All things commissions: how your support can build artistry on stage and beyond

27 November 2023


According to some, the Golberg Variations were written by Bach at the request of Count Kaiserling of Saxony to help cure his insomnia. They were to be played to him live by Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (hence the name) whenever he had trouble sleeping. The story goes that Kaiserling presented Bach with a golden goblet filled with 100 coins as payment for his work.

Have you heard this story before? While its truth may be a little contested and no doubt the story romanticized over time, it does highlight the importance and power of commissioning new works. Throughout history, many significant pieces of Classical music have been supported and funded by passionate individuals with a love for the art form. Simply put, there are important pieces in the Classical canon today that would not exist without the foresight of enthusiastic and generous philanthropists.

Perhaps a more factually accurate example is Paul Sacher commissioning Bela Bartók (amongst a number of other artists) to create works in the first half of the 20th century. Without Sacher’s request and funding, Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta or Divertimento for String Orchestra would not exist (and TSO would not be undertaking the recording work that we are today!). These significant pieces of 20th Century Classical music which redefined the genre, are a direct result of philanthropic investment and are a testament the effect commissions can have on the musical landscape.

The TSO strives to present music of today, in particular Australian music, that is of the highest quality. We are regularly commissioning Australian (often Tasmanian) composers to create new works or reimagine classics for our various concert offerings. This year alone we have presented a new Violin Concerto composed by Australian Joe Chindamo, arrangements by Tasmanian composer Jabra Latham, and our very own retired Principal Tuba, Tim Jones has created pieces for our Live Sessions program and our latest Brass in St David's Concert. Commissioning sits at the very heart of what we do.

Like the Golberg Variations and Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, many of our commissioning projects would not be possible without the help of Patrons and their generous support. We are very grateful for the cohort of donors who contribute to commissions and are always eager to find other likeminded members of our community who would like to get involved.

As demonstrated above, commissions can come in a range of iterations, they can be large or small, they could be arrangements for small ensembles, a change of instrumentation or completely new works. Additionally, supporters can choose to contribute as part of a collective of donors (perhaps a group of friends or family).  This means supporting a commission doesn’t necessarily require a significant financial outlay, there are many options to navigate an array of circumstances.

We encourage those interested to get in touch. If you have a piece in mind (maybe to celebrate a birthday of a loved one or an anniversary) let us know and we can strive to pair up one of our upcoming projects with your wishes. On the other hand, if you simply want to contribute to TSO’s musical legacy, we welcome general commission donations that will go towards commissioning works for our concert series.