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Elena KATS-CHERNIN (b. 1957)
Wild Swans Concert
Suite (2003) [36’47]
1.Green Leaf [
2:39]; 2. Eliza Aria [3:17]; 3. Brothers [1:50]; 4. Wicked Witch [1’51]; 5. Magic Spell Tango [3:42]; 6. Good Fairy [3:16]; 7. Knitting Nettles [3:17]; 8. Darkness in the Forest [3:43]; 9. Eliza and the Prince [3:55]; 10. Glow Worms [1:28];
11. Mute Princess [3:50]; 12. Transformation [3:59]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (2001) [
I [5:34]; 14. II [4:08]; 15. III [2:47]; 16. IV [5:54]
Mythic (2004) [11:28]
Jane Sheldon, soprano (1-12); Ian Munro, piano (12-16)
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Ola Rudner
rec. 16-19 August 2004, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania. DDD
ABC CLASSICS 476 7639 [66:41]

The work of Kats-Chernin’s I love best is Torque, a fantastically motoric piece of engineering I once called a galvanizing brew - part Piazzolla, part John Adams. But there’s plenty more to hear and admire from this prolific and exciting composer. Her appearance in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Australian Composer Series is entirely right. 

And so here we have a major concert suite, Wild Swans. This is a ballet collaboration and written for soprano soloist and orchestra. But you needn’t know, or need to follow, the movements to realise that you’re in the grip of a characteriser of real verve. It will add to your pleasure to follow her succinct summaries of each of the movements but I can assure you that your senses will play their own most enjoyable auditory-visual games even if you turn off the lights and submit yourself to her weaving enchantments. 

The soprano’s wordless melismas are a constant – Jane Sheldon, excellent – and soar or croon with delicious and apposite colour. We have a “naïve” little song trenchantly contrasted with a clod-hopping cut – hints of John Adams. There’s festive loquaciousness where Adams collides with the spirit of Peggy Glanville-Hick’s Etruscan Concerto. There’s also Baba Yaga, tersely characterised, a blowsy nightclub sax solo, nineteenth century ballet homage (Franco-Russian) and a vein of lyricism. I won’t quote chapter and verse on the individual movements – you’ll have much too much fun finding out things for yourself. It’s the kind of ballet you really would like to see. 

The Concerto is a more personal work, being inspired by the composer’s late mother. Her mother’s love of Chopin is woven into the second movement – the concerto is written in conventionally “big” four-movement fashion though it’s a concise work – where there are reminiscences of the composer. The atmosphere here is one of a certain stately evanescence – very beautiful. The third movement has its almost hallucinatory moments – its scherzo angularity is exaggerated by heavy chording. There are hints here and there of Michael Nyman but Kats-Chernin’s muse is her own now and she sounds a very personal note in this work. 

Mythic is the most recent of the triptych – it dates from 2004. Here the sombre start soon gives way to an extrovert hymnal passion surging with energy and life force. It makes you glad to listen to it.

As with all the performances I’ve heard so far in this exhilarating series the TSO belies its “off-shore” status to produce “mainland” performances. For exuberance, colour and vivacity this is one of the best of the ten discs I’ve heard. 

Jonathan Woolf 



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