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Red Earth
Colin BRIGHT (b.1949)

Red Earth (1985)
Peggy GLANVILLE-HICKS (1912-1990)

Concertino da Camera (1948)
Neil CURRIE (b.1955)

Ortigas Avenue (1986)
David LUMSDAINE (b.1931)

Bagatelles (1985)
Ross EDWARDS (b.1943)

Shadow D-Zone (1977)
Vincent PLUSH (b.1950)

On Shooting Stars (1981)
Geoffrey Collins (Flute/piccolo)
Cathy McCorkill (clarinet)
John Harding (violin)
Esther van Stralen (viola)
David Pereira (cello)
Daryl Pratt (percussion)
Roger Brooke (bassoon)
Ian Munro (piano)
Tall Poppies Ensemble/David Stanhope
Rec. July 1998, Studio 200, ABC Sydney DDD
TALL POPPIES TP133 [67:46]


This is an excellent disc of modern chamber music with predominantly Australian origins. When travelling abroad I usually take some local music with me but, on a trip to Australia earlier this year, I took Ö Bach and Beethoven Ö and not a note of Australian music. The reason was simple Ė I didnít have any. In fact, the only Australian music I can recall hearing was by Don Banks at a concert more than 25 years ago. On the evidence of this disc, though, itís about time those of us "over here" (in the UK) took more notice of whatís going on "down under".

Red Earth by Colin Bright is a highly original and atmospheric work depicting an outback landscape. There are prominent Aboriginal rhythmic influences in the opening section, which is dominated by percussion. This is followed by contrasting interludes with plaintiff woodwind prominent and which provide a feeling of vast space. After just eight and half minutes the music disappears into nothing.

Concerto da Camera by Peggy Glanville-Hicks is the oldest work here, having been premiered in Amsterdam in 1948. It was described by the composer as a swansong for her neo-classical influences. Glanville-Hicks was born in Melbourne but left for Europe as a young women where she was taught composition by Vaughan Williams and Wellesz. During the war she went to the United States, eventually becoming famous as a music critic for the New York Herald Tribune. After developing a brain tumour she returned to Australia in 1975. The work is divided into in three short movements and it bounces along attractively in a manner reminiscent of Martinůís La Revue de Cuisine.

Ortigas Avenue is by Neil Currie, a Canadian who has spent time in Australia as composer in residence for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. The inspiration for the work was the overthrow of the Marcos regime and rise of Cory Aquino as President of the Philippines in February 1986. The critical moment in this bloodless coup occurred in Ortigas Avenue and is here depicted in a seven minute work which draws on Filipino folk music. Somehow this music never seems quite momentous enough for the occasion, opening with an attractive piccolo solo and quite abruptly moving to a joyous rhythmic frolic.

Bagatelles by David Lumsdaine, a series of 8 short pieces for different combinations of instruments lasting 21 minutes, is actually the most substantial work on this disc. In his note about the work the composer defines a bagatelle as "a trifle, a thing of no importanceÖ" but it seems that he then seeks to convince us, both in his words and music, that the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. And, in my view, he succeeds completely. I was left in no doubt that the title of this work should not be taken too seriously, nor of the high quality of its musical inspiration.

Shadow D-Zone by Ross Edwards is a sextet, the title of which remains a mystery. This atmospheric music draws from nature and Australian culture. A slow tempo is pervasive throughout but the ending is abrupt.

On Shooting Stars by Vincent Plush provides a fitting climax to the disc. It was written as a homage to the Chilean folk-singer poet Victor Jara who was a victim of the military coup against the Allende government in 1973. There are three movements with descriptive titles in Spanish which translate as (1) The Departure (2) The Child of the Earth (3) Our Hearts are Full of Banners. The style is readily approachable and the final movement incorporates the voice of Victor Jara himself.

Tall Poppies is an occasional group of players assembled specifically for recording music. All of their performances on this disc are committed and convincing, and they are very well recorded. There are detailed illustrated notes on the composers, music and performers. Itís surprising, and a pity, that we have had to wait six years for the disc to surface.

Next time I go to Australia I shall certainly be taking this disc with me and it will be getting some more airings before then. Itís a gem.

Patrick C Waller

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

 

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