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Carl VINE (b. 1954)
Chamber Music Volume 2

Piano Sonata No. 2 (1997)
Sonata for Flute and Piano (1992)
String Quartet No. 3 (1994)
Five Bagatelles (1994)
Inner World (1994)
Michael Kieran Harvey – piano (Piano Sonata)
Geoffrey Collins – flute David Miller – piano (Flute Sonata)
Tall Poppies Quartet
Ian Munro – piano (Bagatelles)
David Pereira – cello (Inner World)
Recorded 10/2/99, Newcastle Conservatorium (Piano Sonata); 16/2/95, Studio 200, ABC Sydney (Flute Sonata); 21/7/97, Studio 200, Sydney (String Quartet); January 1996, Newcastle Conservatorium (Bagatelles); August 1996, Studio 256, ABC Sydney (Inner World) DDD
TALL POPPIES TP120 [73:34]

This second volume of Carl Vine’s chamber music concentrates on a period of five years between 1992 and 1997. Although time has moved on from the music featured in volume one, which dealt with works from the mid to late eighties, the Vine hallmarks outlined in my review of the first volume are still evident here, principally a fascination with rhythm and rhythmic structures that manifests itself in all of the pieces featured in some shape or form. Furthermore it is evident that Vine has continued to consolidate his compositional language with a consistency and confidence that is not always quite as clear-cut in volume one.

The Piano Sonata was the highlight if volume one. Piano Sonata No. 2, here once again played with considerable panache by Michael Kieran Harvey, was written partly in response to the success of that first essay. Like the first, Vine favours a binary structure although here the form within the two movements takes a slightly different developmental course. The first movement falls into two clear sections, the first turbulent and restless, the second more relaxed with bell-like figurations in the right hand over a form of ground bass in the left. In the second movement jazzy syncopations dominate, relieved only by a slower central section in which the same material is subjected to a dream like transformation. The virtuosity and sheer headlong pace of much of the writing also harks back to the Sonata No. 1 and Harvey clearly takes it all in his stride managing to convey a sense of exhilarating enjoyment at the same time.

The other work for solo piano, this time played by Ian Munro, is a suite of five fleeting bagatelles that began life as a one-off piece, Threnody. It was written by the composer for himself to play at the annual fund raising dinner of The Australian National AIDS Trust in 1994. Feeling that the three minute piece could hardly stand alone in its own right, Vine subsequently added four others, choosing to leave the brief but moving Threnody to last and framing the suite with a dark, dream-like nightscape to open and three highly contrasting central miniatures.

The Sonata for Flute and Piano is an enjoyable three-movement showpiece that calls for considerable agility on the part of both players. Despite the fact that five years separate the Flute Sonata from the Second Piano Sonata there is a distinct feeling that the material of the opening movement is not too far away from the sound-world of the solo piano work, the continuous semiquaver lines on the flute coalescing with the piano’s florid accompaniment. The appealing slow movement, almost pastoral in character after a long haunting introduction, explores a completely different side of the flute’s nature whilst the finale takes the same basic pulse as the opening movement but transforms it into a motoric, breathless adrenalin rush to the finishing post.

The three movements of the String Quartet No. 3 play continuously and as with a number of Vine’s works for differing chamber combinations explore contrasting facets of the instrumental ensemble. The first movement is largely concerned with the quartet as a whole, the first violin being the only instrument of note that breaks away from the collective group, subsequently taking a back seat in the poignant slow movement as the other instruments all feature in solos against a simple, slow moving background. Rhythm is once again at the forefront in the final movement, an aggressive, obsessive moto perpetuo that drives the quartet to an emphatic conclusion.

The two works featuring electronics represented in volume one were undoubtedly the weakest on the disc and I was therefore somewhat cautious approaching Inner World, the only work on volume two to involve any form of electronics. Here the solo cello is accompanied by sounds created solely from a recording of the cello itself and I was pleased to find the result to be highly effective, the accompanying sounds serving to expand, develop and diversify the resonance’s of the solo instrument in a way that can possibly be compared with certain electronic works by Jonathan Harvey, albeit in a very different musical language. The slow section commencing from around 8:20 is particularly beautiful and David Pereira is an impressive and dedicated soloist.

Both of these discs represent a more than useful introduction to Carl Vine’s music and give clear insights into his language and style. That said, it is volume two to which I shall return more frequently, the works represented offering a greater degree of consistency in terms of their overall quality. As with volume one, the musicians are all well known to the composer and once again this familiarity is demonstrated in committed and authoritative performances.

Christopher Thomas

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