Julian Smiles has been a central figure in cello performance and teaching in Australia for over 25 years. He began his professional career when he was appointed principal cellist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra at the age of 19 and rapidly gained prominence as a chamber musician in performances for Musica Viva, Kathryn Selby and Friends and at the Huntington Estate Music Festival. In 1991 he was invited to join the Australia Ensemble@UNSW, and in 1995 formed the Goldner String Quartet with colleagues Dene Olding, Dimity Hall and Irina Morozova. With these two groups he has performed to critical acclaim at major venues and festivals throughout the world, made over 30 CDs on leading labels, and premiered many works by Australian and international composers.
He is also active as a soloist, having performed with such orchestras as the Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra Symphony Orchestras, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Willoughby Symphony and the Australian, Sydney and Canberra Youth Orchestras. Recent artistic collaborations include such musicians as Piers Lane, Daniel de Borah, Bernadette Harvey, Dimity Hall and James Crabb and he appears regularly as a guest artist with Selby and Friends.
In 2007 Julian was a member of the international jury for the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, and has since 2004 played as a guest musician performing chamber works with semi-finalists in the Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia.
Since his years with the Australian Chamber Orchestra he has also remained in demand as a guest principal cellist, performing in that role with the Sydney, Canberra and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras and with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.
Julian grew up in Canberra, studying with Nelson Cooke at the Canberra School of Music. He also benefited during this time from mentoring by such luminaries as Charmian Gadd, Richard Goldner and John Painter. Following completion of his degree he undertook post graduate studies with renowned teacher Janos Starker at Indiana University.
As a product of his studies and experience as a performer Julian has developed a school of cello playing based on thorough and ongoing analysis of musical and technical issues that sees him sought after as a teacher and chamber music coach. He has held teaching positions at the Australian Institute of Music and Canberra School of Music, and in 2013 was appointed as Lecturer in Cello at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
Julian plays on a Lorenzo Ventapane cello made in 1827.
Interview with Julian Smiles
– Where do you do most of your performing?
With Australia Ensemble@UNSW and the Goldner Quartet
– What do you like about Selby and Friends?
Presenting beautiful music with old and new friends. It is always relaxed and spontaneous music making.
– What do organisations like Selby and Friends mean for Australian musicians?
The opportunity to take high level performances on a National tour – increasing one’s profile in major centres throughout Australia.
– How long have you known Kathy Selby? Have you played with her before?
I’ve known Kathy for 24 years, and we’ve played together many many times.
– How old were you when you first started playing your instrument? Do you remember why you chose it?
I was 8. I was drawn by the range of the instrument, which is very similar to the human voice. I also seemed to have an innate ability to immediately get a good sound out of it.
– What is your favourite aspect of being a performer in Australia
The relatively small population means that over many years of performing I feel that everywhere I perform, I am playing to old friends.
– Do you think there is enough opportunity for Chamber Musicians in Australia?
Chamber music seems to be well followed in Australia. Recent years have seen the formation of many enthusiastic young groups around the country, and there seems always to be an enthusiasm in the audience marketplace for them.
– Why chamber music? What draws you to it?
You have artistic control, and your playing has to be of the highest quality, as it is always heard.
– Are there any favourites, challenges or unknowns in the tour repertoire for your tour next year?
Dvorak’s Dumky Trio is a work I always find profoundly moving to hear and play. It is full of simple beauty, surprises that take your breath away, and wild passion. It also features the cello strongly.