Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sculthorpe, the man down under

The Classical Corner, and its predecessors like the Unusual Concerto series, were popular parts of this blog before the purge. Of course, no longer being able to supply MP3 samples rather limits their use as a blog topic. I think however that I have found a reasonable compromise. In the new installment of the Classical Corner, I will be presenting information about lesser known composers that I like very much, with an Amazon link to a Naxos CD of their recordings. I am not affiliated with Naxos (or Amazon for that matter), but I selected Naxos because of their excellent price/quality ratio and their relative abundance in shops, whereas the Amazon site often has good to excellent reviews by consumers. Let's kick off with the best composer to have come to us from Australia: Peter Sculthorpe (1929). He composes in a modern yet accessible idiom, often influenced by the landscapes and cultures of Australia and neighbouring countries. The Naxos CD collects five of his works, three of which I would regard as essential works to get introduced to this great composer. The highly melodious Earth Cry (1986) is perhaps the most straightforward example of Australian influence as it includes extensive contribution on the didgeridoo - and it says a lot about Sculthorpe's talent that this comes over as a completely natural combination. The piano concerto (1983) is to my taste one of the best writen in the second half of the previous century. There are some influences of Indonesian gamelan music, but not obvious. Finally, the lushly orchestrated Kakadu (1988), inspired by the national park of that name in Northern Australia, does an excellent job in conveying his emotional responses on the nature. With two more works offered (Memento mori and From Oceania), this Naxos CD is a great way to explore this relatively unknown master.