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Every Day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
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Fandango – Music Of Ann CARR-BOYD
Ann CARR-BOYD (b.1938)

Fandango (1982) [4.41]
Brown Pansies for soprano and piano (1997) [3.13]
The Bendooly Variation (1997): Theme [0.58]; Variation I [1.21]; Variation II [3.23]; Variation III [1.43]; Variation IV [2.17]
Soo Yeon CHOI (b. ?)

Flamenco Fantasy for two pianos (1997) [4.45]
Eric GROSS (b.1926)

Minature for Ray (1994) [3.25]
Dulcie HOLLAND (b.1913)

Summer Serenade (1994) [3.01]
Robert ALLWORTH (b.1943)

Five Bagatelles (1996) [7.56]
Derek STRAHAN (b.1935)

The Australian Ark – Suite No.3 "The Coming of Man" (1973) [10.11]
The Australian Ark – Suite No.4 "Land of the Birds (1972) [8.52]
The Sydney Mandolins / Adrian Hooper; Corinne Laird – soprano; Ann Carr-Boyd, Soo Yeon Choi, Michael Taylor – piano; Bill Frater, Neville Amadio – flute; John Cran – bassoon; Donald Westlake – clarinet; Robert Miller – cello; Derek Fairbrass, John Sangster – percussion.
rec 1972-1998, Various locations in New South Wales, Australia
JADE JACD-1078 [55.46]


This is a very odd production of some quite interesting late 20th century music by Australian composers. Ostensibly a celebration of the 60th birthday of Ann Carr-Boyd, that composer only features in three works. Why the other composers are included is not explained, other than that one of them (Soo Yeon Choi) is a student of Carr-Boyd. There is also a curiously unexplained quantity of music for mandolin orchestra. But then, four tracks are not for mandolins. The recordings date from 1972, re-mastered 1998, through to sessions from that same year, 1998. Productions range from the ABC in 1982, to private studio recordings from various dates, to a track made at Frencham School in Mittagong, NSW, to a polished TV soundtrack. What is never explained is why these particular selections were chosen; why these particular recordings. It all seems rather random and the programme suffers from this lack of cohesion.

It all starts well enough with the title track, performed by The Sydney Mandolins, and recorded in 1982 by the ABC. One is involuntarily reminded of that famous Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, of the maestro arriving in hell, being shown into a room by a helpful devil with the line "Welcome to Hell, Maestro. Here’s your room". In the room is an unoccupied conductor’s stand and row upon row of grinning morons clutching accordions. Somehow it seems to paraphrase too easily to Mandolin orchestras… Actually the fandango is undoubtedly the highpoint of the disc. It is surprisingly effective, with a jaunty swing and a rather stylish performance. Later on the effect of the massed mandolins does tend to pall and the other recordings of them are dry and brittle in comparison with this first track.

The worst jolt comes with the transition from track 1 to track 2 – a pleasant if somewhat insipid Flamenco Fantasy for two pianos by Soo Yeon Choi. How any producer worth the title let this recording on is a mystery. The performance is fine but the quality of recorded sound is just dreadful. It sounds like it was recorded in my living room with a walkman cassette recorder; dry as dust, desperately in need of some post-production manipulation. The contrast is too painful to contemplate especially as the mandolins at the beginning were given quite a generous ambience by the ABC engineers.

Ann Carr-Boyd returns as composer and pianist accompanying Corinne Laird in a charming romantic-styled work called Brown Pansies. This is appealing and beautifully sung. Carr-Boyd’s Bendooly Variations (Bendooly being the name of a 19th century settler property) is also a well-crafted work and the Sydney Mandolins negotiate it with a certain panache. The remaining mandolin works come in a large block in the following three tracks, by Eric Gross, Dulcie Holland and Robert Allworth. By the turgid end of the Allworth one has heard quite enough mandolins, thank you very much.

And the contrast with the final two tracks could hardly be greater for there is no more of Carr-Boyd’s gentle neo-romantic harmony, and no more mandolins. The two Australian Ark suites by Derek Strahan are much more quintessentially Australian ‘landscape’ music, using extended techniques and scalic structures based on Aboriginal use. The music had its origin in a 1970s documentary series about the Australian Continent and has been effectively remastered for this disc. Interesting music, probably worthy of being released complete, on its own. This seems a world away from the gentle ‘music for amateurs’ style of the rest of the disc. Its all rather puzzling in the end. If you know one of the people involved you might want to buy the disc, but for the last two and the first tracks alone it is not easy to justify.

Peter Wells


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