When commissioned to write a work that will open a season, there’s really two ways you can go about things, says composer Katy Abbott.

Katy Abbott. Photo © Pia Johnson

“It’s exciting – these are the first notes of the 2024 season, so what do I want those first two seconds for the audience to be? Is it going to be super-soft, emerging slowly, or is it going to be like a flash?”

Abbott’s new work Glacial Thunder opens Melbourne Chamber Orchestra’s 2024 season on 29 February as part of a concert called Music Speaks, which also features music by Mozart, Dvořák and Molly Jalakbiya with Paul Stanhope.

The family of the orchestra’s Artistic Director, Sophie Rowell, commissioned it as a gift for Rowell’s mother, who turned 80 in 2023. While not written to give voice to any particular theme or idea, the composition aims to demonstrate how music can communicate with an audience. 

This will be Abbott’s first work for the MCO, though writing for strings is something she’s often drawn to, offering “a palette” that she enjoys in terms of the depth of...