> Dance of the Wild Men - Early 20th Century Australian Piano Music [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Dance of the Wild Men - Early 20th Century Australian Piano Music
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)

The Gum-Suckers' March (1916) [5.07]
Colonial Song (1913) [6.15]
The Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol (1911) [2.38]
Mirrie HILL (1892-1986)

The Leafy Lanes of Kent (1950) [3.53]
Alfred HILL (1870-1960)

Come Again Summer (1937) [3.31]
Frank HUTCHENS (1892-1965)

At the Bathing Pool (1932) [3.11]
By the River (1947) [3.31]
Evening (1954) [2.42]
Roy AGNEW (1893-1944)

An Autumn Morning (1927) [3.48]
Toccata (1933) [3.56]
A Child's Dream (1929) [3.20]
Trains (1935) [2.20]
Before Dawn (1935) [2.44]
Dance of the Wild Men (1921) [2.38]
Lindley EVANS (1895-1982)

Vignette (1949) [3.17]
Merrythought (1930) [1.07]
Rhapsody (1927) [5.36]
Tamara Anna Cislowska (piano)
rec June 1999, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Australia DDD
ARTWORKS AW023 [59.36]

Artworks command our attention with a gallimaufrey of solo piano music by Australian composers. This is one of two such discs. I have reviewed the second ('The Enchanted Isle', Artworks AW005) which similarly features the brilliant, sensitive and wide-ranging pianist, Tamara Anna Cislowska.

Percy Grainger is probably the first Australian composer you might be able to name. There are three Grainger tracks here. The Gum-Suckers' March and Colonial Song are works dating from the teens of the last century. They are sentimental in the manner of the music hall and jaunty in the case of the March. The simple and affecting Sussex Carol is played and written unadorned with none of the populist sweeteners found in the other two pieces.

Mirrie Hill was the wife of composer Alfred Hill and her Leafy Lanes of Kent is cool, dappled and in the manner of Moeran's piano solos but with an easier languidly melodic tone. This is almost impressionistic; more so than her husband's regretful miniature Come Again Summer. Alfred Hill (see my review of his symphonies and string quartets on Marco Polo) was a determined traditionalist with his Leipzig training leaving a Mendelssohnian trail over a life-time of composition.

Frank Hutchens' innocently playful pixy dream, At the Bathing Pool momentarily recalls Mussorgsky's Unhatched Chicks. By the River suggests a warmly chuckling brook. Evening is a Debussian suggestion - not a diabolical one but a child's drift from evening's reflection into sleep. It is wonderfully carried off by Cislowska. Hutchens was born in New Zealand but made his career in Australia. Both Goossens and Hutchens wrote Phantasy Concertos for piano and orchestra.

Poetry and violence are to be found in the Roy Agnew items. Autumn Morning, A Child's Dream (a cradle song - gravely beautiful as if shaped by Ravel's Ma mère l'oye), Toccata (pretty bell-like chatter) and Before Dawn (ominously wistful) reflect the poetic strand. Trains breaks the spell with clangour, discord and the motor activity of Prokofiev and Bartók and even a nod towards Gershwin. The Dance of the Wild Men carries the impress of Scriabin and Prokofiev. It is dedicated to Moiseiwitsch who played Agnew's music during the composer's stay in England. Gieseking and Cortot also took a practical interest in Agnew. I gather that one of the Australian universities issued recordings of more of his piano music but have not been able to track these down. Roy Agnew's piano music can be had from The Keys Press, 66 Clotilde Street, Mount Lawley, WA 6050, Australia

Lindley Evans (born in South Africa but settled in Australia) is represented by the musing sentimental sigh of Vignette, the jaunty-humorous Merrythought (a Howellsian title, if ever there was one) which has much in common with Grainger, and Rhapsody which is darker, glinting and robustly sentimental.

This recital of pleasing and usually contemplative miniatures will delight anyone who responds to the English pastoral school. Indeed England can be felt as a distinctive influence. The unbridled Antipodean character, vigorous, unabashed and emotional, can be heard in the Grainger and Lindley Evans. The energy of a Young World paralleling Cowell, Mossolov, Ornstein, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Goossens can be heard in Agnew's Trains and Wild Men.

Time for a similar recital of the solo piano miniatures of Greville Cooke (when will we hear his Cormorant Crag, High Marley Rest, Reef's End and Haldon Hills), Cuthbert Nunn, Harry Farjeon, Ernest Farrar, John Pullein and Norman Peterkin.

I commend the present disc to adventurous listeners and pianists alike. I am sure that Jack Gibbons, John Lenehan, Lionel Sainsbury and Phillip Dyson will find pieces here that would sit well alongside miniatures of Moeran, Mayerl, Confrey, Bax, Warlock and Macdowell. These Australian pieces stand confidently in this company: more sophisticated and 'classical' than Mayerl and Macdowell yet sharing much of the same irresistible innocence.

Rob Barnett

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