Celestial Visions


Wednesday 15 / Thursday 16 September, 7.30pm, Llewellyn Hall, ANU

Jessica Cottis Conductor
Jayson Gillham Piano
Lorina Gore Soprano

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Piano Concerto No. 21 ‘Elvira Madigan’
Gustav MAHLER Symphony No. 4

Humans have long been fascinated by the formation of our universe, its origins a compelling question for both science and faith. Cosmologists don’t know whether the Big Bang was the beginning, or merely one of many beginnings; something entirely inconceivable to our current knowledge may have preceded it. Whether approached through the lens of physics or spirituality – perhaps even both – the vastness of the cosmos has captivated generations.

For many, the night sky produces a humble appreciation of one’s smallness in an impossibly big universe. Gustav Mahler’s fourth symphony explores this sense of awe and reverence, gazing up toward heaven as seen through the eyes of a child. The work ascends gradually to an ethereal height, inspired by the poem Das himmlische Leben (‘The heavenly life’). The closing movement celebrates a liberation from earthly suffering: “No worldly tumult is to be heard in heaven. All live in greatest peace.”

Australian-Danish composer Benjamin de Murashkin’s LOGOS explores the philosophical concepts of cosmic formation and destruction. A musical take on quantum theory and the Big Bang, the work evokes the exponential expansion of a universe before its dramatic contraction into nothingness.

While perhaps no music could capture in its fullness the sublimity of the universe, Mozart’s timeless Piano Concerto No. 21 is a close contender and a powerful expression of the human experience within our vast cosmos.


Sunday 19 September, 2pm, Gandel Hall, NGA

Jayson Gillham Piano

Nikolai MEDTNER 8 Stimmungsbilder, op. 1: 1. Prologue: Andante cantabile, ‘The Angel’
Alexander SCRIABIN Piano Sonata No. 4 in F sharp major, op. 30
Nigel WESTLAKE Piano Sonata No. 2
Frédéric CHOPIN Seven etudes from op. 25: No. 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12

“The sublime vastness of the heavens stirred a particular awe in the hearts of Romantics, among them Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov. His poem, The Angel, is a vision of a celestial being carrying a babe to earth, borne on the wings of a perfect song. Alexander Scriabin was so moved by the night sky that he penned a lengthy poem describing the wondrous allure of a star, “Lost afar and yet distinct.”

In the program note for his second piano sonata, Nigel Westlake describes one of his approaches to composition:

“[I] imagine the performer on the concert platform, poised ready to play, then if I listen really carefully I can actually hear the piece I am about to write, or at least bits of it, in my inner ear.”

Like stargazing, there’s something powerful and effortless in this act of creative listening.”

Jayson Gillham

Images, from top: Jessica Cottis by Kaupo Kikkas; Jayson Gillham by Gerard Collett

Related Articles

Skip to content