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Richard MILLS (b. 1949)
Cello Concerto (1990) [[24:57] a
Violin Concerto (1992) [22:46] b
Concerto for Violin and Viola (1994) [24:27] c
Sue-Ellen Paulsen (cello)a; Barbara Jane Gilby (violin)bc; Janet Rutherford (viola)c; Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Richard Mills
rec. Ballroom, Government House, Hobart, December 1996
ABC CLASSICS 462 016-2 [72:10]

Previously released under the same catalogue number this is now newly re-issued and flies under the flag of the Australian Composers Series. Mills was a professional percussionist – in fact he was a young percussionist in this very orchestra - and he’s also a conductor, so he has a particular slant on things. His concertos were written in quick succession between 1990 and 1994.


The Cello Concerto is the earliest and is played by Sue-Ellen Paulsen who has distinguished herself elsewhere in this series. It’s a declamatory work, thriving on interjections and orchestral altercations and dramatic monologues. But Mills is careful to infiltrate genuinely lyric interludes – try the one at 5:40 in the first movement – that convey a distinct pathos and depth of feeling. But he doesn’t stint the demands, pushing the cello very high in the slow, second movement (it’s a two movement concerto) and allowing it to keen with stratospheric intensity. Athletic and virtuosic moments abound and the music returns, Elgar-like, to the opening dramatic cellistic statements.


The Violin Concerto is a more restful and peaceable work. It has some kinship with the Second Prokofiev Concerto. Its high point is the slow movement where the lyrical Lento floats ever upward in a kind of sustained rapture. The finale is motoric, rather like the Prokofiev, but not as devil-be-damned as the Barber. It was written for Carl Pini but is played here by the fine Barbara Jane Gilby who reappears for the Concerto for Violin and Viola.  


This dates from 1994 and is more lightly scored than either the Cello or the Violin Concertos. It has its share of neo-classicisms and elements of concerto grosso procedure. Here it is the finale that most appeals. Mills serves up a delightfully balletic concoction of finesse and exultation. He also takes great pains over separation of parts and balance. There’s no sense of anything top heavy or cumbersome about the writing.


All the performances are first class and once more the orchestral accompaniment under the band’s erstwhile percussionist is spot-on. The recording too captures the performances with real warmth but without blunting detail.


Jonathan Woolf




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