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|Ross EDWARDS (b.
Symphony No.1 "Da pacem Domine" (1991)
Symphony No.4 "Star Chant" (2001) [32:36]*
Chamber Singers*, Adelaide Philharmonia Chorus*
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/Richard Mills
rec. 4-7 February and 12-13 March 2002, Adelaide Town Hall,
476 6161 [60:00]
fascinating disc pairs the first and fourth symphonies of
Australian composer Ross Edwards. Separated by a decade,
they demonstrate Edwards’ developing symphonic idiom and
his consistency over time.
would not be unfair to describe Edwards as Australia's holy
minimalist. There is a kinship between his music and that
of Arvo Pärt, despite differences of form and colouring.
His mature works – both of these are symphonies belonging
to that category – are characterised by lightness of touch,
and a spirituality drawn in part from Christian mysticism.
Hildegard von Bingen and William Blake are two influences
named in passing in the booklet notes. He also draws in part
on the natural world, understood and experienced mostly through
the landscape of Australia. While his harmonic language is
close to that of other Australian and American neo-Romantics,
there is a reflectiveness and a sense of ritual in his music
which is uniquely his.
Symphony is written as a single movement, a long sighing
adagio that is Brucknerian in its nobility and yearning.
A fragment of Gregorian chant, repeated and refracted,
is at the symphony’s core. Edwards lays down a carpet of
lush string sound, lit by smooth incantations from the
horns and a gentle touches of tuned percussion. It builds
to a broad brass chorale around the 11:46 mark, peaking
again at around 18 minutes before fading away. It is a
moving piece of music, deceptive in its simplicity.
Symphony is cast in two movements, the first depicting
the northern night sky and the second the southern night
sky, as viewed from the Australian outback away from the
pollution of city lights.
northern night sky opens with mystery, with low strings growling
a descending two note motif below the chanting chorus. The
movement’s mood shifts to one of ecstatic ritual from about
10:45, with upper strings, brass and winds brightening before
a twinkling of percussion. The southern night sky is generally
upbeat with passages of Philip Glass rhythms and bright interjections
from violins, before the chill of mystery returns and the
music dies away. Throughout the piece, the choir chants the
names of stars in various languages, supporting the sense
of ritual at the core of Edwards’ work.
fellow Australian composer, Richard Mills, leads the excellent
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in thoroughly prepared and deeply
felt readings of both scores. A third Australian composer,
Gordon Kerry, provides the detailed and eminently readable
is a first class production from ABC Classics that deserves
to find a wide audience.
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