> The Australian Album [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Australian Album
Dulcie HOLLAND (1913-2000)

Cradle Song (1947) [3.09]
Violin Sonata (1937) [14.53]
Miriam HYDE (b.1913)

Dryad's Dance (1936) [1.21]
Frank HUTCHENS (1892-1965)

Always Afternoon (1934) [5.05]
Alfred HILL (1870-1960)

In Such A Night (1935) [2.31]
Mazurka (1932) [3.25]
Blue Evening (1931) [2.47]
Valse Lente (1936) [2.42]
Waltz Caprice (1934) [2.20]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)

Violin Sonatina (1924) [15.25]
Asmira Woodward-Page (violin)
Scott Davie (piano)
rec Aug 2001, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Australia DDD
ARTWORKS AW034 [53.40]

Written between 1924 and 1947 most of this music traces its Ariadne thread from Australia across oceans and mountain ranges to Europe and specifically to England.

Holland's Cradle Song is a softened rhapsodic meditation in the mode of Lark Ascending though with a quicker pace and an instantly sweeter note. The spiritual resemblance is even stronger in the Sonata which also bathes in the blue-hilled euphoric ecstasy of Howells' writing in the 1910s. Holland touches off hazy sparks and song in the allegro which again sounds very much like Howells though this time it is the Howells of the first two violin sonatas (as recorded by Hyperion with Paul Barritt). As the work progressed I was reminded of the John Ireland Second Violin Sonata. The second movement is Debussian in the piano part and pastoral-lyric in the violin line.

Dryad's Dance by Miriam Hyde is a speedy, darting, quicksilver caper with a smattering of Jig and Dumky. This is just the sort of encore piece to have been written by violinist composers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I think, in particular, of the Hyperion Sammons collection issued last year.

Frank Hutchens' Always Afternoon prompts comparison with his own piano miniatures featured on AW023. This is inventive music, tender, singing and magical with touches of Rachmaninov, Gurney and Howells. Certainly a highlight of the disc.

Alfred Hill remained lifelong in thrall to his Leipzig roots. His music is much more in touch with Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Salzburg than with Wenlock Edge or Wessex still less with the Outback or Ayers Rock or the Great Barrier Reef. The five miniatures here stay firmly and pleasantly anchored to the idioms of Dvořák, Mendelssohn, Macdowell and Schumann. Blue Evening reaches out towards the English country singers.

The Arthur Benjamin Sonatina merits the diminutive only in duration though it is about the same length as the Dulcie Holland Sonata with which it shares a kinship of mood. This is a grown-up Sonata bathed in the same pastoral capricious ecstasy as the Rootham Violin Sonata (1925), Julius Harrison's Bredon Hill and the Howells chamber works of the Great War and the early 1920s. In the finale there is a touch of the jazziness of Lambert (Rio Grande and Music for Orchestra) and Walton (Sinfonia Concertante). This is something also detectable in Benjamin's Concertino for piano and orchestra - a work said to have been influenced by Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Woodward-Page would make a natural choice to record the Benjamin Violin Concerto as well as to partner a brilliant violist (such as Paul Neubauer) in the Romantic Fantasy.

The documentation is peerless. Notes are by Dr Rita Crews who neatly balances technicality with biography and cultural scene-setting. There are illustrations from contemporary ephemera: posters, newspaper and journal cuttings, score extracts and the like.

An unmissable acquisition for students of the 'Idle Hill of Summer' whether in Gloucester or New South Wales. Both Woodward-Page and Davie are inspired interpreters encouraging return visits to the disc. I hope that the concept prompts further anthologies and forays into the secondhand sheet music shops and the piano stools of Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra.

Rob Barnett

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