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The Making Of A Medium Vol 18 - Music From Down Under / Verdehr Trio

Release Date: 02/03/2009 
Label:  Crystal   Catalog #: 948   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Peter SculthorpeBarry ConynghamDouglas KnehansRichard Mills,   ... 
Performer:  Elsa Ludewig-VerdehrSilvia RoedererWalter Verdehr
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Verdehr Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


SCULTHORPE Baltimore Songlines. CONYNGHAM Playground. KNEHANS _rive. MILLS 4 Miniatures. Christopher MARSHALL Sonatina, “Three Aspects of Spring” Read more

This offering is Volume 18 of the Verdehr Trio’s ongoing “The Making of a Medium” series. I favorably reviewed Volumes 17 in Fanfare 30:6, 16 in Fanfare 29:5, 15 in Fanfare 27:2, and 11 in Fanfare 25:2. This one carries the subtitle “International Connections 2,” and focuses on composers who were either born in Australia, had careers centered in that land “down under,” or who have been affected, in one way or another, in the course of a sojourn there.

The only composer familiar to me on this release is Peter Sculthorpe, currently Australia’s preeminent and most exported compositional practitioner. In the few pieces of his I know, he presents a striking amalgam of advanced Eurocentric technique melded with Australian aboriginal influences along with those from Japan and Indonesia, yielding a large-gestured music of often-primordial power. I was, therefore, taken aback by his Baltimore Songlines of 2006, which, as is so often the case in this ongoing series, was written for the Verdehr Trio, this time on the occasion of the opening of the Australian wing of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. This is kinder, gentler, and more inward-looking music than I’m used to from his pen. Based on an indigenous lullaby from northern Australia, it unfolds languorously of, apparently, its own quite natural accord, creating a soft-hued musical canvas full of longing and nostalgia, replete with distant bird sounds from the violin.

Barry Conyngham was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1944. He was a student of both Peter Sculthorpe and Toru Takemitsu. Playground , composed in 2002, was inspired by his real-life exposure to a playground near Harvard Square, which had a plaque on its gate stating, “in memory of a little boy who loved to play.” The piece opens with prerecorded distant sounds of a creaking swing, along with a snippet of children singing. I initially found what follows to be phantasmagorical and somewhat sinister—alternating between moments of hyper playfulness and those projecting an inconsolable sense of loss. In his notes to this piece, the composer makes the point that playgrounds, when they are full of children, are joyous places that project an innocent sense of wonder and possibility. But when they are empty, they are “particularly sad and lonely.” In this deeply troubling piece I sense an underlying theme of lives unfulfilled, or, at the risk of nailing shingles to the fog, a dark metaphor for our universal journey from birth to death.

Douglas Knehans was born in 1957 in St. Louis, Missouri, and studied at the Canberra School of Music before returning to the U.S. to complete his doctorate degree at Yale in 1996. In 1993, he was appointed to the University of Alabama School of Music, where he served as chair of composition, theory and electronic music. He is currently, after a stint as professor and head of the University of Tasmania’s School of the Conservatorium of Music, the dean of the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. His rive , composed in 2002, describes, on its surface, the savage eating habits of the legendary Tasmanian devil. Rive means to tear apart, and that is precisely what Knehans does in this piece. He clearly posits a thematic idea (and a quite benign one), and then proceeds to tear it apart in an attempt to get to its nourishing essence. It becomes, in the end, a novel approach to the theme and variations form as we traditionally know it.

Born in Australia in 1949, Richard Mills splits his career between composition and conducting. Since 1997, he has held the post of artistic director of the West Australian Opera. He is also artistic consultant with Orchestra Victoria and director of the Australian Music Project for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. His Four Miniatures of 1992 were composed for the Verdehr Trio. In them he posits a fairly straight-forward theme and then, quite traditionally, develops it in the course of the piece’s four tiny movements—in each case presenting four musical universes that are at once highly contrasted and inextricably related, and that alternate between moments of heady rhetorical bluster and quite traditionally disarming lyricism.

Christopher Marshall was born in 1956 in Paris. He was raised in Australia and New Zealand and has lived for several years in Samoa. He has been, from 2006, composer in residence at the University of Central Florida. His Three Aspects of Spring (1995, rev. 2003)—its movements based on three New Zealand bird songs and titled “Idyll,” “Bushwalk,” and “Synergy”—takes one on a journey from the most sweetly and unabashedly tonal of musical language, to the most abstract and pointillistic, and then back again—mirroring the odyssey provided by the sequencing of the pieces on this release.

As in all the previous Verdehr Trio’s releases to come my way, the ensemble has once again gone on a voyage of discovery and has reveled in their newfound treasures; so, therefore, can we. As always, the group is technically impeccable, refreshingly forward looking, musically inspired, and gratifyingly recorded.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

Baltimore Songlines by Peter Sculthorpe
Performer:  Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (Clarinet), Silvia Roederer (Piano), Walter Verdehr (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Verdehr Trio
Written: 2006 
Length: 15 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Playground by Barry Conyngham
Performer:  Silvia Roederer (Piano), Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (Clarinet), Walter Verdehr (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Verdehr Trio
Written: 2002 
Length: 13 Minutes 58 Secs. 
rive by Douglas Knehans
Performer:  Walter Verdehr (Violin), Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (Clarinet), Silvia Roederer (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Verdehr Trio
Written: 2002; Bundanon Artists Cen 
Length: 12 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Miniatures (4) for Violin, Clarinet and Piano by Richard Mills
Performer:  Silvia Roederer (Piano), Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (Clarinet), Walter Verdehr (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Verdehr Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; Australia 
Length: 10 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Sonatina for Violin, Clarinet and Piano "Three Aspects of Spring" by Christopher J. Marshall
Performer:  Silvia Roederer (Piano), Walter Verdehr (Violin), Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Verdehr Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: New Zealand 
Length: 15 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: New Zealand (1995 - 1997).
Composition revised: New Zealand (2003). 

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