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.
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.