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Ike See, Australian Chamber Orchestra

Young guns: ACO’s Ike and Glenn

Two of the Australian Chamber Orchestra's newest stars talk mentors, an Australian premiere and explosive start to the season.

This article was first published by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Currently working in Singapore and Berlin respectively, Ike See and Glenn Christensen took time out of their busy schedules to discuss Prince of Clouds, the Grammy-nominated work from English composer Anna Clyne.  The pair will perform the double violin concerto at its Australian premiere in the ACO's Tognetti Tchaikovsky Brahms concert.

Can you tell us about Prince of Clouds?

Ike: Prince of Clouds was written by composer Anna Clyne for violinist Jennifer Koh and her mentor at the Curtis Institute, violinist Jamie Laredo, in 2012.

Glenn: It’s worth noting that Jennifer Koh seems to have a real affinity with Anna Clyne. She’s commissioned multiple works from her, and plays a lot of her music. With Laredo added into the mix, Clyne chose to use Prince of Clouds to explore the relationship between mentor and student.

Glenn Christensen
Glenn Christensen, ACO. Image: Ben Sullivan

So it represents Koh and Laredo’s relationship?

Ike: I think it’s about musical lineage in general, and the way that musical training gets passed down from generation to generation. One musician mentors another, then that student goes on to mentor other people, and so on. The piece reflects this in its cyclical writing.

Glenn: There’s also a lot of conversation between the two solo lines through tentative call and response. We emerge out of nothing, when Ike makes a very tentative statement, which I sort of echo… but not quite. I feel this reflects the beginning of the mentorship, with my part mostly just mimicking Ike’s without quite getting it. Then as the piece develops my part becomes more confident and starts to add its own new, valuable elements that tie in with the music of the mentor to create something beautiful and seamless.

When did you first hear the piece?

Glenn: The ACO’s Artistic Administrator Anna Melville approached us saying she’d heard this Grammy nominated piece, and that Ike and I should give it a listen. It struck me straight away as it’s very atmospheric with a lot of elements of Pēteris Vasks and Arvo Pärt. I thought it was immediately very moving, relatable and… yeah, atmospheric is definitely the word I’d use.

How have you found the process of preparing Prince of Clouds for its Australian Premiere?

Ike: To be perfectly honest I’ve found the process quite tricky due to the nature of the writing. The two voices are so intertwined that you can’t really get a sense of the piece when practicing it on your own. It just doesn’t feel right. So it will be great when Glenn and I bring our separate work together to see how the parts fit.

Glenn: I agree. With Ike between Singapore and Australia and me working out of Berlin, it’s hard to get a sense of the piece on your own. But we’ve both been deep in listening, rehearsing and studying the score, so we’re getting excited to seal it together.

"...the program ties together in so many ways, but every piece, player and composer has their own distinct voice."

You joined the ACO at a similar time and work very closely together.  How will this influence the performance?

Glenn: I feel like Ike and I work really well together. We have full trust in one another as musicians, and I think we understand each other musically, so I know the end result will be great.

Ike: I totally agree. Obviously we spend a lot of time together as a group in the ACO, but I find that Glenn and I have very similar approaches to music. I think we feel it the same way, so I’m really excited to be playing with Glenn and taking the ‘young guns’ role that everybody’s been talking about.

On that note, how does it feel stepping up as the ‘young gun’ soloists for the ACO’s first national tour for the season?

Glenn: I think it’s amazing that the ACO and Richard Tognetti have put their trust in us. This is a huge opportunity, so it’s great to be in such a supportive environment. I think that’s really special for us both.

Ike: I absolutely agree. Within the ACO there’s a lot of trust involved whenever we play… so I guess we’d better rise to the challenge to not mess up the first notes of the season *laughs*.

Glenn: It's also very special for me to be playing this piece with Aiko in the ACO. She was my mentor as an ACO Emerging Artist, and though we’re colleagues now I still very much look up to her, so I’ll be feeling Prince of Clouds’ themes strongly through the performance. I also think it’s great that the ANAM students will be joining us for the Brahms Sextet. It completes the cycle nicely as Ike and I take on that mentor role.

What else can you tell us about the Tognetti Tchaikovsky Brahms program?

Ike: For me, this program really makes you think about the fact that every single one of these pieces was once brand new and fresh off the press. It's hard to imagine a time when Tchaikovsky’s Serenade had never been heard before, as with Brahms’ second string sextet.

So I’m hoping that audiences will come with open minds, because in reality, everything will be new. The Brahms Sextet won’t be like any performance you’ve heard before, because the instrumentation, environment and surrounds will be different. I also think it’s really interesting that the program ties together in so many ways, but every piece, player and composer has their own distinct voice. I think that’s what we strive to do at the ACO; bring all these threads together to create a cohesive, one-of-a-kind experience for our audiences. 

Ike See

Ike See chats about 'Tognetti Tchaikovsky Brahms'

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