Robert Davidson’s Strata for viola, clarinet,
cello and piano, is a short playful essay in colourful and tuneful Minimalism,
though the slow movement, curiously enough, made me think of British
Pastoralism of the inter-war years. Its three concise and contrasted
movements (fast-slow-fast) make it an ideal recital opener. Lightweight,
maybe, but quite enjoyable.
Margaret Sutherland, once the "grand old lady
of Australian music", has written a fairly large number of works
in almost every genre. The Orange Tree, written in 1938,
is a setting for soprano, clarinet and piano of a poem by John Shaw
Neilson. This is a fairly straightforward setting often redolent of
Vaughan Williams, Holst and, at times, of Bax with whom she studied.
A most welcome novelty, as far as I am concerned.
Roger Smalley’s Trio for viola, clarinet
and piano, is an altogether more serious affair, though by no means
intractably so. By the time he composed it, Smalley was writing a number
of works based on fragments of Romantic music. The impulse for the Trio
was Brahms’ late sonatas and particularly the Sonata in E flat Op.120
No.2 (either for clarinet or viola), though Brahms’ theme is never
heard in its original form. The composer describes the Trio
as an expanded one-movement sonata design with an energetic first subject
and a lyrical second subject. The middle part of the piece is a set
of variations on the second subject. At the climax both subjects combine.
"After this, the music suddenly collapses and fragments".
A very fine, serious work in a quite accessible 20th Century
idiom that repays repeated hearings.
Gerard Brophy’s Crimson songs, which
gives this release its collective title, is a short song cycle on words
by Peta Spear dealing "with some of the more unpoetic aspects of
love and relationships". They are consequently set in a quite direct
way and the musical setting, based on formulas from popular music and
using speech next to parlato, emphasises the matter-of-factness
of the words. Globally, the music, sparse and economically scored, is
direct, often based on ostinati and incorporates jazzy or bluesy turns
of phrase. The third song Romeo and Juliette is the finest of
the set and the composer here succeeds in finding moving poetic images
in otherwise unattractive surroundings "reeking of grease".
Mary Finsterer’s aptly titled Kurz is
a short showpiece for ensemble that could and should become a popular
Peter Sculthorpe’s present arrangement for soprano,
viola, cello and piano, of From Nourlangie was especially
made for Mary Wiegold and the Composers’ Ensemble. It is a delightful
minor work that nevertheless deserves more than the occasional hearing.
The Uzbekistan-born Elena Kats-Chernin, now in her
mid-forties, already has a sizeable body of works to her credit, both
large and small. Langsam, commissioned by Perihelion,
is based on a song by Schubert (Du bist die Ruh) which is sometimes
given some unexpected twists.
This release is a well-planned and varied collection
of interesting and often fine works, some of which were written for
the present performers, that are well served by the excellent readings
and that again demonstrate the vitality of present-day Australian musical
Artworks Recorded Music
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