Connor D’Netto (he/him) has been described as ‘the model contemporary Australian composer’ by ABC Classic FM.
Balancing driving rhythm, heartfelt lyricism drawn from his background in classical voice, a lushly textural approach to orchestration, and the delicate incorporation of electronic music elements, Connor’s work is a constant attempt to bring together sprawling artistic interests, and in doing so, create connections across audiences and communities.
In 2022, Connor’s first opera The Call, commissioned by Opera Queensland with libretto by Kate Miller-Heidke, had its premiere season as part of Brisbane Festival. Limelight Magazine described Connor’s score as ‘captivating, intelligent, theatrical and emotional’, and as a result of the opera’s success, Connor was awarded the 2022 Albert H Maggs Award.
In 2021 Connor was the recipient of the APRA AMCOS Professional Development Awards in the Classical/Experimental category. Early in the year The Australian listed Connor as one of their ‘21 Hottest Creative Artists of 2021’. His music has been performed by the likes of the LA Philharmonic, and commissioned across Australia and abroad, and earned him fellowships with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and New York collective Bang On A Can.
Connor is the Co-Director of Dots+Loops, Australia’s post-genre music and arts series, creating spaces to transcend the barriers that divide genres, artforms, and communities.
Connor graduated with a Master of Music as Tait Trust Scholar from the Royal College of Music in London, and has a Bachelor of Music with First-Class Honours from the University of Queensland, where he currently holds a position as an adjunct lecturer.
Connor D’Netto is CSO Composer in Connection for 2023.
On 5 March 2023, CSO Concertmaster Kirsten Williams, pianist Edward Neeman and guest soprano Chloe Lankshear premiere white flowers, a new commission from D’Netto inspired by the meditations of British horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll.
D’Netto unpacks the inspiration and the composition process in this conversation with Jessica Cottis, CSO Chief Conductor and Artistic Director.
How did you approach this commission in the context of works by Debussy and Fauré?
Did these composers or the overarching Watercolours theme influence your writing?
I’m very familiar with and fond of the works by Debussy and Fauré on the program – in my past as a singer, Fauré songs were some of my favourites to sing. I didn’t try to directly draw on those works in writing this piece, rather just let their musical language be a background influence – they both have such a “colourful” way with harmony, which I would guess is what ties theme so well to the Watercolours theme, particularly the washes of sonorities associated with impressionist composers like Debussy.
Something else I really admire about both is their writing for piano, they both have such a way with the instrument, being able to create nuanced and complex layers and texture without becoming overwhelming, they have a level of clarity even at their densest. So I guess I just had these ideas in the back of my mind while writing.
What are the primary considerations in a piece for voice, violin and piano?
Whenever I start a new piece, the first thing I usually do is just brainstorm different textures I like the idea of using the instrumentation at hand, then starting to organise those into some sort of shape. In the case of this setting, where there is a text to work with and a theme for the concert, it was also a case of sifting through those initial ideas and choosing which ones resonated with the context.
Adding violin into the mix of a voice and piano work adds some extra things to think about – the range of Chloe’s voice is pretty much exactly the core range of the violin, which is both a challenge and something to play with.
In this case I thought it interesting to play with having all three parts occupying the same pitch range, having them constantly overlapping so no one part is the top or bottom for most of the piece; it’s something traditional/“correct” orchestration would tell you is a bad idea, but I wanted to explore it, kinda thinking about it like mixing their different colours into a blended texture.
I thought it interesting to play with having all three parts occupying the same pitch range, having them constantly overlapping…it’s something traditional/“correct” orchestration would tell you is a bad idea, but I wanted to explore it.
Is there a particular image or turn of phrase within the Wood and Garden excerpt that most grabbed you?
It’s a quirky little bit of text, as is her whole book. I think my favourite is the last sentence, “The flower that always looks to me the whitest is that is Iberis sempervivens, the white is dead and hard – like a piece of glazed stoneware quite without play or variation, and hence uninteresting”. It’s both poetic and blunt, which I love.
Have you spent much time in Canberra and do you have any favourite places or creative experiences?
I’ve never been! I’m really looking forward to coming down for the concert and getting to know the place a little, so I’m going to need some recommendations the best places to eat/drink/explore in town.