Graeme Jennings (violinist)

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Graeme Jennings (born 1968) is an Australian classical violinist.

He studied at the Queensland Conservatorium where he completed his bachelor's degree in 1989, and later on, at the San Francisco Conservatory, earning his master's degree in 1992, and an Artist Certificate in Chamber Music in 1994. His principal violin teachers were Isadore Tinkelman, Anthony Doheny and John Curro. Whilst a student, he was concertmaster of the Queensland Youth Orchestras, the Australian Youth Orchestra, and at Expo '88 in Brisbane, the International Youth Orchestra. He has also worked with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Queensland Symphony (QSO) and Queensland Philharmonic orchestras. He made his solo debut in 1985 with the QSO, performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Since then, he has appeared as soloist in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, with orchestras such as the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, the Munich Philharmonic, the Paris Radio Philharmonic, the Austrian Radio Orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and The Queensland Orchestra. His chamber music partners have included members of the Alban Berg Quartet, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Marc-André Hamelin, Ursula Oppens, Stefan Litwin, Joanna Macgregor, Michael Kieran Harvey, Kari Krikku, Claron McFaddon and many others.

As a recitalist, Jennings has a repertoire ranging from Bach through Boulez and beyond. His main focus these days is on chamber music, as well as being an enthusiastic proponent of new music. He has been highly complimented on his interpretations by composers such as Louis Andriessen, Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Brian Ferneyhough, Witold Lutosławski, Rihm, Michael Tippett and many others. After hearing him give the Australian premiere (1987) of his Partita for Violin and Piano, Lutoslawski described him as an "inspired performer".

Under the auspices of an Australia Council grant, Jennings moved to San Francisco in 1990, devoting himself almost entirely to the discipline of string quartet playing. In the following years he studied chamber music with Mark Sokol, with whom, in 1991, he formed the Conservatory Quartet, alongside Julian and Paul Hersh. This group was renowned for, amongst other things, its marathon, single-evening performances of Elliott Carter’s complete string quartets.

In 1994, Jennings joined the Arditti String Quartet as second violinist. With it, he has toured widely throughout the world, made more than 70 CD recordings, and given more than 300 world premieres of works by composers such as Adès, Andriessen, Birtwistle, Boesmans, Boulez, Carter, Cerha, Dillon, Furrer, Guerrero, Harvey, Hosokawa, Huber, Jarrel, Kagel, Kurtág, Lachenmann, Nishimura, de Pablo, Reynolds, Rihm, Scelsi, Stockhausen, Wuorinen, Xenakis and Zender. The Arditti Quartet has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for 1999, and two Grammophone awards for its recordings of Carter (1999) and Birtwistle (2002). Most recently, they have been awarded the honorary "Coup de Coeur" from the Académie Charles Cros (2004) for their recorded legacy and a Deutsche Schallplatten Preis or its recording of works by Matthias Pintscher.

Despite his busy quartet schedule, Jennings has still managed to make occasional solo appearances. In recent seasons he gave performances of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, and in 2003 gave the first Australian performance of Brian Ferneyhough’s fiendishly difficult "Terrain" with the ELISION Ensemble. In 2005, he made a studio recording of this work and gave further performances in Sydney and Melbourne. His performance at the Sydney Festival was reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald as follows:

It’s a work so complex that even with two performances, one’s brain can only scratch the surface. There are many points of entry – Graeme Jennings’ performance, for a start, which was transfixing either as a display of fiddling pyrotechnics, or as an exercise in mind-bending mathematics, or as a lovingly crafted exploration of gestures. This was a phenomenal performance of a daunting but rewarding work.

After 11 years at the centre of the new music scene, Jennings chose to leave the Arditti Quartet in the autumn of 2005 and now lives in Brisbane, Australia where he is senior lecturer in violin and viola at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.

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