PRESS COMMENT ON DEREK STRAHAN
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On String Quartet No. 1 (The Key) and Clarinet Quintet No. 1 in D (The Princess)
"Mr. Strahan as a composer is an unashamed romantic who is not afraid to write melodically. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, with so many composers, conductors and others speaking of a return to romanticism."
- Glen Menzies, Sydney Morning Herald, 21/9/81
"The Key' is a sort of musical pun on key signatures, but the genesis of the music lies in a traumatic love affair Strahan was going through when he wrote it. The core of the work is the extraordinarily beautiful slow movement, the entire theme of which, says Strahan, came to him one morning walking along Avalon Beach. It harks back to the late romanticism of Wagner, Bruckner and particularly Mahler, but it has an individuality that is quite clearly original ...The Clarinet Quintet ... as befits the Beethoven allusion in its title (is) more formal, with elements of jazz incorporated in it in the manner of Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto. Both works are played and recorded beautifully ..."
- Laurie Strachan, The Australian, 17/6/81
"Here are two works by a contemporary Australian composer that are enjoyable to listen to and, particularly in the slow movement of the string quartet, also have considerable beauty.
Both works are well worth hearing: the string quartet is the more serious in tone, while the lighter clarinet quintet (in which Canberra musician Alan Vivian is the soloist) is very entertaining. The young musicians whom Strahan engaged to record his music give committed and highly polished performances."
- W.L.Hoffman, The Canberra Times, 29/11/87
On 'Rose Of The Bay', a cycle of 9 songs about Sydney
- A Prediction from the Press ... a labyrinth of ideas which evoke a clash of idiom from romanticism to jazz to atonalism to pastiche. There are quotations from Beethoven's 'Eroica' and 'Yes, we have no bananas'.
There was also an enormous amount of musical skill when contralto Lauris Elms, who commissioned the work, gave its premier with clarinettist Deborah de Graaff and pianist David Miller. With so much labour, the work may well find its way onto a record.
- Fred Blanks, Sydney Morning Herald, at the premiere of the work at the Sydney Opera House, November 27th, 1987
- CD release This is the first of Strahan's music that I have heard. Two points leap to mind immediately. The first is the honesty with which the composer presents his material. There is an openly confessed affinity with traditional jazz idioms and compound chromatic harmony. The second point is the total assuredness that the composer had with his material... The performance from Elms, Miller and de Graaff is very good. A keen sense of ensemble is present from beginning to end. A highlight in the performance is clever parody of Yes, we have no bananas ... It is a joy to hear the great voice of Lauris Elms applying itself to an Australian work.
- Phillip Nunn, Sounds Australian, Summer 1990
On 'Voodoo Fire' Trio for Clarinet, Percussion & Keyboards (Piano & Synthesiser)
Lecturers from the Canberra School of Music, Alan Vivian, clarinet, Susanne Powell, piano and Michael Askill, percussion, were the performers in 'Australian Voodoo' a concert of mostly contemporary Australian music ... It is heartening to note that the School of Music has joined Vivian in commissioning Derek Strahan for a new work for clarinet, piano keyboards and percussion, entitled 'Voodoo Fire'. This was given its premiere on Sunday, accompanied by a cheerful explanation from the composer that he had long been drawn to the idea of combining Western melody and harmony with African rhythm. Many contemporary composers of popular and jazz music are also fond of this idea, so it came as no surprise that, although there were some distinctly 'classical' sounds, the piece had a primarily jazzy feel - especially when keyboardist Powell punched out a boppy bass line on the DX7, with Askill speedy on the bongos and Vivian trilling high on his clarinet ...
- Margaret Legge-Wilkinson, The Canberra Times, Wednesday 24 April 1966, at the premiere of the work at the Canberra School of Music. The live recording of this performance has been released on a Jade CD "Voodoo Fire" JADCD 1063.
Extracts from article in 2MBS-FM Program Guide, January 1996. (2MBS is the major local broadcaster of fine music in Sydney, Australia, and has its equivalent in other capital cities, rivalling the national broadcaster (ABC) in quality output.)
If you want to give a newcomer to Australia an excellent overview of the range of music that's been composed here over the past 20 years or so, all you'd need to do would be to play them some of the 40 Jade CDs produced by the Sydney composer Robert Allworth. (Ed. Jade CDs now number 55, as at July 1997) No other label has produced the extraordinary quantity, quality and range of Australian music as Jade. The music released on this label spans the work of many generations of Australian composers ... Acclaimed by fellow-composers and teachers, Robert Allworth's pioneering Jade CD enterprise has been described as a 'miracle', a 'unique project' which has championed Australian music, especially the work of women composers. He's also acknowledged for championing the music of little-known or experimental composers. Allworth has been described as a 'visionary' and is widely regarded among his peers for his outstanding contribution to Australian music ...
On Allworth's own work as composer: Allworth has been mainly influenced by the Romantics, Impressionist composers and serialism. "I very much like Webern the Viennese School and Stravinski and I'm particularly interested in the twelve note system,' he adds. He also feels he's been subtly influenced by some Asian music. His inspirations have come from literature, memory and especially theology and spirituality.
"... The next offering was by Australian composer Robert Allworth and was an absolute aural treat. Lush and ravishing sonorities abounded in the slowly moving musical landscape of its two movements - melodies of diverse natures slowly unfolded. Cooman's loving interpretation brought out subtle nuances in the presentations of melodic and harmonic ideas that appeared and reappeared. A highly effective work leading to lucious polytonal climax. This is an excellent work by a talented composer. I look forward to hearing more of his work..." - Hal Mondrian, New Musica New York USA
EXCERPTS FROM OTHER REVIEWS:
From one reviewer, "Exquisite doesn't even begin to describe the offering from Australian composer Robert Allworth. With its shimmering beauty, and slow-moving harmonies, it was truly a work beautful beyond words."
And another, "The performance of a number of pieces by Robert Allworth, a composer from Australia, who I had never heard of before, but has written extensively for the organ in the past were tremendous. Messiaen is called to mind with the almost mystical gorgeousness of the very slowly changing sonorites but the harmonic language is certainly not Messiaen's and seems quite personal and direct."
MORE US REVIEWS ARE ON THE WAY. REVISIT FOR UPDATES
In this release, as a tribute to the late Dulcie Holland, a number of the composer's friends have been brought together: Ann Carr-Boyd, Eric Gross, lan Shanahan, Lawrence Bartlett, Colin Brumby, Derek Strahan as well as the disc's producer, Robert Allworth, in a collection of Australian music that would find a home anywhere in the world.
The haunting beauty of the elegiac Farewell my Friend, played by Sally Mays, is an apt commencement to the disc which principally focuses on piano works. This first-named work by Dulcie Holland Is followed by her lilting 1995 Autumn Pastorale and the dignified 1947 work, Nocturne both performed by the composer and demonstrating her intimate knowledge of piano timbre and range.
Dedicated to Dulcie Holland, Sally Mays performs Allworth's Reverie 2000, a tone poem depicting the beauty of Sydney Harbour and written especially for the performer. A visual image of rippling water and starlight permeates the music within Allworth's gentle compositional style.
Three of Ann Carr-Boyd's works from her 'Look at the Stars Suite' - Sombrero Nebula, Spiral Galaxy and Pluto - are performed by the composer, whilst Sally Mays performs the piano version of Carr-Boyd's Millennium Rag written in 2000 as a commission for Cranbrook School Guitar Orchestra. The lilting rhythms of the first three works contrast with the Joplin-like jazz feel of the Rag, itself internally contrasted in style.
One of Australia's most "adaptable" composers, Eric Gross, is represented on this disc by the Sydney Mandolins performing Tanghetto and Polka, the last two movements of his Suite No. 2 for Plectrum Orchestra. Contrasted in style, these two dances come alive in rollicking performance by the Mandolins. Gross's Klavierstuck V, dedicated to Dulcie Holland and played by Sally Mays, is an apt example of the independent compositional style of this prolific composer. Ian Shanahan, that master of the recorder, is represented by the short alto-recorder work, Dysfunctional Habanera written in 1990, here re-released and dedicated to Holland .
Written especially for a wedding, Leanne Sullivan, accompanied by the composer on piano, performs Lawrence Bartlett's hauntingly beautiful trumpet work, Serenade for Tomorrow.
Anzaas - Fanfare written by Colin Brumby for the Anzaas Conference held in Brisbane in 1980, is here performed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Evoking a "call to arms" the work is written in a full-bodied stirring fanfare style.
The disc concludes with Derek Strahan's Suite No. 5, entitled The Australian Ark, the background music to the 1970s television documentary series 'Shell's Australia'. Blues, jazz and classical styles sit needy next to each other through the seven sections of the work whilst various instrumental combinations superbly depict the scenes of rainforest, desert and country depicted in the music. As we have come to expect with Jade CDs, the sound is of high quality and the liner notes adequate. This superb disc ... will stand as a lasting tribute to a great Australian composer.
Reproduced with permission from The Studio, Vol. 7, No. 1, February, 2001, the magazine of the Music Teachers' Association of NSW.
The Studio - Quarterly Magazine of the Music teachers' Association of New South Wales.
The high standard we have come to expect from CDs produced by Robert Allworth is again evident in his latest release entitled American Dream: Music of American and Australian Composers. Containing 14 works, eight written in the last two years, a variety of musical genre and ensemble combinations feature in a collection of music that delights the ear.
The title track, 'American Dream' by Ann Carr-Boyd, written whilst the composer was in the United States and inspired by a rally to commemorate Martin Luther King Day, is in the manner of a tone poem for flute and harpsichord. The poignant yet impassioned flute writing - representing the various preachers - serves as a perfect foil to the underlying voice of the harpsichord, representing the congregation. Listen intently for the speaker!
The second work on the disc, this time for flute and piano, is Derek Strahan's cantata, 'Et in Arcadia Ego' from his 1990 chamber work 'Atlantis'. Previously released on the JADE label, nevertheless, it is always refreshing to hear the luscious tones of this composer's writing.
Robert Allworth's own organ works, miniature tone poems representing the life of Oscar Wilde entitled 'A Dream of Decadence' and 'Decay of Lying' were both written in 2000 and are dedicated to the American organist, Carson P. Cooman who premiered the works at Harvard University. Having heard Allworth's earlier works and been captivated with the composer's original writing style, Cooman subsequently requested a substantial organ work, hence the tracks appearing here. Cooman as composer also features on the disc with 'Romanza' (2000) for organ, dedicated to the memory of Dulcie Holland. The ethereal layers of sound, the almost hypnotic mood of the underlying pedal notes gives a quiet dignity, to this reflective work.
Ever the practical composer, Eric Gross has written many works especially for the Sydney Mandolins - one of the few composers writing for such an ensemble- and a trio of works feature on this disc. 'Concertino for Button Accordion (Bayan) and Plectrum Ensemble' (2000) replaces what was the original organ part of this work originally entitled 'And the Sun danced on Easter Morn,' with plectrum ensemble; 'Essay for Mandolin and Wind Quintet' (1996) and 'Michael Meanders Again' (1999) complete the trio. The Quinterlude Wind Quintet which perform these works feature later on the disc with the 1997 work by Robert Allworth, 'Study in Grey'.
Solo recorder works by Betty Beath. 'Night Song No. I' for bass recorder and 'Night Song No. 2' for alto recorder written in 2000 are both performed by Barnaby Ralph. The languid, nocturnal mood of No. 1 is brilliantly captured by the performer, as is the yearning quality of the contrasting alto work. 'Solar Dust: Orbits and Spirals' for mandolin written by Ian Shanahan and performed by Michael Hooper, features the composer's distinctive style and focuses on the pitch B and its microtones.
Mary Mageau as both composer and performer features in this re-release of her 1984 work, 'Soliloquy' written for the QUT Dance Department and choreographed by Maggie Sietsma. The work's dreamy character and flowing mood are perfectly suited to the chosen piano idiom. The concluding track, featuring the lush tones of Lawrence Bartlett's 1988 organ work, 'Procession for Elisabeth' - written on the occasion of his daughter's wedding and played by the composer - makes a stately end to this disc.
Released on the JADE label as CD1090, American Dream is produced by Robert Allworth and distributed by Broad Music 02-9938 344O.
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