Australia Ensemble welcomes acclaimed UNSW alumni musicians

13 May 2024
Tahlia Petrosian playing viola and David Fung against black background

Two internationally acclaimed musicians are among the guest performers joining the Australia Ensemble at their second concert of 2024.

UNSW law graduate Tahlia Petrosian has forged a stellar international career playing viola with leading orchestras and as a director and creative producer. UNSW Medicine alum David Fung is a renowned pianist and has built an outstanding career performing around the world. Both musicians are returning to the University as guest performers for the second Australia Ensemble concert of the year on Saturday 18 May.

“I’m excited to be performing with Australia Ensemble, as I attended AE concerts while I was a student at UNSW,” Tahlia said. 

Tahlia’s career has spanned work with orchestras across Europe, as well as producing, curating and consulting. She initially considered a career in law after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts/Law double degree in 2004.

“I received an offer of employment with a Sydney law firm but decided to head overseas because there was a renowned viola teacher in Berlin with whom I was keen to study,” she said.

After two years in Berlin, studying viola at the Hanns Eisler Music School and German Law and International Law at Humboldt University, Tahlia returned to Sydney. She spent a brief period working in law, before returning to Germany to pursue a career in music.

“I worked in orchestras in Antwerp, Berlin and London before joining the Gewandhaus Orchestra in 2012,” she said.

The orchestra, based in Leipzig, is one of the oldest and most prestigious symphony orchestras in the world.

Tahlia has continued to perform with the Gewandhaus Orchestra while her work has expanded into creative producing and consulting. In 2016, she created the ground-breaking KLASSIK underground concert series. This internationally renowned series fuses classical music, video installation, theatre, dance, street art and laser artistry to create unique concert experiences featuring leading classical artists from around the world. 

“I started KLASSIK underground in 2016 because, at that time, many new and often multi-purpose concert halls were being built around the world,” she said. 

“I thought that soon audiences would be keen to interact with and experience classical music in new ways, both in these new halls and elsewhere, and KLASSIK underground became a way of experimenting with the traditional classical music concert format in preparation for the future.” 

David Fung, acclaimed pianist 

Internationally renowned pianist David Fung initially studied Medicine at UNSW. He won the ABC Young Performer of the Year Award while still at the University.

After deferring his medical studies in 2003 to pursue music, David studied at the Colburn Conservatory in Los Angeles, where he was the first piano graduate. He went on to study in Hannover, Germany, and at Yale University in the US. 

“Since then, I’ve collaborated with many leading orchestras in the world including Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony, working with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Gustavo Dudamel, Stanislav Kochanovsky, Lan Shui and Christian Zacharias,” he said.

“I'm looking forward to returning to UNSW, my alma mater, and performing at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, which holds a special place in my heart.”

The second Australia Ensemble concert of 2024 will feature Mozart’s Kegelstatt trio, as well as compositions by David Bruce, Stuart Greenbaum and Schumann.

“I feel a strong connection to Mozart’s music, and the Kegelstatt trio embodies the lyricism and joy that Mozart conveys so effortlessly,” David said.

“The Schumann Piano Quartet is a masterpiece in the chamber music repertoire, and its devastatingly beautiful slow movement serves as the centrepiece of the work.”

Tahlia said Mozart was always a joy for performers and audiences alike.

“I’m particularly looking forward to performing the Kegelstatt trio because, although it’s really a core piece of viola chamber music repertoire, for some reason I haven’t played it before,” she said.

Curiosity fuels creative careers 

Both David and Tahlia agree that curiosity and a pursuit of knowledge have been vital ingredients in their careers. They both encourage aspiring musicians to learn as much as possible about the music they are playing, as well as the world beyond music.

“Be curious about the world around you, especially in the field of humanities,” David said.

“When I was a student, I attended every concert I physically could, and those sound waves are still in my DNA. This includes concerts by my classmates from which I learned volumes.”

Tahlia recommends aspiring musicians look beyond music to build a broad knowledge base for their craft. 

“You should be knowledgeable about all art forms and art movements, languages, cultures, history, literature,” she said.

“Pursue all opportunities, and if you can’t find the right opportunities for you, then create them yourself.”

David said aspiring musicians can benefit from embracing patience and being kind to themselves.

“A career in music is a marathon! Find joy and fulfillment in the process of creating, rather than in the performance itself,” he said.

“There are infinite ways of creating and communicating art, and as such, there isn’t one path to success in music. The beauty of music is that you define what success means to you by pursuing the avenues that interest you the most.”

Book tickets for the second Australia Ensemble UNSW concert for 2024 on Saturday 18 May, 7.30pm in the Sir John Clancy Auditorium.