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In one of the most ambitious commissioning and performance projects in recent years, world-renowned shakuhachi master Riley Lee has joined forces with the Sydney-based Enigma Quartet to create a new genus of music. The Five Elements takes the listener on a kaleidoscopic journey through the Australian landscape that traverses universal concepts linking humanity to our natural environment and spiritual core through music.
Drawing inspiration from the belief in many ancient cultures that the entire universe was made of just five fundamental elements – earth, air, water, fire and ether – Riley Lee and the Enigma Quartet have commissioned and selected music from Australia’s finest compositional voices to present a strikingly original offering that voyages between Eastern Zen Buddhism and Western Classicism.
Riley Lee is Australia’s pre-eminent shakuhachi player and has a very significant understanding of – and profile in – new music. A consummate teacher, performer and collaborator with other musicians of all genres, in 1980 he became the first non-Japanese to attain the rank of dai shihan or Grand Master.
Riley began playing the shakuhachi in Japan in 1971, studying was with Chikuho Sakai until 1980, and has been a student of Katsuya Yokoyama since 1984. He is the recipient of two of the oldest and most venerated lineages of traditional shakuhachi, which can be traced back to the Zen Buddhist komusō, or ‘priests of nothingness’ of the Edo period in Japan.
Riley’s studies with traditional teachers in Japan have included such peculiar methods as practising barefoot in the snow, blowing into his flute under waterfalls and in blizzards until icicles form at its end, and running the Boston Marathon and then playing taiko drums at the finish line.
The Enigma Quartet are regulars on the Sydney music scene, featuring at the Independent Theatre and Sydney Mozart Society. They have been broadcast across Australia for Sunday Live on ABC Classic, and have performed in Musica Viva’s Coffee Concert Series. They have also performed at many festivals including the Huntington Estate Music Festival.
Their career was launched when the quartet took out second prize in the prestigious Musica Viva Chamber Music Competition. Masterclass opportunities followed with the St. Lawrence, Goldner, Ensō and Takács Quartet, and in 2012 they were invited into Musica Viva’s Rising Stars program.
The quartet enjoy exploring new music and have premiered works by Lachlan Skipworth, Gerard Brophy, Philip Jameson and Alice Chance. Their collaborations have included projects with soprano Emma Matthews, saxophonist Christina Leonard, double-bassist Kirsty McCahon, bassoonist Jack Schiller and the German-based Amaryllis Quartet.
1 ROSS EDWARDSVoice of the Rain
2 STUART GREENBAUMOxygen
3 ANNE BOYDAlchera-Jugulba
4 I. Free, Driving
5 II. Simmering & Ritualistic
6 III. Driving
7 ANDREW HOWESAether
8 LACHLAN SKIPWORTHLight Rain
9 KATY ABBOTT Earth Lullaby
10 GERARD BROPHYAir
11 DAVID HIRSCHFELDERA Fire Begins
12 ELENA KATS-CHERNINFleeting Moment
Riley Lee shakuhachi
Marianne Broadfoot & Kerry Martin violins
Elizabeth Woolnough viola • Rowena Macneish cello