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Don KAY (b.1933)
Tasmania Symphony – The Legend of Moinee [40:36] ¹
There is an Island (1977) [36:00] ²
Christian Wojtowicz (cello) ¹
Australian Rosny Children’s Choir ²
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Richard Mills ¹
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Georg Tintner ²
rec. Hobart, Tasmania, 1982² 1992¹
ABC CLASSICS 467 5253 [70:36]

 

 


The Australian Composer Series has embraced new recordings, the very occasional import from another label and reissues. This Don Kay release falls into the last category. It was recorded by Kay’s island state orchestra in Hobart in 1992. And it fits very soundly into the wide-ranging brief that constitutes this series.

Kay studied first in Melbourne, and then in London (1959-64) with Malcolm Williamson. Returning home he taught at the University of Tasmania rising to the position of Dean of the Faculty of Music – a position from which he retired in 1998.

There are two big works here, both rooted in the soil and the sea and in the myth and history of the island. The Tasmania Symphony – The Legend of Moinee is a five-movement work lasting forty minutes. It’s effectively a symphony with cello though not a cello symphony. The solo instrument represents the Aboriginal Moinee, thrown down to the land from heaven, with the orchestra taking on a variety of roles. Thus they are involved in some terse and tense hunting motifs as well as more quietly reflective music. The slow cello lament – perhaps representing Moinee’s capture – is reflective and keen. Some of Kay’s writing may remind one of Vaughan Williams and Hovhaness, and especially so in the second movement, Love Voice of the Moinee. But Kay summons up some rough-hewn colours for Creating the Land – plenty of toil and cello sawing and the smell of churning soil. The heart of the Symphony is Land of Moinee which has drum rolls, sinuous ostinati, bells, chattering birds – Ravel-cum-Messiaen perhaps – plenty of solo voicings and burgeoning life force. The Postlude again evokes VW-Hovhaness modal nobility and the final wispy ascent of the spirit is a fine touch with which to end.

There is an Island is a lighter work written in 1977. It’s a cantata for children’s choir and orchestra to a text by the English-born but Tasmanian-settled poet Clive Sansom (1910-1981). In nine movements it charts the story of the Tasmanian Aboriginals and the early settlers. Whether declaimed or sung this is an eminently workable piece, excellently realised. There are quotations of national anthems (French) and flag wavers (Rule! Britannia), roistering ballads, and folk songs such as Over The Hills and Far Away and She Moved Thro’ The Fair. They speak of the ravages of nostalgia and separation, war, and of the challenges of a new land, and end with hope for reconciliation and for the future. Kay uses simple – but not simplistic – means to depict battles and the whoop of nauticalia. Touches of Grainger maybe from time to time.

This is a welcome reissue under the series rubric. Kay’s clear voice celebrates Tasmania in song with undimmed warmth and honesty.

Jonathan Woolf

see also previous review of this recording of the Tasmania Symphony

 


 

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