> Forbidden colours@ Contemporary Australian works VAST 015-2 [GH]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Roger SMALLEY (b.1943) Diptych (Homage to Brian Blanchflower 1992)
Melbourne S.O. dir. Gunther Schuller
Recorded live at Merlyn Theatre 23/05/92

Riccardo FORMOSA (b.1954) Dedica (1982)
Melbourne S.O. conducted by Patrick Thomas with oboist Jeffrey Crellin
Studio Recording at Moorobbin Town Hall 11/03/83

Gerard BROPHY (b.1953) Forbidden Colours (1988)
Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Myer Fredman
Recorded live at the ABC Studios Brisbane 14/06/90

Bozidar KOS ( b.1949) Violin Concerto (1986)
Queensland S.O. conducted by John Hopkins with Dene Olding, Violin
Recorded live ABC Studios Brisbane 27/06/90
VOX AUSTRALIS VAST 015-2 [64.38]

This disc comprises works by composers who have now either established themselves in Australia or in the case of Gerard Brophy were born there. They are of a younger generation than the more well known Peter Sculthorpe (b.1929) Ross Edwards (b.1943) or Richard Meale (b.1932), whereas the older composers are often more inspired by the pioneering nature of Australian culture, history and of the landscape, these four men are more international in inspiration, training and final effect. In fact the CD case tells us that the composers ‘have strong musical connections with Europe’.

Roger Smalley was born near Manchester and at one point studied privately with Stockhausen. He went to live and work in Australia in 1974. He was in the centre of the British avant-garde in the early 70s, as ‘Pulses’ on NMC DO17M, composed in 1969, testifies. Diptych is a powerful work, magnificently orchestrated and marks out a more listener-friendly language than the earlier work. It is nevertheless a tough but dramatic piece. It was inspired by a huge painting by the British born Brian Blanchflower who lives in Perth where an exhibition of his work took place in 1990.

The Violin Concerto by Bozidar Kos is a virtuoso work magnificently brought to life by Dene Olding who is co-Concertmaster of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and who premiered the work. Kos was born in Slovenia and whilst living in Europe was a jazz musician. He moved to Australia in 1978. His atonal concerto is a busy and incredibly tense work of over twenty minutes. Although it has moments of repose as for example at c.9.30’, it is only in the last three minutes, after a brief Cadenza, that the tension dissipates into a more reflective coda.

These two works are the most substantial on the CD and are impressive pieces. I’m sorry to say that I cannot be so enthusiastic about the others.

‘Dedica’ by Riccardo Formosa has a long and highly elaborate oboe part at its centre, brilliantly negotiated by Patrick Thomas. It is, I feel, full of gesture and too many notes, signifying nothing - at least it only lasts eight minutes. Formosa was born in Rome but since 1974 is one of Australia’s leading arrangers and record producers.

Gerard Brophy is Australian by birth and studied in Germany with Mauricio Kagel. His work is exotically scored but at just over eleven minutes seems too long for its material. It also features an oboe solo haloed by harp and percussion. It does however have the advocacy of that fine and highly discerning conductor Myer Fredman, and has a highly atmospheric opening, rather akin to desert heat and strong sun.

The performances throughout are consistently excellent. The recording quality is vivid and immediate despite the fact that these tapes were mostly recorded live.

Gary Higginson



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