All record companies
like leveraging their product
by creating themed compilations. Some
seem to be just cynical exercises but
others are well put together, with the
intention of tempting the inexperienced
into trying out a variety of classical
music and providing the experienced
listener with the possibility of the
hearing new artists and performances.
This compilation from the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is in
the latter category and will be of interest
to many as it provides a showcase for
a wide variety of fine Australian artists.
Also, I could not help liking a disc
whose booklet contains an ad for the
ABC Classic FM radio station with the
headline ‘Ironing is wonderful with
ABC Classic FM’.
The disc opens with
a crisp, bouncy modern instrument performance
of The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
from Handel’s Solomon. But after
a promising opening, the performance
starts to feel a little too hard-driven
and could have done with relaxing a
bit. This is followed by a highly relaxed
and poised account of Satie’s Gymnopédie
No. 1 from pianist and ABC supremo
The Flower Duet from
Lakmé is conducted by Richard
Bonynge, who is an old hand with this
having recorded the complete opera with
his wife, Joan Sutherland. On this recording
he is joined by soprano, Glenys Fowles,
and mezzo-soprano, Heather Begg. The
two singers blend beautifully but Fowles
seems a little reticent and Begg’s fruity
mezzo tends to be to the fore a little.
Neither singer makes much of the French
text, which is a shame. So that, though
this is a creditably pleasant account
of the duet, it lacks that ultimate
The following item,
though, is certainly one that stands
out; a performance of Rumba Flamenca
by Saffire, the Australian Guitar Quartet.
With its fresh intoxicating rhythms
and fine guitar playing, this track
should attract a larger following for
this talented group.
from Massenet’s Thais has become
a staple in this sort of easy listening
compilation. The movement, Virgin,
Mother of God from Rachmaninov’s
Vespers receives a shapely, if
light-toned performance from the Sydney
Philharmonic Choir. Though lacking in
the dark tones and deep resonance that
Slav choirs bring to this work, they
made me want to hear more of their account.
which makes me interested to explore
further is the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s
delightfully dancing Allegretto Grazioso
from Dvořák’s 8th Symphony.
The Orchestra of the
Antipodes is a group which plays on
original instruments. Here the play
the Allegro from Bach’s Brandenburg
Concerto No. 2. With its high trumpet
part, this is one of the pieces where
balance is notoriously difficult to
achieve. Antony Walker and his group
do very well, with the unnamed trumpet
player achieving some minor miracles.
The other instrumental playing is of
a high order as well though the recorder
seemed a little too reticent in the
ensemble passages. The overall feel
was of a crisp, rather brisk account
of the movement and I would be interested
to hear more from them in this work.
The Western Australian
Symphony Orchestra give a creditable
account of the Intermezzo from
Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.
And they are followed by another familiar,
but highly contrasting work: Allegri’s
Miserere. It is given in the 20th
century version which has now become
traditional even if it is not a correct
version of the work. Jane Sheldon, the
only named soloist, is the capable soprano
soloist with a strong top C, though
her tone becomes a little steely at
the very top. She is well supported
by the flexible sound of the choir Cantillation,
directed by Antony Walker (a very busy
man, he appears on no fewer than five
of the tracks on this disc).
in D, receives a rather well-upholstered
performance from the Tasmanian Symphony
Orchestra. In complete contrast, the
live recording of the Sydney Philharmonic
Motet Choir and Orchestra (conducted
by Antony Walker) shows them giving
a fine, crisp account of the Gloria
in Excelsis from Vivaldi’s Gloria.
Both choir and orchestra bring plenty
of bounce to this big-boned account
of the work.
For the next track
it is best to forget Bartók entirely.
A jazz version of a movement from his
piano teaching work, Mikrokosmos,
it works best if taken as simply
an atmospheric jazz piece.
It was enterprising
of ABC to include a piece of contemporary
music on the disc. Ross Edwards’s Dawn
Mantras was written for performance
outside the Sydney Opera House on the
first day of 2000. It rather recycles
the recent clichés of chanting
voices, low drones and soulful wind
instruments, but does so in a very affecting
way, including a rather effective didjeridu
in the instrumentation.
The excerpt from Beethoven’s
9th Symphony is for easy listening enthusiasts
only. Not because of the performance;
what there is of it sounds very promising.
But the editors have chosen to include
just a bleeding chunk of the final movement,
not even starting at the beginning of
the vocal/choral part of the work.
The Sydney Symphony
Orchestra under Christopher Nicholls
bring the requisite amount of swagger
to the Montagues and Capulets
movement from Romeo and Juliet.
The disc closes with a pleasant arrangement
of Caccini’s Ave Maria; one of
those pieces that keeps cropping up
in arrangements but which I’ve never
heard in its original version.
The booklet includes
a brief paragraph about each work which
provides sufficient helpful information
to aid the curious in exploring further;
unfortunately ABC fail to give details
of recording date and the provenance
of any of the records, so making it
difficult to hear more of those artists
This is a disc which,
with its fine array of Australian artists,
should be of wide interest, enabling
us to hear many artists who are underplayed