‘Spectrum’ – new music for solo piano from Zubin Kanga


Piano virtuoso Zubin Kanga returns to Sydney from London for Spectrum a recital featuring new works by composers from Australia and the UK.

Kanga is an exponent of ‘new music’ and in his Sydney recital, he will perform the music of Australian composers Rosalind Page, David Young, Marcus Whale, Anthony Moles, Andrew Harrison and Jane Stanley as well as British composer Michael Finnissy’s new work, Z/K dedicated to Kanga and drawing on  the broad ‘spectrum’  that contains the symphonies of Sammartini, Mahler and Berg  Not confined by the piano stool and the 88 keys of the piano, Zanga’s performance is inspired by the visual arts, Australian history, technology and popular music. He challenges the acoustic, theatrical and virtuosic conventions of the traditional piano recital incorporating movement and using all the elements of the piano in his performance – and that includes extended techniques like placing different materials on the piano strings to alter the sound.

All the works in the program have been commissioned by Kanga, winner of the NSW State Award (Performance of the Year) at the 2012 Art Music Awards and the prestigious Michael Kieran Harvey Scholarship. This $40,000 prize supported the commissioning of these five works by Australian composers, which will receive their world premieres in this concert.  Finissy (b 1946) is presently Professor of Composition at the University of Southampton. He studied composition at the Royal College of Music in London and describes Kanga as having “outstanding technical accomplishment with an imagination bubbling and fizzing with the excitement of really new and challenging material.”

Speaking to Sounds Like Sydney last year, Kanga explained “All music was new music at one point – it’s about pushing the boundaries and trying out new things. A lot has changed in the last 50 years. Contemporary music is very diverse and its  audiences don’t even necessarily overlap. In America you have Steve Reich and Philip Glass, they have their own audiences which overlaps with a lot of popular music and film music. Then you have the modernists like Boulez who is still a very central figure there… and then there are all these people in-between – the spectralists in France who are playing with the nature of sounds, analysing sounds and getting music out of that. What makes ‘new music’ so interesting is that it is so diverse”.

Being and Time II: Tabula Rasa by Australian composer Rosalind Page, looks to the paintings of Australian painter, Imants Tillers and folk songs of his Latvian heritage. Setting a new creative challenge for the performer, composer and Chamber Made Opera Artistic Director, David Young has produced the score of his new work Not Music Yet as a watercolour painting. Kanga will draw on his skills in extended piano techniques to translate the swirls of colour in the painting into a sonic experience.

Also on the programme, Scottish-based Australian, Jane Stanley’s Diptych, Marcus Whale’s Errata, which improvises with electronics and Andrew Harrison’s The drumfire was incessant, continued all night with unabated fury……. depicting the terror of trench warfare based on his family’s experiences in the French battlefields of WW1. The recital finishes with Anthony Moles Diabolic Machines.

The prestigious Michael Kieran Harvey Scholarship, has also enabled Kanga to undertake his PhD at the Royal Academy of Music in London, during which time he has performed Beat Furrer’s Nuun for two pianos and orchestra alongside pianist, Rolf Hind with the London Sinfonietta. Over his two years of study, he has also held solo recitals at Kings Place and the Southbank Centre where he has worked closely with leading European composers George Benjamin, Beat Furrer and Rolf Hind. Kanga was in Sydney again last April to perform in the Steve Reich celebration concert at the Sydney Opera House. He has recently performed at the Aldeburgh, Southbank, Many Hands and London 2012 Festivals in the UK, and ISCM World New Music Days. In Australia, Kanga performs with Ensemble Offspring and Halcyon and works with Australian composers Elliott Gyger, Nicholas Vines, Daniel Rojas and Alex Pozniak.He has given solo recitals across Australia and Europe in venues including Kings Place and the Purcell Room in London.

Kanga’s virtuosity, innovative programming and experimentation with new piano techniques and sounds have made him a highly sought after soloist both in Australian and abroad. A passionate advocate for Australian contemporary classical music and its representation on the international stage, the scholarship has allowed Zubin to commission and premiere 12 new piano works by Australian composers – a significant contribution to Australia’s collective musical repertory at just 29 years old.

Kanga graduated from the University of Sydney, with 1st Class Honours and the University Medal in music. In 2007, he commenced  a Master of Music on a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, London, studying with Rolf Hind and Kathryn Stott and graduating, with distinction, in 2009. He is currently on the Academy’s PhD program writing a dissertation on the process of collaboration between composers and performers.

More about the music of Michael Finnissy at:


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