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Artist Q&A: Aura Go

Category: News & Views: Musica Viva Festival

Australia’s Aura Go enjoys a multifaceted musical life, performing as a soloist, chamber musician, Lieder pianist and conductor.

She has been soloist with many of Australia’s professional orchestras in concertos ranging from Bach, Mozart and Beethoven to Gubaidulina and Schnittke. Recent highlights include appearing as soloist with the Tapiola Sinfonietta in Aarre Merikanto’s Third Piano Concerto, and recitals in Denmark, Poland, Italy and Australia. As well as this, Aura is one of Musica Viva's FutureMaker artists, having recently finsiehd a residency at the Orange Regional Conservatorium.

Ahead of her appearance at Musica Viva festival this month, we spoke with her about the different angles of chamber music, what sets apart a great performance from a good one and much more.


Can you give us a few highlights from your time as a 2018-19 FutureMaker?

There have been so many! The chance to work closely with Genevieve Lacey, a consummate artist and a role model in so many ways, has certainly been an ongoing highlight and an absolute privilege. We’ve had some wonderful guest artists come in to our intensives to speak candidly about their lives and work. Bruce Gladwin from Back to Back Theatre, playwright Patricia Cornelius, writers Chloe Hooper and Zoe Morrison and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek are just a few of the stand outs from a long list of incredibly inspiring people who have joined us and continue to act as sounding boards for our projects. There have also been wonderful performance highlights. Giving a solo recital at the Utzon Room and playing chamber music with exceptional musicians at the Huntington Estate Music Festival were memorable and invaluable experiences.

You recently engaged in residencies at Orange Regional Conservatorium. What did you get up to, and how did you find the experience?

I spent two weeks as artist in resident at the Orange Regional Conservatorium in late February-early March and will be back for two weeks in May. It was a fantastic experience. I was delighted and touched by the openness, the warm and welcoming spirit and the genuine curiosity and love for music and learning that is shared by staff, students and their families. I did everything from giving a solo recital, conducting workshops and masterclasses, performance class, observing private lessons, sitting in on community choir, orchestra and ensemble rehearsals, attending lectures and conducting private lessons. I also visited primary and secondary schools in the region, performing for the students and discussing life in music. I am now in the midst of planning a collaborative concert for my next residency which will involve most of the piano faculty, students and hopefully the audience!

Your artistic research at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki addresses the aspect of creativity in classical music performance. How did you approach your research, and what was the most surprising thing you learned?

I’m looking specifically at some aspects of the Michael Chekhov acting technique and how his psychophysical approach can be applied to music-making and score-reading to awaken and develop our imagination and create performances that are alive and spontaneous. I took part in a number of excellent Chekhov workshops in London and was struck by how directly applicable the Chekhov work is to my experience at the piano. Since then, my approach to research has been largely authoethnographic: observing, analysing and documenting my own creative process. Using my own practice as a basis, I’m able to adapt Chekhov’s exercises specifically for musicians. I have also found these exercises and principles to be of great pedagogical value and use them in my own private teaching and in group workshops. 

Aura Go performs RAUTAVAARA Seven Preludes op 7

At the Musica Viva Festival you’re performing Rachmaninoff’s mighty Suite no 2 for two pianos with Konstantin Shamray. Can you tell us about the work? How different is the two-piano approach as opposed to piano four hands, where both pianists share the same piano?

It certainly is a mighty work, a real tour-de-force. Rachmaninoff was an absolute master of the two-piano medium; the intricate interweaving of musical material between the two instruments and the perfect melding of lyricism and unrelenting pulsating energy throughout this work is ingenious. It was written in Italy in 1901 and marks the end of a three-year silence from Rachmaninoff, after the critical failure of his first symphony and a period of deep depression.

There is a world of difference between playing two pianos and four hands and I could easily end up writing an essay on the subject! In practical terms, the close proximity and sometimes awkward physical position of the players in four-hand playing is not an issue when each pianist has free reign over the whole instrument. Shared pedalling is also a challenge in four-hand playing.  Two-piano playing is challenging in other ways, not least because it’s difficult for each pianist to gain a reliable sense of the overall sound. Ensemble is also challenging, given the distance between the players and the precise nature of the instrument’s attack. They are very different beasts, but the main challenge in both is one of balance, and this requires a great deal of fine tuning. If both pianists play as if they are soloists, duets and two pianos can sound very unappealing very quickly!

In chamber music, what sets a ‘great’ performance apart from just a ‘good’ one?

I think we’ve all had the experience of listening to performances that are by all quantifiable measures ‘good’ – good intonation, clear understanding of musical structure and style, strong technical command – and yet we might be left unmoved. On the other hand, a performance that is technically flawed may move us deeply. I think those performances that transport us, that change the collective atmosphere and fill the space with magic, are performances that are alive and spontaneous; performances in which the performers seem to be discovering the music in the moment of performance. Those performances give everyone lucky enough to be present a special feeling that ‘this is a unique moment, never to be repeated, in which anything could happen’. In chamber music, this excitement is heightened when there is genuine enjoyment, chemistry and spontaneity between the musicians.

You’ve experienced classical music from many different angles, as soloist, chamber musician, lied pianist and conductor. What’s next for you?

I love being able to make music in all these different ways. I also love being able to help facilitate others in their music-making, so would add teaching to this list. I find teaching really enjoyable and I learn so much from it myself. I am excited about delving deeper into a new avenue, working on more collaborative projects in which my role is greatly expanded from that of “pianist” in the traditional sense. For my FutureMakers creative project, I’m working with exceptional artists, dancer/choreographer Kristina Chan, director/designer Clare Britton, composer Kezia Yap and my piano duo partner Tomoe Kawabata, on a new multidisciplinary work for two pianos and moving audience. We’re coming together for a week of creative development in Melbourne soon, and I’m excited to see what will emerge.


Musica Viva Festival takes place from 25 - 28 April, 2019

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