Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2022

The Canberra International Music Festival has announced its 2022 program, with the theme of ‘Pole to Pole’. Running from 29 April to 8 May, 2022, the festival features 41 events, including 22 unique concerts and nine free events, and celebrates the journeys and travels humans have undertaken for millennia, the global community we have constructed, and what we have learned and discovered along the way.


Canberra International Music Festival Artist Director Roland Peelman introduces the 2022 festival.

“The world is a place full of contrasts, a place full of huge diversity and our theme, Pole to Pole, aims to celebrate this,” said Peelman. “From the tropics to the poles, from the mountains to the deserts, people have always looked for ways to traverse the difficult spots and, finding new routes to venture through, while enjoying the comfort of our coastal tracks. Next year’s Festival is about those routes. It’s about those tracks, those trails, and what we discover along the way; the wonders of nature.”

“North to South, East to West. The natural world; birds, animals and their human relations. Latitude and longitude, passing borders, reaching out from nation to nation, from Canberra to across the globe. When I look at our lives – historically and present day – and how they interconnect, I saw an opportunity for a creative program that looks at planet Earth from a musical point of view.”

“2022 is a Festival full of contrast. We have early music from Spain, new music from Australia, music from the middle east, and certainly the very best of European traditions. We are presenting Polish music like never before and will be shining a light on our neighbours, the land of the long white cloud.

Poles featuring in the festival include Polish pianist Lucas Krupinski performing Chopin, Paderewski and Grażyna Bacewicz, William Barton’s musical response to Jackson Pollock’s famous Blue Poles, so controversial when purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, and the flagpole at Parliament House, representative of this meeting place for all Australians.

A festival tradition in recent years has been to use the breakfast concerts to focus on a singular performer, in order to provide a deep immersion into an individual oeuvre. Beethoven and Mozart have had their turns, and now Papa Haydn takes centre stage. The festival opens with the the Australian period-instrument premiere of Haydn’s monumental oratorio The Creation, performed by the Australian Haydn Ensemble and Sydney Chamber Choir. And the Haydn for Breakfast series will see audiences rise with the Sun, as five superb ensembles perform the six string quartets from Op. 20 – known colloquially as the ‘Sun’ quartets. Join Orava String Quartet, Alma Moodie Quartet, the New Zealand String Quartet, Flinders Quartet and the Australian Haydn Ensemble for these superb and transformative works.

Devised in conversation with Haydn’s Creation, While You Sleep is “state-of-the-art production that delves into the furthest ranges of human consciousness and performance physicality”. Composer Kate Neal and animator Sal Cooper have created a work based on the dual meaning of the word ‘fugue’, both a musical form and a confused state of mind. Featuring a string quartet of Zachary Johnston, Isabel Hede, Phoebe Green and David Morgan, with Jacob Abela on keyboards, this dizzying combination of music and movement is like an MC Escher image come to life.

While You Sleep

Composer Kate Neal and animator Sal Cooper have devided ‘While You Sleep’, appearing at the 2022 Canberra International Music Festival.

Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles was a hugely controversial purchase by the National Gallery of Australia in 1973, and has remained central to our national conversation about the value and meaning of contemporary visual art. In the festival’s Blue Poles program, William Barton, our Critics’ Choice for the 2021 Limelight Australian Artist of the Year, has composed two responses to Pollock’s paintings that he will perform at the James O Fairfax Theatre at the National Gallery. He is joined by the Alma Moodie Quartet for a concert that also works by John Cage (speaking of controversial contemporary abstract art!), the early American modernist composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, and a world premiere of a new work by Australian composer Brian Howard – his fifth String Quartet, entitled ‘Blue Poles’.

The festival strives to be deeply engaged with First Nations musicians: not just from Australia, but from across the ditch as well. Horomona Horo and the New Zealand String Quartet present Kia Ora Kiwi, a program combining a string quartet with the ancient sounds of Māori instruments. And in the Heart of the House program, Horo joins multi-instrumentalist and composer Eric Avery for a concert at Australian Parliament House that sees encounters between ancient cultures and modern voices, reaching out from both sides of the Tasman.

Horomona Horo, composer and taonga pūoro practitioner

Horomona Horo has fused traditional Maori instruments, taonga pūoro, with a diverse range of cultural and musical forms. Image supplied.

London-based Polish pianist Lucas Krupinski is a major artist at the festival, performing in a number of different programs, the centrepiece of which is A Polish Gala Concert. Chopin put Poland’s signature dance form, the Polonaise, on the international map, with a number of celebrated compositions. Krupinski presents a selection of Chopin’s Polonaises and other solo pieces alongside the astonishing first Piano Quintet by Grażyna Bacewicz, performed with the Orava String Quartet, aptly named after their family’s Polish origins.

The Australian Haydn Ensemble is another major fixture of this year’s festival. In addition to Haydn’s Creation, AHE presents The Last Mile, a “delightfully frolicking ride into the Austrian fields” which explores Hummel’s arrangement of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations and Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals with narrator Jonathan Biggins.

The festival also seeks to ground its audiences in the national capital’s landscape: Tree of Life takes audiences on a walk through the National Botanic Gardens, while two Soundwalks promise to immerse you in “acoustic ecology”. Also taking inspiration from the natural world is Birds In Paradise, where Edward Neeman (piano) and Anna McMichael (violin) present classical works inspired by birdsong, including works by Messiaen Christopher Sainsbury, interspersed with field recordings of actual birdsongs by Hooper Brewster-Jones and Hollis Taylor.

The 2022 program also includes a number of free events including the Ears Up Dog Concert a program for our four-footed friends, with music performed at a specially-attuned pitch material for hyper-sensitive ears, and Daily Drill, a series of free lunchtime concerts at the ANU Drill Hall Gallery.

Peelman’s Canberra programs have always balanced the traditional with the experimental, and 2022 is no exception.

“Taking people outside their comfort zone – this is the essence of what a festival is,” said Peelman. “A Festival is about creating a new musical experience that breaks the humdrum of routine and challenges the norm. It’s very exciting to see that Canberra can offer such a different context and is
prepared to throw out the old rule book.”


Tickets for the 2022 Canberra International Music Festival go on sale on Monday 29 November. Download the program here.