Previously released under the
same catalogue number this is now newly re-issued and flies
under the flag of the Australian Composers Series. Mills
was a professional percussionist – in fact he was a young percussionist
in this very orchestra - and he’s also a conductor, so he has
a particular slant on things. His concertos were written in
quick succession between 1990 and 1994.
The Cello Concerto is the earliest
and is played by Sue-Ellen Paulsen who has distinguished herself
elsewhere in this series. It’s a declamatory work, thriving
on interjections and orchestral altercations and dramatic monologues.
But Mills is careful to infiltrate genuinely lyric interludes
– try the one at 5:40 in the first movement – that convey a distinct pathos and depth
of feeling. But he doesn’t stint the demands, pushing the cello
very high in the slow, second movement (it’s a two movement
concerto) and allowing it to keen with stratospheric intensity.
Athletic and virtuosic moments abound and the music returns,
Elgar-like, to the opening dramatic cellistic statements.
The Violin Concerto is a more
restful and peaceable work. It has some kinship with the Second
Prokofiev Concerto. Its high
point is the slow movement where
the lyrical Lento floats ever upward in a kind of sustained
rapture. The finale is motoric, rather like the Prokofiev, but
not as devil-be-damned as the Barber. It was written for Carl
Pini but is played here by the fine Barbara Jane Gilby who reappears
for the Concerto for Violin and Viola.
This dates from 1994 and is
more lightly scored than either the Cello or the Violin Concertos.
It has its share of neo-classicisms and elements of concerto
grosso procedure. Here it is the finale that most appeals. Mills
serves up a delightfully balletic concoction of finesse and
exultation. He also takes great pains over separation of parts
and balance. There’s no sense of anything top heavy or cumbersome
about the writing.
All the performances are first
class and once more the orchestral accompaniment under the band’s
erstwhile percussionist is spot-on. The recording too captures
the performances with real warmth but without blunting detail.