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Ross EDWARDS (b.1943)
White Ghost Dancing (1999) [7:30]
Veni Creator Spiritus (1993) [15:51]
Concerto for Guitar and Strings (1995) [18:36]
Mountain Village in a Clearing Mist (1973) [14:50]
Chorale and Ecstatic Dance (Enyato I) (1993) [13:51]
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Richard Mills
rec. Federation Concert Hal, Hobart, December 2002, December 2003
ABC CLASSICS 476 227-0 [70:17]


Ross Edwards naturally earns an important place in the Australian Composer Series. The piece that gives this disc its ostensible title, White Ghost Dancing, also alerts one to the wide range of his influences and musical enthusiasms. He ranges widely. Certainly there’s an acknowledged indebtedness to Aboriginal music but the driving rhythms surely owe their own special debt to Stravinsky – and in this particular case to the Rite of Spring. The fiery syncopation and the earth tones of Edwards’s winds also bring their own tangy sensibility and colour.

Veni Creator Spiritus is an impressive work for octet. Owing its genesis to Palestrina-like origins it also offers romantic vistas that are not ashamed to embrace the filmic. Indeed the immediacy of Edwards’s writing is one of its greatest pleasures and his inquisitive absorption of salient models, far from limiting or dissipating the emotional power of his writing, serves only to intensify it. Here for example the second movement is a lively contrapuntal dance embracing “world” music textures with alacrity.

In his Guitar Concerto, so well played by Karin Schaupp, we find another facet of Edwards’s armoury – a control over shifting rhythmic patterns and a conjuring up of unusual sonorities. There’s something to me reminiscent of Copland in the central movement – something fresh and open air in the string writing, which manages to be spare but not austere. The colouration is deft and subtle and the balance between solo and orchestral palettes intelligently worked out.

When it comes to a much earlier work, Mountain Village in a Clearing Mist, we find a rather different perspective. The writing is a lot sparer and quiescent with energetic blocks that make their statements and then fade from hearing – the dynamics are deliberately a lot more compressed as well. Its calmness is a riposte to the composer’s earlier more frenetic statements, especially a work written for Roger Woodward – from the visceral acerbity of which Edwards retreated and recanted.

Chorale and Ecstatic Dance (Enyato I) brings with it cathartic warmth. It too is steeped in an antique air though one cross pollinated by filmic romantic gestures. And in the second section we find some buffeting cross rhythms in the dance and a delicious sense of fruitful juxtapositions – the Chorale and the dance, perhaps one of the keys to Edwards’s aesthetic.

Another winner from the ABC stable – and played as ever with brilliance by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under Richard Mills.

Jonathan Woolf



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