Monday, 21 October 2013

Beethoven Sonata Course in Reflection

The course on Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas finished up recently. It was a fun and insightful series of lectures and if it runs again I recommend doing it. Aside from learning about Beethoven and his music you get to listen to snippets of works played by Jonathon Biss and that’s well worth it too (here's a sample).

So what did I learn? Quite a bit to be honest and I’m not going to go into all the detail and everything here. What I want to talk about is how the course helped shape something of my idea of the history of music because I’ve come to see Beethoven as a pivotal figure in ways I didn’t understand previously.

I studied a course on the Ancient Greeks at the same time as this one and in it was discussed that history works out in big forces and movements – migrations, economic upheavals etc, etc – but there are also certain individuals who manage to alter the course of history through sheer force of will or some similar manifestation of their brilliance. Alexander the Great was one standout example.

From what I learned in the Sonata course this is also very much the case. There were big movements taking place during Beethoven’s lifetime, but his talent and his unrelenting personality played their own role in shaping music’s path heading into the 19th century.

At the beginning of his lifetime music was still largely a court affair. Joseph Haydn spent most of his career in the employ of one such court; he wrote what his employer wanted, he managed the court’s musicians etc. Late in his life his employer did give him incredible freedom and allowed him to write what he wanted instead. Mozart, unable to cope with the strictures of being a court composer tried his hand as a freelancer but with variable success.

The way was becoming clear however and courts were no longer the bastions of classical music. If we consider the social and political upheavals that were happening at this time, it’s little wonder Beethoven never had to consider being employed as a court musician. He was free from the beginning to do his own thing. The individual was free.

And free from such constraints, Beethoven’s talent and strong personality led him to explore musical forms in all new ways. He took the sonata form, perfected it, toyed with it to test its limits, then tore it apart and reshaped it in his own way. He broke all the rules and paved the way for further experimentation down the track. And he allowed music to truly ambitious and completely about self-expression. He could paint emotional landscapes freely in ways previous composers could not and in so doing he set the Romantics up to do what they did.

So while history’s big movements were most certainly in play – it’s one of the most dramatic shifts in Western history in all fields of endeavour – Beethoven’s individuality and precocious talent shifted the history music very much to follow his footsteps and no-one else’s.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Beethoven Piano Sonata Course First Two Weeks

I’m now two weeks into the course on Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas being run by the Curtis Institute of Music through Coursera and it is really interesting. In essence it’s spending about an hour watching a series of short videos where Jonathon Biss talks about Beethoven’s music in a engaging and insightful way.

The first week was an introduction to two things, first Beethoven’s predecessors Bach, Haydn and Mozart, then to sonata form. The predecessors were covered necessarily very rapidly but Biss raised the question of the role of composers in society. Bach was never anything but a servant, even at his peak he was required to teach singing; Haydn started as a servant, was given leave to do his own thing at times, then eventually had enough success to go it alone. Mozart on the other hand couldn’t handle being a servant and went freelance before the idea was really around. It worked for a time but his genius didn’t extend to budgeting. However, both he and Haydn showed more daring and creative exploration when freed from court duties.

When Beethoven emerged the court composer role was dying off and he never had to write what he was told, so from the beginning he was free to try new things – but he still had to make money. Which puts an interesting dynamic into his early works.

The sonata form, which is a form of a single movement not a description of a sonata – someone needs to work on that bit of nomenclature – is also very interesting. Biss explained it really well too. I won’t go into the details but in essence it’s a journey, you start with at home, being the key the piece is written in, then go to the ‘dominant’ which is a fifth above the home key (also called the tonic), from there the movement goes on a harmonic journey as it tries to get back to the tonic/home. I love how it’s a basic narrative structure – story really is fundamental to our existence.

The second week was a look at the earliest sonatas – 1-11 and 19-20, which were written before but published after 12 – with particular emphasis on Sonata No 4, Beethoven’s Opus 7. It would take too long to go into what was said now but the assignment for the week was interesting. We had to list how one of the other early sonatas conformed with and differed from No 4, which meant listening to a Sonata in an all new way for me. I picked No 1 because it has almost exactly the same movement structure. It was fascinating to actively listen to the music, ask ‘what’s he doing here?’ and notice when phrases come in and go out. I can’t pick a key change to save my life so that’s a disadvantage but the experience did give me a new appreciation for the music.

This is definitely a journey worth taking.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Getting this blog going

This is just a quick post to announce the new way I'm hoping to run this blog. I'm going to try to be a bit more methodical and committed to it. I've started by adding a Facebook page which will announce when I post here and also share smaller things like links and quick happy birthdays to composers long dead and maybe even living ones from time to time.

I'm also going to have a Composer of the Month. I'll announce who on the Facebook page on the first Wednesday of the month and post a YouTube link to a piece written by them every Wednesday. I'll also do a post about them here sometime during the month and maybe some album reviews.

This month it's Beethoven. Yes, a fairly obvious choice but it made sense. I'm studying his Piano Sonatas in an online course this month so he's already on my mind and in my ears. Doing that course was a bit of serendipity actually. My wife just gave me the Beethoven-Willems Collection featuring all the sonatas and concertos plus more, and I was looking at courses on the Coursera site and saw it there - it was meant to be. I'll let you know what it's like later in the month.

I'm still working my way through the B-W collection but the discs I've played so far are magnificent. Not only is the playing good, the recording is crystal clear. It's an all-round brilliant effort.

Let the music play!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Miriam Hyde's Centenary

Today as I listened to Classic Breakfast with Emma Ayres I learnt that it's Miriam Hyde's centenary year. I also learnt there was an Australian composer called Miriam Hyde. Looks like maybe I should've known this already and I admit her face rings vague bells but really, how many Australian composers can you name? How many women composers? So how many Australian women ... anyway the point is I now know about her and would like to hear more of her music.

There's a good biography of her at the Australia Music Centre's website (click here for that). Turns out she was a successful composer, pianist, poet and musical educator with an OBE and AO and the International Woman of the Year (1991-2). Her piano concerti were performed by major English orchestras in the 1920s too, with her as the soloist.

Most of her music appears to have been written for piano, including learning pieces of various levels, some set to her poems. I found this performance of one on YouTube entitled Forest Stream and it does seem to flow and bubble as a stream winding through a forest and over rocks might do.

From that page I found a link to a recording - possibly of the WASO in 1965 with her as soloist but I can't swear to that - of her second Piano Concerto. It also has some text from a Keys to Music program Graham Abbott must have run last year about Miriam Hyde the composer. And I'm glad the link was there. It's a very good concerto, full of drama and virtuosity without being a show-off piece, and quite Romantic in feel, at least to my ear.

There was also this short Reverie, which may be one of her 'exam' pieces but has a lovely dream like quality to it; and this in turn led me to a piece called Spring. This performance is for an exam but still the piece is a wonderful evocation of that season so beloved of artists.

Which in a strange way leads me to what I will finish with, a quote from Miriam Hyde on music and her compositions - I feel my music can be a refuge for what beauty and peace can still be omnipresent...the triumph of good over evil. I make no apologies for writing from the heart.

I think we can all be thankful she did.

PS Closing tabs I discovered this performance of her Fantasy Trio by Trio Fidelis, and it's a good closer. There's more out there - get listening!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Janacek's Birthday

To celebrate Janacek's birthday I thought I'd find some nice YouTube clips of his music. Starting with what is arguably his most famous work his Sinfonietta. This is a powerful version by the Wiener Philharmonika conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. The opening of this work is such a stirring piece, but with that edge that something is different. Then it launches into a dance of instruments before a gentle clarinet leads us to a meadow, then back to the dance and on the piece goes, it really is an amazing work.

The orchestral suite from his opera The Cunning Little Vixen is a new discovery for me, thank you internet. Strong opening with strings and brass, moving into a beautiful softer passage - Leos was clearly one for shifts in mood. And the flutes and violins moving against the deeper percussive sounds are stunning. Why have I not heard this before? Rustic in feel but with drama and beauty mixed. The ending is strong percussively but strangely stark compared to the rest of the work.

I'll provide some quick links to two of my other favourites of his - the Lachian Dances, which are a collection of dances he wrote towards the end of his life looking back at the countryside the modern world had changed forever; and his Taras Bulba Rhapsody, written in response to the novel of the same name by Gogol.

There's a lot more great music Janacek wrote I'm sure. Keep exploring people!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Man behind the rock - Graeme Revell

Graeme Revell was one of the first movie composers I could name other than John Williams, mostly because of The Craft. I bought the soundtrack, not the score, and it included a track from the score and so his name was on the track listing. Around the same time I learnt he wrote the score for Spawn, another soundtrack I bought and listened to excessively. So the name stuck but until now I didn’t know much else about him.

Turns out he’s a kiwi who worked in Australia for a while – in a psychiatric hospital. His first film score was actually the Australian thriller Dead Calm, for which he won an AFI. Here's a selection from it, it features some operatic singing and even rhythmic breathing all with drum machine and electronic sounds which are quite evocative.

His music is often electronic and quite dark but he’s got some orchestral scores in there too. A quick look at his film credits shows mostly action films and horrors, which works with the darker side of things. A good example of all that is this music from Aeon Flux. Also see the opening music to - The Crow, Spawn and Tomb Raider

He certainly demonstrates great versatility and a willingness to experiment with instrumentation. The first piece I knew of his – Bells, Books and Candles from The Craft – is quite esoteric. Then there's the theme for Elektra as a character in Daredevil (as in not the theme to the movie Elektra) which is stripped back, no electronic stuff, just piano and acoustic guitar until synth and voice section comes in with a string section. It is utterly haunting and captivating.

As both those examples and the stuff from Dead Calm shows, the use of voice as instrument is something Revell is interested in and he took this further in the score for Red Planet which made extensive use of the voice of Emma Shapplin. The opening of the movie doesn't but here's a bit anyway because it's piano and strings and truly beautiful. I can't actually find a good example of the use of her voice under the score sadly but here's a song she sings for the movie - The Fifth Heaven.

So while he seems stuck in a particular oeuvre, his music is emotionally rich and explores many ways of making music itself. So Revell is well and truly worth checking out. The trick is most of his best work is hidden behind the rock soundtracks it works with.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Eloquently Put - The Music of Carter Burwell

The first time I heard the name Carter Burwell was when my then fiancee said she wanted to walk down the aisle to Bella's Lullaby from the Twilight soundtrack. At first I had the whole dubious feeling about it, I didn't hate Twilight as some did but this seemed a big call. I played it once and never doubted again. Bella's Lullaby is a truly beautiful piece for solo piano and was perfect for the magical moment my bride walked down the aisle.

I have now learnt he is a highly successful film composer who has a particular relationship with the Coen Brothers, having scored all but one of their movies and contributing music to the one he didn't (O Brother Where Art Thou?). So I discover he is responsible for the suitably unnerving music for the uncomfortable masterpiece Barton Fink. Just listen to this track, Fade Out - End Titles, and you get an idea of the feel of the film.

Compare that to the opening of Fargo, which is grand against the stark landscape and uses percussion to introduce the sense of dread and menace. Or again the opening of Miller's Crossing, which I haven't seen, a piece that reminded me of the romance of Delius.

But possibly I like his 'simpler' stuff best. The small number of instruments playing intimate music, like Bella's Lullaby and this piece I just discovered, Lost Fur from Where the Wild Things Are.

Whatever he's doing though he does it with eloquence and beauty. His music is yet one more thing my wife has introduced me to and enriched my life with. Do me a favour, play Bella's Lullaby one more time and thank her for me.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Quirkily Macabre Master - Danny Elfman

I would have to say Danny Elfman is one of my favourite composers for film, undoubtedly this has something to do with some of the films he’s written for but the music really stands alone too. He has a long-standing relationship with Tim Burton – one of my favourite directors – and much of his music has the sort of darkness and quirky charm that would imply.

Sadly, when I was adding to the voting list I forgot Sleepy Hollow, which is a wonderful example of what I mean, and no-one else added it either or at least it wasn't put up. Here’s the theme tune anyway - delightfully creepy. Not to forget the bewitching yet slightly eerie score for Edward Scissorhands, the ghostly main title perfectly sums up the dark yet quirky fairytale feel of the film.

One of my immediate votes went to his score for Alice in Wonderland though. Okay, so I’m a huge Alice fan and am guilty of choosing scores for more than their musical value – however, I do love the music very much and this is a popularity contest so I guess it makes sense anyway. Finally on his Burton scores, here's a sample from The Corpse Bride where he uses the theme to help tell the story, the piano duet.

Outside his work with Burton , Elfman has scored some blockbuster action flicks including several Sam Raimi films and the second Hellboy for del Toro. His earliest work with Raimi was the Darkman score which I'm not too familiar with. He then did the March of the Dead for Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness, which is a fairly traditional march in many respects but obviously a bit macabre too.

This all led to the first two Spiderman movies. The theme for Spiderman is aptly heroic, has an underpattering percussion at points reminiscent of spiders walking and swings through in the strings just as the titular hero swings through NY to save the day.

Danny Elfman - you already know his hits, check out the rest.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Under-rated Epic Composer, Basil Poledouris

With voting now open for the Music in the Movies countdown I figure it’s time to look at some composers. I won’t worry about John Williams, his genius is well known and widely discussed.

Who I will worry about and start with is Basil Poledouris. He was conspicuously absent from the initial list but I was happy to see he’d been added before I made my additions. Poledouris was a Greek-American composer highly regarded for his epic scores and intimate themes.

My first two samples for you should show that, the opening of Conan the Barbarian and the closest thing Conan gets to a love theme, known on the soundtrack as Wifeing. I will point out the love theme is very gentle and a sweeping romantic variation on a theme, with gorgeous instrumentation. If you're thinking 'it's for a mindless action film it can't be any good' listen to this and you'll soon change your tune, but not this one.

Conan the Barbarian is probably his best known work and it will be getting one of my votes for sure. But he did more than that of course. His other major works were The Hunt for Red October, which has some awesomely moody Russian-style music (like this) and Robocop, which sees the epic grandeur of Conan given a modern kick. Here's the main theme.

In the interest of discovering new music I’ve looked into some of his other soundtracks care of YouTube. I hadn't realised he did the score to Starship Troopers, giving it more drama than it probably deserved but living up to his name. This piece is called Klendathu Drop and it has the militaristic themes matched with heroism and a tinge of humanity and sadness - not an easy mix.

In a completely different mood, here's a suite from his score for The Blue Lagoon. It has what I'm starting to see as characteristic strings and brass, but here they are soft and welcoming, although it shifts easily into threatening mode for the dangerous parts. I've not seen the movie so I don't know what. There's also a charming piano piece partway through.

I think there's much more great music to find by Poledouris, including from many films that probably aren't worth worrying about so it's a bit more of an effort but well worth it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

First Thoughts on Classic 100: Music from the Movies

I just want to record some of my initial thoughts about the next Classic 100 on ABC Classic FM which is Music from the Movies. There was a sense of inevitability about the announcement to be honest, ever since the debate which raged over Howard Shores’ score for The Lord of the Rings making it into the Classic 100 20th century two years back it seemed film music was going to get its own countdown.

Of course, it’s also an exciting theme with lots of wonderful options. I do however have some concerns about it. The first is the inclusion of music not written for but used in films. So O Fortuna, Ride of the Valkyries and heaps of other pieces are open for consideration. Which is okay but the other choice is the score itself, so we can vote for Thus Spake Zarathustra for 2001: A Space Odyssey or the score to Ben Hur – but not the opening credits for Ben Hur. To me there’s a conflict here and the two should probably be treated as separate countdowns – classical music used in films and film scores.

My other issue is in many ways the same problem that arises in any of these countdowns but is accentuated by the nature of the theme. People will vote primarily for what they know and a lot of very good music misses out from not being aired often enough or simply well-known enough. That happens; it’s the nature of countdowns. But in this instance there’s more than just music preferences in play, there are film preferences and some of these will certainly affect the way people vote.

There is in some circles a view that blockbusters for instance have no real artistic merit, which is untrue but will deter people from voting for a lot of them. The one I feel most unfairly suffers here is actually Twilight. Outside the fans of the franchise there is a strong dismissal of anything associated with it, but if Classic FM listeners heard any of Burwell's score for the movies without knowing where it came from there is no doubt in my mind they would love it. Say what you will about the movies and books, the score behind the movie is sublime.

I also fear Basil Poledouris is going to be sadly overlooked. His score to Conan the Barbarian is fantastic, but it’s for Conan the Barbarian … which I love but I’m that kind of a guy, I don’t think many voters in the countdown will even pause to wonder if the music for it is any good at all. I could be horribly wrong and being a snob against myself, I hope so as it is definitely worthy of being included.

To be honest as I think about it, there are so many movies out there and so much good music is written for them. Maybe the blockbusters will win out for sheer shared knowledge. I guess we'll find out and I hope the journey is as fun as last year. Expect a series on composers soon.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Bach's Birthday

The Bach family was huge and there are plenty of composers bearing the name, but if we ever hear the name referred to by itself we all know which Bach we’re talking about, Johann Sebastian. An undeniable genius in his craft and one of the foundation stones of Western music. And it’s his birthday, so to celebrate here’s a YouTube clip of three of my favourite pieces by the man himself, starting with what must be one of the most dramatic and iconic of all solo organ pieces, the Toccata and Fugue in D minor. This often reminds me of the image of the austere and mysterious hermit who plays the organ in passion while hatching his mad schemes of revenge or world domination.

Next, the opening of the fourth Brandenburg Concerto. One of my earliest albums – a cassette – was of these concertos and they remain, in my mind, one of the greatest of all orchestral works.

Finally, what would the world be with JS Bach’s Cello Suites? Considerably poorer I believe and that much less peace. Here’s the prelude to No 1.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Zoe Keating at The Basement

Last Friday night I had the pleasure of going to The Basement near Circular Quay in Sydney to hear Zoe Keating play live. Her support act was another cellist, Raven (aka Peter Hollo of FourPlay fame), while they both played cello and used technology to record and playback loops thus layering the sound and turning themselves into a group, the music they played was very different.

Raven was first, obviously, and had simpler equipment for the layering so there was less depth perhaps but that’s by no means a criticism. His music was quite varied actually; some of it was melodic with a good rhythm – which he lay down by tapping parts of the cello – while some of it was, to my ear at least, quite chaotic in terms of the melody. Some of those parts got a bit away from me but overall I enjoyed his performance greatly. It was also amazing to watch him experiment with the sounds he could create – he used the bow, tapped with the bow, strummed like a guitar and strummed the strings vertically. You can listen to his music at his bandcamp here.

Zoe did most of these things too (and even shook the bridge of the cello to create a drum-like sound in her Segue to Mad World) but mostly stuck to traditional playing methods, with some tapping to lay down percussion tracks in the feed. There are many more layers to her works though – she has the necessary equipment of course – and a more consistent sound too.

It was really interesting to hear her talk about the music as well. To me her pieces are very transportive, I can see fantastic landscapes – windswept plains and forests – and I wondered as I listened just where her imagination and creative spirit goes when she’s composing. Turns out landscape does play a big role in it, the title of her album Into the Forest is no coincidence and she spoke of the beach nearby as inspiring another piece on the album.

Another interesting point she made was about how she composed. One of her early works she called TetrisHead because it was about the mind-state she enters when composing, where she has these pieces and strands of music in her head that she then pieces together, layering them into the works we hear. That she can juggle all those pieces in live performance like that is simply remarkable. She has to not just keep track of the part she is playing, she needs to manipulate which layers are looping at the time, all of which have to be in synch so her timing must be impeccable, and with no errors. A mistake in the live playing may be over in a moment, but when laid down and looped it occurs over and over with echoing problems through the piece, making this style of playing an impressive feat unto itself. That the music is so evocative as well is testament to Zoe’s artistic spirit. If you haven’t heard her play I strongly suggest doing so, possibly starting with this video of her playing live, to see how she’s doing it. And this is her bandcamp.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Musings on Lyadov's Music

When I was a kid I used to listen to a cassette with Russian music on it a lot. I don’t remember most of it but I know it had The Magical Snuffbox by Anatol Lyadov on it and that I loved it(here it is played by Pletnev). Beyond that Lyadov rather disappeared from my radar until a few of his miniatures started popping up on compilation CDs, mostly The Enchanted Lake which seems to be his most famous work. These few pieces that turned up were always good and I wanted to know more, so I got a Chandos release of the BBC Philharmonic playing a number of his orchestral works.

It opens with Baba-Yaga, a jumpy piece rather apt for an ambiguous figure whose hut has chicken legs. We then move into a brooding yet exciting piece From the Apocalypse, there’s a fun parochial village scene, two cracking polonaises and Kikimora, a fun, dramatic piece tied to Russian folklore. Of course The Enchanted Lake is on there tooand the link here is to the same recording as the album. Lyadov truly evokes the mystery of a lake shrouded in mist where you just know something supernatural is present.

One of the main reasons I got it however was the Eight Russian Folksongs for Orchestra which I feel is Lyadov’s best work, at least in terms of orchestral pieces. They are all exceedingly short but capture so elegantly the different feelings and sensibilities of the source, from the elegance and reverence of the Religious Chant and the heart-wrenching melancholy of the Plaintive Song to the sheer rollicking joy of the Humorous Song (subtitled I Danced with a Gnat – haven't we all?) and full flight of the Legends of the Birds.

The BBC Philharmonic captures all these to a T, as they do the other works. Conductor Vassaily Sinaisky clearly understands the emotion and the sense of wonder Lyadov was conjuring. Indeed wonder is a vital element here as the works explore folklore, religion and myth. Lyadov was clearly a man after my own heart and his music evokes all the mystery and drama anyone could hope for. This is music well worth far more recognition than it has these days.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Verdi the Phoenix

I haven’t been posting here much lately and I’m about to go away for two weeks so I thought I should put something here so you know I’m still around. Whoever you are mysterious internet personage.

And, since it’s his centenary year, I thought a quick post about Giuseppe Verdi was in order. As it happens I read an interesting story about him last night which I think is worth relating. For the record my source is 1001 Classical Recordings to Hear Before You Die, edited by Matthew Rye.

So Verdi’s first opera was only moderately successful and his second was a total flop. That in itself is somewhat surprising given he is one of the opera composers, but it’s also a little encouraging to know even the greats can start out not-so great. Following that disaster however he had a much worse tragedy occur, his wife and two children all died. I can’t imagine something like that happening but his declaration to never compose again doesn’t seem too surprising.

This is where it gets good. Someone must have thought he was worth encouraging to keep going because they snuck a libretto into his coat pocket. It was for an opera based on Nebuchadnezzar, or Nabucco. When he read the passage which has become the famous Chorus of Hebrew Slaves, it fired his imagination and reignited his passion for composing and he wrote what is now a major part of the opera repertoire and went on to become the success he was. Out of the ashes.

Now, as I’ve said, I’m not a huge opera fan, but the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves is a wonderful piece in itself – I know nothing else of Nabucco – and very moving. (I regret not knowing who are performing it in the video linked here, they sing it well.)

There are a couple of other Verdi pieces I’d like to talk about but they can wait for another time. In the meantime, remember tragedy doesn’t have to be permanent, and a little encouragement can go a long way, so if you think someone needs it a nudge may be in order.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Australia Day

To celebrate Australia Day I thought I'd just collect some links to some of my favourite pieces by Australian composers. Not a comprehensive list but a start and a celebration anyway.

First off the bat is of course part of Nigel Westlake's Antarctica Suite - the Penguin Ballet. I really love the whole suite and the whole penguin thing just speaks to me cause I'm that kind of a guy.

I did want the second piece to be at least part of Graeme Koehner's Selfish Giant ballet but I couldn't find a link (I confess to being a bit lazy and not scouring for one, I'll do that anon). Instead here is his piece To His Servant Bach God Grants a Final Glimpse. This is a beautiful swoon worthy piece with lilting strings under a singing violin. Or is the violin punctuating the strings? Not really but they work together very well.

Thirdly, Peter Sculthorpe's charming Left Bank Waltz. It was the first of his I knew and for a time the only piece of his I liked. My tastes have broadened since but this little gem is still probably my favourite of his. The version here is quite astounding, you have to ignore the constant sound of flash charging and photo taking, but just check out how old this pianist is.

I have to include Ross Edwards' Violin Concerto 'Maninyas'. My introduction to this was Swoon III, a short excerpt that is one of my favourite swoons. When I heard the rest of the concerto for the first time I was actually a bit taken aback and unimpressed but as with Sculthorpe my tastes have broadened and I do enjoy the whole work. This is the triumphant third movement, hearing it now I can't think why I didn't like this initially.

For the fifth and final piece I would have loved to share Sally Whitwell's Concerto for Toy Piano - partly so I could hear it myself - but as with the Selfish Giant, no dice. Here instead is The Insomnia Waltz for piano and violin.

Let's remember the talent in this country and enjoy what artists of all kinds have to offer. Happy Australia Day.