> Crimson Songs Perihelion [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

CRIMSON SONGS
Robert DAVIDSON

Strata (1993)
Margaret SUTHERLAND (1897 – 1984)

The Orange Tree (1938)a
Roger SMALLEY (born 1943)

Trio (1992/9)
Gerard BROPHY (born 1953)

Crimson Songs (1997)a
Mary FINSTERER (born 1962)

Kurz (2000)
Peter SCULTHORPE (born 1929)

From Nourlangie (1994)a
Elena KATS-CHERNIN (born 1957)

Langsam (1997)a
Margaret Schindler (soprano)a; Perihelion (Patricia Pollet, viola; Philippa Robinson, clarinet; Carson Druon, piano; Andrew Shetliffe, cello)
Recorded: Nickson Room, School of Music, University of Queensland, December 2000
ARTWORKS AW 032 [65:44]

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 encore.

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 life.

Hubert Culot

 

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