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Aura Go returns to Melbourne Metropolis

by Suzanne Yanko

A featured artist in this year’s Metropolis series at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Finland-based Australian musician Aura Go has won acclaim for her conducting as well as her pianistic skills. She has an international profile, but Melbourne is where it all started …

Although it’’s often commented that people are drawn to an occupation that suits their name, there could hardly be a more propitious name than Aura Go for a pianist whose reputation is going in one direction – upwards!

““Being a performer, many people ask me if it is a stage name – but no, this is the name I was born with!”” Go insists. “”As far as I understand, my parents wanted to give me a slightly uncommon, international name, hence the name Aura. My mother is Italian and my father is Chinese-Indonesian, and the name Aura has a positive meaning in several languages.””

Praised for her “lyricism and sensuality, precision of touch, and beautifully controlled tone” (Resonate, 2008) and “great technical proficiency (with) strong awareness of the musicality of Mozart” (ArtsHub, October 2011) – as well as her compelling and innovative programming – Australian pianist Aura Go has emerged as one of Australia’s foremost young musicians. She has been concerto soloist with the Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, performed at Melbourne International Arts Festivals, the 2009 MSO Metropolis Series and the 2010 Edinburgh Festival.

Go’’s commitment to Australian music has led to the creation of new work for her by composers such as Gordon Kerry and James Rushford, and she has performed works by Australian composers such as Ross Edwards, Peter Sculthorpe, Elena Kats Chernin, Helen Gifford, Julian Yu and Katy Abbott. Her interest in new music has seen her give the first Australian performance of the 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos of Rautavaara, a performance of the Schnittke Concerto for Piano and Strings, the Gubaidulina Concerto Introitus and solo piano works of Galina Ustvolskaya.

As a conductor, Go has worked several times with the Melbourne, Adelaide and Queensland Symphony Orchestras and Orchestra Victoria as part of the Symphony Australia Conductor Development Program and has conducted the Australian National Academy of Music and Victorian College of the Arts Orchestras in concerts broadcast on ABC Classic FM.

Aura Go attained her Bachelor of Music degree from the Victorian College of the Arts in Australia before continuing her studies at the Australian National Academy of Music, where she worked with Ian Munro and Michael Kieran Harvey She undertook postgraduate studies with Peter Frankl at the Yale School of Music.

A multiple prize winner Aura Go is currently supported by the Australia Council Development Fund and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust to undertake a Doctorate in Music Performance at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.

Perhaps surprisingly, Go credits her secondary school experience as setting her on this musical trajectory. “Entering VCASS (Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School) from Year 7 was significant for me, as it was the beginning of my “real” musical training.

“Before VCASS I was largely self-taught and didn’t know any other children who were interested in music – not to mention classical music! “I remember the wonderful teachers at VCASS, but above all, it is my former teacher Max Cooke – who taught me from age 11 to 21 – to whom I am indebted. Max was a wonderful teacher, and even now I constantly find myself coming back to his methods and ideas and applying them in all sorts of different situations. “

“He let me run free with my thirst for contemporary music – it wasn’t until later that I realized just how rare that was! It was during my time at VCASS that I had the wonderful opportunity of performing the 1st and 2nd piano concertos of Rautavaara with the Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras as part of the finals of the ABC Young Performer Awards. “As a teenager, these experiences of working with professional orchestras and conductors were thrilling and unforgettable”.”

Aura Go is now returning to her interest in Rautavaara’s music with her doctoral studies in Finland. ““I have been accepted into the doctoral program of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. I am undertaking a doctorate in the piano music of one of Finland’s most renowned contemporary composers, Einojuhani Rautavaara. “I will give a series of five concerts, with the complete solo piano works serving as a focal point, but also including much chamber music and works by other composers. I will also write a “performers’ guide” to Rautavaara’s piano music, and hope to work together with the composer to gain his insights into his music.””

Typical of Aura Go’s schedule, noted in this interview recorded in late 2012:  the USA for a month, first to compete in the Hilton Head International Piano Competition (in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina). In late March, visiting artist at the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. Later in the year more competitions, and performances in Helsinki as well as her first doctoral recital, an all-Finnish solo recital. Then, of course, there’ was a new CD, Five Rocks in a Japanese Garden, a collection of works for piano duet and two pianos by five of Japan’s leading contemporary composers. “

Go comments: “I recorded the CD with my good friend and wonderful pianist Tomoe Kawabata, (a fellow student at the Australian National Academy of Music in 2007). Many of the works on the CD have never been recorded before, so it was a very rewarding project for both of us.””

With so much happening for Aura Go, Australian audiences are fortunate when her schedule brings her home – and there’s always interest  as to whether she will be at the piano – or on the rostrum. For the 2014 series of Metropolis Go the pianist presents Dichotomie, with music by Salonen, Sitsky, Rautavaara and more. Details on the Classic Melbourne calendar for 12 April.

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