Q & A with Zubin Kanga


Pianist Zubin Kanga is travelling to Brisbane to perform with Ensemble Offspring in The Long Weekender (10 – 13 July 2014) presented by DeClassified Music.  Here he takes time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.


1. How long have you been pianist in Ensemble Offspring and how would you describe this Sydney-based group?


This is my tenth year as pianist with Ensemble Offspring and I’ve seen the group develop over these years into a very active, world-class ensemble tackling a really eclectic mix of contemporary music from Australia and around the world. It’s a group that enjoys exploring the cutting edge of music, with a lot of work with new instruments (especially percussion), unusual techniques on conventional instruments as well as interdisciplinary projects, integrating theatre, film and dance into performances. Most importantly, it remains a collection of virtuosi with very different musical personalities and I think that creates a really charged dynamic in the group’s performances. 


2. You have recently completed PHD studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London – what was your research topic?


My research was focussed around composer-performer collaboration on new works, and the particular catalysts and resistance points that dominate these relationships. I commissioned 30 new works from composers around the world and documented the entire process (including filming and recording all our workshops), writing up ten for my final thesis, as well as including the new scores and recordings of works in a portfolio. There were many interesting findings about the many ways that composers and performers interact, with performers often having a much greater input into the compositional process than many people realise. It was also interesting to observe the way certain strategies, like humour, play, risk management, and the development of a shared language allow creative relationships to flourish. 



3. How are the preparations for Ensemble Offspring leading up to DeClassified Music’s Long Weekender in Brisbane?


I’m enjoying learning this diverse program, which includes a lot of heavyweight Europeans like Iannis Xenakis and Beat Furrer. I’m especially happy to be playing in the Australian premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s The Riot. I was lucky enough to meet Harvey before he passed away two years ago –  he was one of the great British composers of the last half century but his music is rarely heard in Australia. I think Australian audiences will really love the sensuality, energy, and passion of his music. 


4. What are some of the other musical projects you are tackling this year?


Earlier this year, I performed in Belgium and USA for the first time and I’ve had a busy few months in London, performing solo recitals as well as performing in a major piano festival featuring a lot of classic contemporary works for one or two pianos.My favourite project in that festival was my recital alongside British pianist, Rolf Hind of music for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart. It included a piece for me playing both pianos at once by Georg Friedrich Haas, which was a real workout! In Australia I’ve got two-piano recitals with Latin music specialist, Daniel Rojas, some concerts of hardcore contemporary music with violinist, Anna McMichael and I’m playing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time in as part of a QSO’s Journey Through the Cosmos series in Brisbane in November. 

Besides these performances I’ve been working on a number of recording projects: I’m particularly excited about my CD of David Young’s Not Music Yet, about to be released by Hospital Hill Recordings. The piece is a watercolour painting that I interpret and realise using sounds on and inside the piano – it allowed me to be creatively free to make a vibrant, colourful and epic work using all of my pianistic resources. 



5. What in your opinion are some exciting aspects about the classical music industry at the moment?


In the past few years. I’ve seen a lot of breaking down of barriers between the different artforms with a lot of collaboration between musicians and actors, filmmakers, visual artists and writers. This creates exciting opportunities for creative interaction for musicians as well as bringing in new, young, audiences who might baulk at sitting through a concert of Brahms symphonies but are willing to travel from out of town (or from another country, as is often the case in London) to see these sorts of innovative projects. 



6. Ensemble Offspring’s concert “Plekto” will be on Friday July 11 at FireWorks Gallery – what kind of Brisbane concert goer will enjoy coming along to this music event?  What can they expect?


This program is packed with great pieces by masterful composers across a really diverse range of styles, so I think any music lover interested in discovering something new and curious about the music being created in our own time will enjoy it. There’ll be music that’s soothing, shocking, sensuous and surprising: come along and you might just discover a composer you’ll love for the rest of your life. 


Ensemble Offspring will perform at Fireworks Gallery in Newstead, Brisbane on Friday 11 July, 7pm.  Tickets here


Zubin Kanga will also co-present a Masterclass on Sunday 13 July 2014 at Fireworks Gallery.



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