Past Events


Invisible Chambers

Inspired by the 2016 Metropolis theme of ‘Cities’, we have curated a 3-concert series with the title ‘Invisible Chambers’. This set of concerts explores the borders, containers and spaces that we occupy as humans on this fractured planet of ours. Some of these boundaries are imposed by others, some we impose on ourselves, others exist only in our minds but influence our behaviour nonetheless. Our series progresses from tiny, suffocating spaces-for-one through to wide open spaces of inclusive utopia.


Our Space

August 11th, Melbourne Recital Centre Salon

 We widen our lens to incorporate the sounds and experiences of composers from all around Australia. We stretch forwards and backwards in time too – reaching back to an early work of Kate Neal’s inspired by the Alpine landscape of Dead Horse Gap and looking forward to a new MRC-commissioned work from Melbourne’s own May Lyon which does not yet exist! In surveying our own cultural space, we touch upon three generations of Australian composition, from the established mastery of Mary Finsterer to the energetic new sounds of Peter de Jager and Annie Hsieh.


Peter DE JAGER: Mosaic (10’)

May LYON: (new work) (8’)

Annie HSIEH: Contemplations (8’)

Kate NEAL: Piano trio no.1 (11’30″)

Mary FINSTERER: Circadian Tale IV (6’)

 with guest artist Daniel Richardson, percussion
Tickets $39 standard /$29 concession


Everyone’s Space

November 10th, Melbourne Recital Centre Salon

 Acknowledging that we have to look beyond our self-imposed containers at some point, we conclude our year with a round-the-world ticket. 4 composers from 4 different continents in 4 large-scale works, examining everything from Eastern European war horrors to South American folklore to USA religious transcendence. We finish back at home (and with a reminder of the distances we’ve traversed) with Roger Smalley’s modern masterpiece, ‘Poles Apart’.


Krystof PENDERECKI: Quartet for clarinet and string trio (15’)

Gabriela ORTIZ: The Two-headed Eagle (10’)

Richard TOENSING: Ciacona (12’)

Roger SMALLEY: Poles Apart (15’)

with guest artist Ceridwen Davies, viola


Cramped Space

May 12th, 6pm Melbourne Recital Centre, Salon

 Cities are places of busy congestion. Staking out personal space can be difficult and exhausting. Inevitably our movements and actions affect others yet, ironically, feelings of isolations abound. This concert is a study in small numbers of people acting in close quarters – John Adams’ ‘Road Movies’ views the wide-open plains of America from the cramped confines of a car, while in Scelsi’s ‘Kho Lho’ a flute and clarinet need to be musically tethered in order to create a single, combined sound. The recorded sounds of Jacob TV’s ‘Tatatata’ and Clyne’s ‘1987’ restrict the performers in another way, by forcing them to arrive at an interpretation based on pre-existing material which can never be altered. This concert is part of the Metropolis New Music Series


John ADAMS: Road Movies (16’)

Giacinto SCELSI: Kho Lho (7’)

Jacob TER VELDHUIS: Tatatata (5’)

Anna CLYNE: 1987 (8’)

Charlotte BRAY: The Upflight of Butterflies (11’)


Making Signs album tour

“Making Signs” debut album tour

Syzygy Ensemble make their debut appearance in Adelaide  and Sydney this June, performing commissions by Brenton Broadstock and Gordon Kerry, that feature on our debut album alongside modern American masterworks by David Lang and Takuma Itoh.


Takuma ITOH: Parallel Divergence
Gordon KERRY: Making Signs
Annie HSIEH: Towards the beginning
David LANG: Sweet Air
Brenton BROADSTOCK: Syzygy



Seven Great Inventions of the Modern Industrial Age

A provoking and entertaining journey through seven innovations that continue to shape humanity

Humanity has always sought to extend the boundaries of knowledge through innovation and discovery. Yet, just over 100 years ago there was no space travel, bionic ear, cinema, telephone network… or atomic bomb. The innovation of the 20th century created opportunities and choices like never before. And it changed us.

This is the premiere of Australian composer Sally Greenaway’s new work, the product of the inaugural Merlyn Myer Composing Women’s Commission, initiated by the Merlyn Myer Fund and co-developed by the Fund and Melbourne Recital Centre. Melbourne-based contemporary music champions Syzygy Ensemble and actress Anni Ha take you on a provoking and entertaining journey through seven innovations that continue to shape humanity, the way we behave and the way we think.


In 2015, Syzygy uses the music of the present to get in touch with the divinators of the past. Civilisations have long invoked and invented gods, goddesses and spirits to help explain the Earth that sustains and inspires them. In this series of concerts we also aim to reconnect with nature by way of the supernatural beings that are said to shape and sculpt the world around us.

Concert 1: Undine – The spirit of Water

May 6th, 6-7pm @ Melbourne Recital Centre Salon

*in conjunction with the 2015 Metropolis Festival, including a video collaboration with visual artist Agatha Yim*

This concert explores the idea of music as water, of sound as a fluid entity. Marc Yeats’ recent works are deliberately ‘unsynchronised’ – each part is meticulously notated but does not need to vertically align with any other part; Neils Rønsholdt plays with the fluidity of memory, and on the way a single thought can be etched into the brain and yet continually transformed; For Helena Tulve, the analogy is more literal – ‘Stream’ draws out long lines of liquid sound from each instrument, from the tiniest trickle to great gushing oceans.

Helena Tulve: Stream
Tom Henry: Time is Another River
Marc Yeats: (new work – world premiere)
Neils Rønsholdt: Burning
with guest musician Alex Morris (clarinet)

Book Tickets

Concert 2: Chronos – The god of Time

August 5th, 6pm @ Melbourne Recital Centre Salon

Throughout history, time has been viewed as both a forward arrow and as a circle forever tracing over itself. This concert explores both these notions respectively through Wesley-Smith’s ‘D.B.’ which constantly transforms its material without ever repeating it, and Maxwell Davies’ ‘Fantasia on a Ground’ which relies on the constant repetition of a bass-line for its power (and humour). Most impressive of all though, is Berg’s concept of ‘mirrored-time’ in his Adagio – in the middle of the piece a clock chimes midnight and time briefly stands still, before the whole piece runs backwards, creating a 10-minute-long palindrome.

George Friedrich Haas: Tria ex Uno
Martin Wesley-Smith: D.B.
Alban Berg: Adagio (after the Chamber Symphony)
Thomas Ades: 4 Court Studies from ‘The Tempest’
Peter Maxwell Davies: Fantasia on a Ground and Two Pavanes
with guest musician Daniel Richardson (percussion)

Book Tickets


Concert 3: Gaia – The goddess of the Fertile Earth

Dec 2nd, 6pm @ Melbourne Recital Centre Salon

Finally we connect with nature in her truest form with works which celebrate life that springs from the Earth. The architectural shape of tree-branches is transformed into sound in Andrew Aronowicz’s ‘Arborescence’, while Johnathan Harvey celebrates the vivid colourfulness of the lotus-flower in his complex quartet. We finish our season with a new work from Brenton Broadstock, a long-time mentor and friend who has constantly helped to give our ensemble life, and who has encouraged and enabled us to blossom in a myriad of wonderful and unexpected ways.

Andrew Aronowicz: Arborescence (world premiere)
Isang Yun:  Quartet for flute, violin, viola and piano
Johnathan Harvey: Lotuses
Brenton Broadstock: Syzygy (world premiere)
with guest musician Ceridwen Davies (viola)

Book Tickets

Past events


April 10th, 6pm

Each work on this program uses a carefully chosen set of parameters to systematically envelop the audience’s senses.

Vines’ Economy of Wax talks about the precision of a bee-hive, while John Luther Adams’ The Light Within sets waves of rolling sound in motion according to strictly controlled rules. The result is sensory overload – chaos sprung from order.

Part of the Metropolis New Music Festival

Elliott HUGHES
Arcs and Sevens
*Australian and World premiere new work

Nicholas VINES
Economy of Wax

Stunden Blumen

Only the words themselves mean what they say

John Luther ADAMS
The Light Within


July 16th, 6 – 7:10pm

Music as persuasion

Syzygy explores the concept of music as a persuasive tool, music as passionate argument.

The works range from Ives’ last violin sonata, which invokes the religious fervour of evangelical hymns in order to both pay homage to and mock the church-goers of his day, through to the very recently composed Old Kings in Exile by Brett Dean.

This moving work evokes a plea for the continuity of memory of those we have lost, and details the harrowing challenges faced by the dying.

Read Leigh Harrold’s persuasive program notes.


Charles IVES
Violin Sonata No.4

Brett DEAN
Old Kings in Exile

Two surfaces

Time After Time


September 18th, 6-7:10pm

Extraordinary emotional messages of precision and power

For Syzygy’s final Local Heroes performance for 2014, words are translated into musical signals – scribbles and scratchings become art.

Bray’s Renga Miniatures reimagines medieval Japanese poetry in sonic form, while Dzubay’s Kukulkan derives from the recorded rites and rituals of the ancient Aztecs. Each work is, in some way, informed by historical writings, delivering extraordinary emotional messages of precision and power.

Charlotte BRAY
Renga Miniatures

Domeniche alla periferia dell’impero

Gordon KERRY
new work

Philip HUREL
Pour Luigi

Kukulkan 2

Presented by Melbourne Recital Centre & Syzygy Ensemble

Pierrot Lunaire

A hundred years on from its revolutionary premiere, Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (‘Moonstruck Pierrot’) has lost none of its bewitching, subversive power. A grim, mischievous creation whose transgressive theatricality has influenced everyone from Stravinsky to Björk, Pierrot lunaire was Schoenberg’s early masterpiece, a synthesis of the Symbolist poetry of Albert Giraud and Schoenberg’s own experiments in atonality and aural texture. Together these two forces conjure a decadent cabaret for the damned – Pierrot, the clown of legend, traversing a landscape of strange and unsettling visions, the music surrounding him, haunted and unhinged.

Love Your Locals

This Sunday, Syzygy is busting out an all local program. Celebrating the fabulous artistic voices of Melbourne composers.


Luke Hutton – The Antithesis of Weal

Tom Henry- Time is another River

Brett Dean – Equality

PJ Noack – Three Suns

Kelvin Fung- Music for sextet

Courtney Williams – Walkman

Ralph Whiteoak – Gooble, gooble, one of Us

Brenton Broadstock – I touched your glistening tears

Hugh Crosthwaite – Tango

Oh did we mention it is free.

Choose local and hear what is happening now in our fair city, because art is best consumed in company.

Date: Sunday 23rd September

Time: 6-7pm

Where: Richmond Uniting Church

314 Church St Richmond

Cost: FREE
(but if you want to make a donation we won’t stop you)


Jenny Khafagi- Violin
Blair Harris- Cello
Laila Engle- Flutes
Julia Stoppa- Clarinets
Leigh Harrold- Piano

Special guest all star Dan Richardson- Percussion

Pierrot’s Successors – Wednesday, 5th September, 6pm


Syzygy presents a geographical survey of just how far Pierrot’s reach has extended. From the explicit references of England’s Helen Grime, to the confronting edginess of Holland’s Jacob ter Veldhuis, and finishing with our own Roger Smalley, there is barely a composer alive who doesn’t feel the influence of Schoenberg’s masterpiece in some way.

Read more…

Port Fairy Spring Music Festival – Sunday Oct 14th, 3.30pm

In a stunning recital of modern masterpieces and contemporary chamber works, the dynamic, award-winning Syzygy Ensemble is joined by critically acclaimed soprano, Greta Bradman.

From the raw energy of Maurice Ravel’s exotic song cycle, Chansons Madecasses, to the evocative lament of Australian composer, Brenton Broadstock, join Syzygy on a journey that will exhilarate and delight.

Read more….

“Eating Variations”

September 5 with guest artists:

Aaron Barnden – violin

Sharon Draper – cello

Arwen Johnston – percussion

Stephen Grant -Baritone

What better way to conclude our year of feasting than to concoct a celebration of all things gastronomical? These gluttons have a sense of humour too – Tower’s ‘Petrouchskates’ is a high-octane burst of Stravinsky gone wild, the baritone inPaterson’s ‘Eating Variations’ muses on cannibalism at MacDonalds (amongst other things), and Maxwell Davies’ ‘Two Glasses of Wine’ (frontignac and shiraz) each end with a polite belch. We wash it all down with a bow to two modern giants, presenting Webern’s seminal arrangement of Schöenberg’s First Chamber Symphony.

Tower- ‘Petrouchskates’

Maxwell Davies – Two Glasses of Wine

Abbott – New commissioned work

Paterson – Eating Variations

Schönberg (arr. Webern) – Chamber Symphony No.1, Op.11


Tickets $25, concession $18

Guildford Lane Gallery

20-24 Guildford Lane, Melbourne

Syzygy Ensemble at the Winter in Banyule arts festival

“Metaphysical Morsels”

August 15th 2010

Join Syzygy for an evening of contemporary classical music performed by Leigh Harrold (piano), Laila Engle (flutes) and Julia Stoppa (clarinets). Music of our time that evokes the emotional turmoil of other ages, other places and even other dimensions. Prepare to be moved.

Date: Sunday August 15th


This event has been kindly supported by Banyule City Council

March 28 with guest soprano Greta Bradman

“Cornbread and Coca-Cola”

We commence our inaugural concert series with two masterpieces of the 20th Century. George Crumb’s haunting ‘Apparition’ sees the pianist excavating sounds from inside the piano and out, while Robert Beaser’s epic ‘Variations’ for flute and piano demands no less than limitless stamina and stylistic invention from its two players. This meaty exploration of all things American is complemented by tiny but exquisite tidbits from Aaron Copland and John Corigliano.

Crumb – ‘Apparition’ for prepared piano and soprano

Corigliano – 3 Irish Folk Song Settings for flute and soprano

Copland – ‘As it fell upon a day’ for clarinet and flute

Carter – Esprit Rude, Esprit Doux

Beaser – Variations for flute and piano

Beaser – ‘Old men admiring themselves in the water’ for flute and piano


June 13th-

“Metaphysical Morsels”

Come see how music of our time can evoke emotional turmoil of other ages, other places and even other dimensions. Hindemith’s Bassoon Sonata conjures up a lost world of medieval innoncence and introspection – a world smashed to pieces by the angry, defiant death-dances of Jolivet and Hindson. Abbott and Broadstock’s contemplative, optimistic musings on the afterlife offer us a way forward. This is music that is alternatively good and rotten to its core, plumbing the rawest facets of the human condition. Prepare to be moved.

Broadstock – ‘All that is solid melts into air’ for alto flute, bass clarinet and piano

Jolivet – ‘Chant de Linos’ for flute and piano

Hindemith – Sonata for bassoon (tr. bass clarinet) and piano

Abbott – ‘Making Angels’ for flute, clarinet and piano

Jolivet – Sonatine for flute and clarinet

Hindson- ‘Death Stench’ for amplified flute, amplified clarinet and piano