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Carl VINE (b.1954)
Oboe Concerto (1996) [17:13]
Canzona (1985) [11:50]
Suite from The Tempest (1990) [22:26]
Smith’s Alchemy (1994) [18:45]
Diana Doherty (oboe)
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Ola Rudner
rec. studio, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Hobart, February, March 2003
ABC CLASSICS 476 226-7 [70:16]


Carl Vine is one of the best known names in the Australian Composers Series from ABC. This programme, recorded in 2003, shows him to be as broad-ranging and attractively dissonant - when necessary - as in all his other works. The Oboe Concerto for instance seems to flirt with some Eastern-sounding roulades. Vine ensures that the tension between the solo instrument and the orchestra is fully maintained – with the latter picking up a tense and angular dance pattern. At some points, so sweeping is his writing, that Vine almost convinced me that Richard Strauss and Leonard Bernstein were cohabiting under the same compositional roof. He spins a limpid and leisurely slow movement, delightfully played by Diana Doherty and returns to the dance for the sprightly finale.

The Suite from The Tempest consists of six compact movements. They’re all characterised with great precision and an ear for colour. This is a very visual and entirely stimulating work, often resplendent, sometimes dark. The storm affords him opportunities for dashes of rhythmic drama. The Conspirators is tensely argued, laced with intimations of evil and harbouring an almost vicious intent. At times he has the eye and the ear of a Prokofiev for such matters. By contrast there’s something reflective of Debussy in the Ferdinand and Miranda scene with its dextrous flute delicacy. Never stinting the drama Vine takes care to explore the conflicting human vistas in this suite.

Smith’s Alchemy refers to the Smith Quartet who first performed Vine’s Third Quartet  - from which this work derives. The alchemy involved was in transforming the four instruments into a single “super” instrument. In this larger version the rhythmic energy crackles and the slow movement retains its haunting quality. Finally there’s the Canzona which has the feel at least of a concerto grosso. It possesses a stately ear for the lyric with a real “down the ages” melody from around 6:20 presaging Elizabethan dancerie. Later on it even generates some Nymanesque moments. It’s a delightful work, full of fancy and excitement.

Vine collectors can rest assured that the playing is first class, as it’s been with all the other examples in the series that I’ve heard so far. On this showing the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra has nothing to fear from its more famous Antipodean rivals.

Jonathan Woolf


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