Tasmanian music for guitar
$23 (Australian dollars)
Buywell - iTunes
|David Malone teaches guitar at the Tasmanian Conservatorium and is in demand as a recitalist. He encourages local composers to write for his instrument and this, his debut solo CD, is the result of his endeavours. This is a fresh and lively collection of music, showcasing Tasmania’s composers and giving Malone a chance to display his virtuosity.|
Two of the composers here are guitarists: Graham Southwell Brown and John Lockwood each show their innate understanding of the rich colours of the instrument, and each have written works that imply an improvisatory style of playing. Maria Grenfell, who is Malone’s wife, has written a set of pieces inspired by cartoons of Michael Leunig, capturing the whimsical stories behind each cartoon, which are reproduced in the booklet. Her Di Primavera was inspired by a trip to Italy and the music of Monteverdi. Also harking back to earlier music, Russell Gilmour’s Fretsongs takes its inspiration from Bach and is consequently a largely contrapuntal work. In contrast Rae Marcellino’s Q takes its inspiration from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and is part of an ongoing project to write a series of enigmatic miniatures. Don Kay is arguably the elder statesman of composition in Tasmania, and his Dance Rondos are genial works that suit the guitar admirably. Combined with the stunning cover photograph by Tasmania’s most famous wilderness photographer, Peter Dombrovskis, this CD is a beautiful snapshot of Tasmanian music.
This CD was assisted through Arts Tasmania by the Minister for the Arts
|Graham Southwell Brown||Three Poems for Guitar|
|Maria Grenfell||Four Leunig Pieces|
|Maria Grenfell: ||Di Primavera|
with Gary Wain, marimba
|Don Kay||Dance Rondos I and II |
|Australian guitarist David Malone plays works here by composers based in Tasmania, where he teaches at the University of Tasmania…. His playing is excellent, with a strength, clarity, poise, and no-nonsense directness that puts me in mind of his countryman John Williams. The compositions are highly engaging across the board. The set of miniatures by Malone's wife Maria Grenfell, based on four cartoons by Melbourne cartoonist Michael Leunig, are especially appealing; the cartoons are reproduced in the booklet. Grenfell's music is colorful and vividly evocative of the whimsical character of Leunig's cartoons. Like most of the music here, Grenfell's is compositionally sophisticated but not overtly "modernist". Russell Gilmour's Fretsongs, for example, are highly refractory and unpredictable, even though they use almost entirely diatonic pitches (that is, just the white keys" on the piano, or some transposition of them). The works by Graham Southwell Brown, Raffaele Marcellino, and Don Kay have more spiky dissonance, but their gestural vividness makes them immediately accessible. The program closes with John Lockwood's lengthy and stark Mobiles, the most ambitious work here but also, perhaps, the one that would most reward repeated listening.|
American Record Guide
The musical community in Tasmania is indeed strong, with a highly disproportionate number of fine performers and composers for such a small population, and a greater awareness of their activities within the general public. They have a school music programme that s the envy of mainland states, and a long history of community music making. This CD represents a number of musicians based mostly around the University of Tasmania's Conservatorium of Music in the Hobart campus. David Malone has commissioned many new works and actively supports the work of local composers.
With the exception of Don Kay who was born and raised in Tasmania, all the musicians on the CD came to Tasmania later n life. Others represented are composers Graham Southwell Brown, Maria Greenfell, Russell Gilmour, Raffaele Marcellino, and John Lockwood.
Russell Gilmour's two movement piece Fretsongs is an exploration of counterpoint with unfolding themes - very lyrical. While different in tempi, the two movements share a similar use of hopping syncopation.
Maria Greenfell's Four Leunig Pieces are reflections on cartoons by Michael Leunig, included in the CD booklet. It is interesting to see how a composer reinterprets works from another artform, but in this case I was a little disappointed with the results. I was left mystified by the emotions she portrays - as if she had been looking at different cartoons. In these reflections and also in her piece Di Primavera, which features Garry Wain on marimba, Greenfell uses repeated gestures (usually two statements, then move on to the next), which I found strongly reminiscent of birdsong,
For me, the most successful works in the set were Dance Rondos I & II by Don Kay. With well-defined syncopated rhythm and a modal, phrygian-like approach to pitch, the pieces were evocative of South American dances. Melodic ideas, shared in the two movements, were given opportunity for development and the structures were clear and pleasing.
Many of the pieces on the CD are short, exploring sounds, gestures or simple themes. There is a degree of sameness in these - I found them generally less satisfying than the pieces that allowed for the development of ideas. The overall tone of the CD is mellow and quiet; suspect that this is perhaps not how all the pieces were intended to be heard.
David Malone's playing throughout is solid, but I felt the pieces could have been imbued with more dynamic energy. The recording quality is OK, but the microphones could have been a tad closer to the instrument to help bring out those dynamics.
This CD would be useful for performers searching for contemporary Australian works.
Anthony Linden Jones
site design by carl vine