or PDF format.

Concert 12, young composers writing for strings, October 2004. Works written by composers ranging in age from the thirteen-year-old Mendelssohn to the (relatively) elderly Scriabin, all of twenty seven when he wrote his Andante for strings.

The concert programme is available as PS or PDF.

Concert 13, music for clarinet and strings, February 2005. One of Grieg's best loved compositions, a poignantly beautiful English clarinet concerto, and the serenely elegiac Cantilena Pacifica of Richard Meale. The programme begins with Frank Bridge's intensely sorrowful Lament, commemorating a nine-year-old victim of the sinking of the Lusitania during the First World War.

Read all about Bourbaki and Isaac Nathan! – in
PS or PDF.

Concert 14, ocean music for string orchestra, September 2005. We explore the many moods of the ocean, from Peter Sculthorpe's Songs of Sea and Sky, inspired by the bright and sunny waters of the Torres Strait, to the dark Debussyan nocturne of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Vasco Martins' symphony for strings depicts the broad swell of the Atlantic which dominates his home in the Cape Verde Islands, while Grace Williams' delightful suite expresses the calm and stormy moods of the seas bordering her native Wales.

You can discover the history of Tarte d'Amblongue in either PostScript or PDF.

Concert 15, chamber music for strings, December 2005. Beethoven's Quintet in C major is a marvellous but little known composition which shows a marked advance on his first quartets, while Mozart's clarinet quintet is perhaps the best loved chamber work of the classical period. Music from Rimsky-Korsakov shows him in chamber rather than the familiar orchestral mode. Morning Star by Paul Stanhope takes its inspiration from the Aboriginal music of Arnhem Land.

Read programme notes, or find out about music for violin, flageolet, guitar and ophicleide (PSPDF).

Concert 16, tragic heroines: music for voice and strings, April 2006. In one of his last works, Benjamin Britten set to music the climactic scene from Racine's Phaedra, a story which ultimately goes back to Euripides. The centrepiece of Earl Kim's song cycle Where Grief Slumbers takes its text from Rimbaud's poem Ophelia. Our trio of tragic heroines is completed by Domenico Giannetta's suite based on motives from Adriana Lecouvreur, Cilea's opera depicting the tragic fate of the great French actress. The programme also includes the world premiere of a work written especially for this concert by talented young Sydney composer Alex Pozniak.

Programme notes are available in
PostScript or PDF.

Concert 17, Bach and his legacy: music for strings, September 2006. This programme, one of our occasional forays into earlier music, combines baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary compositions testifying to the immeasurable influence of the music of J.S. Bach. From Bach's own music we present part of his monumental "textbook" of fugal technique and one of the three great violin concertos, while works by Mozart and C.P.E. Bach exhibit differing reactions by classical period composers to Bach's legacy. Two Australian works show that Bach's influence is still felt by composers half a world away and three centuries later.

Further information can be read in the concert programme (PSPDF).

Concert 18, diversions and dances: music for strings, March 2007. The Bourbaki Ensemble presents works which are by turn witty, sparkling and entertaining. The programme includes The Ruritanian Dances by George Palmer, a judge of the Supreme Court of NSW who is also a talented and passionate composer. There is also a bright and tuneful saxophone concerto by a 20th century French composer, and early works by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Nielsen.

The concert programme can be read or downloaded in
PS or PDF.

Concert 19, Australian and American music for strings, July 2007. The original chamber version, serene and transparent, of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, and a selection of shorter American works. Peter Sculthorpe's string sonata has American ties in its derivation from a string quartet commissioned by the Kronos Quartet of San Francisco. The concert also features the world premiere of a new work by Sydney composer Phillip Wilcher, written especially for our guest soloist Rachel Tolmie.

See a photo of the Bourbaki Panorama Lucerne!
PS or PDF.

Concert 20, requiems for strings, October 2007. Pieces by Shostakovich and Howells provide vastly different conceptions of a "requiem" for strings. The Shostakovich is a reflection of the composer's life under the oppressive Soviet regime, while the Howells adopts in its slow movement a more elegiac and consolatory idiom, having been written in part as a memorial to the composer's son. The circumstances underlying Christine McCombe's Of Distant Sadness are not particularised, but it is impossible to miss the depth of feeling expressed in its dark textures.

Programme notes, details of performers and so on: in PS or PDF.

Concert 21, the great romantics: music for strings, April 2008. Musical and poetic romanticism from Tchaikovsky and Byron, the latter in three poems set to music by Australian composer Graeme Koehne. Also exquisite short pieces by Finzi and Tavener, and Warlock's birthday tribute to his friend and mentor Delius.

The concert programme is available in
PS or PDF.

Concert 22, echoes of the past: music for strings, August 2008. Strauss's great lament for the destruction of Germany under the Nazis draws on the funeral march from Beethoven's Eroica symphony, while Britten's Lachrymae is a set of rather free variations on the Elizabethan lutenist–composer John Dowland's "If my complaints could passions move". The pieces by Finzi and Cotis have covert, perhaps accidental, references to the music of Elgar and of Mahler.

Read about the early history of the Olympic Games: PS versionPDF version.

Concert 23, music for chamber orchestra, October 2008. The strings of the Bourbaki Ensemble are augmented by a small group of woodwind and brass players to perform Wagner's birthday gift to his wife Cosima and a pair of British musical landscapes. Anne Boyd's flute concerto is inspired by the music of Indonesia and Japan. In a world premiere performance, the concert also featues the syncopated Latin rhythms of Chilean–born Australian composer Daniel Rojas' Little Serenade.

Programme notes are available in PS or PDF.

Concert 24, mountains, forest, sea: music for strings, March 2009. The world premiere performance of Mark Oliveiro's cello concerto Cyan Echo II, which depicts the landscape of the Blue Mountains. Schoenberg's Transfigured Night moves from a dark, claustrophobic forest setting to a radiant moonlit conclusion. Altogether gentler and more comforting, Australian composer Andrew Schultz's Willow Bend was inspired by a quiet corner of the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. In Das Meer… British composer Diana Burrell describes the turbulent and serene moods of the sea.

Read more in PS or PDF.

Concert 25, serenades and elegies: music for strings, July/August 2009. Dvořák's Serenade, arguably the best loved string work of the nineteenth century, and the seventh of Mendelssohn's astonishing youthful string symphonies. A brief but profound and sombre Elegy by Elgar, and the concert premieres of not one but two pieces for flute and strings by Sydney composer Phillip Wilcher.

Read all about General Bourbaki's hypothetical 1846 travels: PS or PDF.

Concert 26, shores of the Baltic: music for strings, November 2009. Music from nations bordering the Baltic Sea includes Tüür's magical Insula Deserta and Rautavaara's satirical suite Fiddlers. We enjoy a brief detour to the Ukraine for Silvestrov's responses to fragments of music by Schubert and Wagner; and (of course) to Australia, with leading Sydney trombonist Greg van der Struik performing his own composition Piangi, inspired by a visit to the battlefields of northern France around Anzac Day 2005.

Programme notes, artist biographies and more: PS or PDF.

Concert 27, music for flutes and strings, February 2010. Guest soloists the Tucana Flute Quartet (Diane Berger, Lisa Breckenridge, Christine Draeger, Rosamund Plummer) perform a concerto for four flutes by Irish composer James Wilson, and an arrangement of a short piece by Hamilton Harty, as well as joining the orchestra in Ives' Unanswered Question. Other pieces of Irish origin are by Rachel Holstead and Percy Grainger. Christopher Willcock's Divertimento was inspired by paintings of Sidney Nolan.

Programme notes are available in PS or PDF.

Concert 28, reflections for strings, July/August 2010. Vaughan Williams' sublime Fantasia is one of the unquestionable masterpieces of Western music, paying homage to the great English church music of the Elizabethan age. Holst's St. Paul's Suite, very different but in its own way no less great, is founded upon the rhythms and intonations of English folk song. This programme also continues our "composer of the year" focus on Charles Ives and includes no fewer than four Australian works, all composed within the last couple of years.

Read programme notes in PS or PDF, and listen to our performance of the Vaughan Williams Fantasia (mp3, 33.5MB).

Concert 29, ten years of music for strings, December 2010. A celebration of a decade of Bourbaki Ensemble concerts at Newtown and elsewhere! The programme includes two personal favourites from our "back catalogue": Scottish composer Thomas Wilson's dazzling and profound St. Kentigern Suite and Charles Ives' wordless setting of Wordsworth's The Rainbow. We also give the world premiere of a new work by Sydney composer Phillip Wilcher; and to wind up our tenth year, Terry Riley's seminal minimalist composition, in effect a semi-controlled improvisation for the whole ensemble.

For more about this concert, and about Bourbaki's first decade, read the programme in PS or PDF.

Concert 30, war and peace: music for strings, April 2011. A selection of works including the world premiere performance of a saxophone concerto inspired by the First World War poetry of Wilfred Owen, and a short piece written, amazingly, during the Second World War while the composer was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp of Terezín.

More details: PS or PDF.

Concert 31, crossing borders, August 2011. Compositions from two of the rising stars of British music; three Australian works, one featuring leading young Australian recorder soloist Alana Blackburn; and a modern classic from Poland.

Did you know that General Bourbaki was the first French writer to (attempt to) publish a book of Shetland knitting patterns? If not, read about it in PostScript or PDF.

Concert 32, late romantics: music for strings, November 2011. Three works from the early years of the twentieth century: Elgar, Enescu, and an extraordinary adaptation for strings of one of the greatest among Mahler's late symphonic movements. We also present a gentle and moving memorial piece by Newcastle composer Colin Spiers.

Yet more essential information about General Bourbaki, in PostScript or PDF.

Concert 33, music for harp and strings, June/July 2012. In our first ever visit to Camden, the Bourbaki Ensemble presents French music with and without harp; laments from Australia and England; and Beethoven's monumental fugue for string quartet, in an arrangement for string orchestra.

Explore General Bourbaki's influence on twentieth century American and European music (PS or PDF).

Concert 34, concertante strings, October 2012. A programme of works for string orchestra together with solo ensembles drawn from the orchestra, featuring the world premiere performance of a violin concerto written especially for this concert.

More information on the music performed at this concert: PS or PDF.

Concert 35, stars and angels, October 2013. British composer William Alwyn's harp concerto was inspired by lines of the 17th century English poet Giles Fletcher: "I looke for angels' songs, and heare Him crie", while Birrung, by Australian Georges Lentz, takes its title from a word meaning "star" in an indigenous language of the Sydney region.

Read the programme in PS, 70MB or PDF.


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