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Mirrors of Fire
Ross EDWARDS (b. 1943)

Blackwattle Caprices (1998) [6:27]
Graeme KOEHNE (b. 1956)

A Closed World of Fine Feelings [4:55]
Richard CHARLTON (b. 1955)

Surface Tension (1999) [4:45]
Robert DAVIDSON

Junction Rd [4:36]
Martin WESLEY-SMITH (b. 1945)

Kolele Mai (2000) [8:23]
Richard VELLA

Mirrors of Fire [4:10]
Nigel WESTLAKE (b. 1958)

Hinchinbrook Riffs (2003) [8:08]
Antarctica (1992)a [22:00]
Tim Kain (guitar)
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestraa/David Porcelijna
Recorded: ABC Studio 2000, December 2001 and August 2003; and Ball Room, Government House, Hobart, no date (Antarctica)
TALL POPPIES TP 169 [64:27]

 

As I once remarked while reviewing some other recordings of 20th century guitar music, some renowned guitarists, such as Andrès Segovia, Julian Bream and John Williams, bravely encouraged composers to write new works at a time when the instrument was largely neglected. That resulted in an imposing series of very fine works that have been taken up by other guitarists since and of which some have become 20th century classics. Tim Kain is one such guitarist who has inspired present-day Australian composers to write works for him.

That said, the most substantial work here, Antarctica for guitar and orchestra, was written by Nigel Westlake for John Williams who recorded it some time ago (From Australia – Sony SK 53361). Actually, Westlake has the lion’s share in this selection which also includes his Hinchinbrook Riffs for guitar and digital delay. Antarctica re-works material from the substantial film score that Westlake composed for the eponymous film. Incidentally, the film score is available on Tall Poppies TP 012; I have not heard this disc. The suite is in four movements: The Last Place on Earth (presumably the film’s main title, an impressive piece of music, anyway), Wooden Ships (a beautifully atmospheric miniature tone poem), Penguin Ballet (a lively Scherzo with some menacing undertones suggesting the presence of predators, in this case, leopard seals) and a long bipartite Finale The Ice Core/Finale. The first, somewhat bleaker part of the last movement, deals with the hole in the ozone layer and the potential danger it presents. The lively, jig-like Finale proper alludes to the signing of the so-called Antarctic treaty.

Hinchinbrook Riffs is, so it seems, a recent reworking of an earlier similarly titled piece for guitar and digital delay. Do not be put off by that intriguing New Tech phrase, for this piece is very attractive indeed, on the whole a bit minimalist. Digital delay is used quite discreetly, but very efficiently throughout the piece creating unexpected melodic echo-like effects and interesting rhythms as well as suggesting an element of counterpoint.

The other pieces are all for solo guitar, and make for a very enjoyable, varied and contrasted collection. Most are fairly straightforward, i.e. as far as the listener is concerned, for I suspect that they may be rather tricky to play. Edwards’ Blackwattle Caprices are just that, viz. a song-like fantasy and a capricious dance. The pieces by Graeme Koehne, Richard Charlton, Robert Davidson and Richard Vella are elegant, well-made studies of great charm and appeal.

Wesley-Smith’s Kolele Mai (one of the longest single items here) is based on an East Timorese folk-song that, with new words fitted into it in 1975, has become a song of resistance during the long years of colonial occupation. This work written for Tim Kain is a substantial and attractive free fantasy.

Tim Kain, whose name – I am ashamed to say – was new to me, plays marvellously throughout. He obviously loves the music and relishes every minute of it. The recorded sound is fine, and the production excellent although I would have welcomed more information concerning the composers and their works (e.g. dates of birth and of composition). This is a very enjoyable and commendable selection of accessible 20th century music for guitar. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Hubert Culot



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