The Score: After The Rapture

The CD: Autumn Rhapsody

Review by Rite Crews

Published in The Studio
The Music Teachers' Association of New South Wales Limited


Since its birth in 1990 the West Australian publisher The Keys Press, has provided a medium for the publication of works by Australian composers that might otherwise be neglected. Composers including Michael Hannan, Betty Beath, Caroline Szeto, Ann Ghandar, Wendy Hiscocks, Miriam Hyde, Peter Maddox, Dawn Nettheim, Larry Sitsky and Tim Dargaville are a few of those who have availed themselves of this service. In particular, The Keys Press was responsible for the recent re-publication of all Roy Agnew's piano works thus bringing this giant of Australian composers back to life.

Now this latest publication, After the Rapture, is a collection of charming, accessible solo piano works by Australian composer Geoffrey Alien. Inspired by and dedicated to Marjorie Beer, sister of the late Roy Agnew, the dignified romantic mood and style of these works perfectly matches the personality of the dedicatee - calm, engaging, and'..a warm and friendly lady...' The four works that comprise the collection make a cohesive unit and their interesting rhythms and modern harmonic resources will appeal to both teachers and students looking for something a little different encased in a romantic style.

With a tonal centre of D and anchored by pedals and ostinato patterns the first work, Prelude:Clear Blue Skies uses some interesting cross-rhythms within its cantabile style. The second work. An Autumn Rhapsody, with its changing times signatures and syncopation is somewhat reminiscent of the compositional style of Agnew himself; A Walking Tune is a clear example of thematic unity, the'walking' motif returning throughout its three-part texture; whilst the sustained lines, chromatic colouring and calm, ethereal mood of the last work, After the Rapture, is a fitting conclusion to this collection, described by the composer as: "music for Autumn, and for the autumn years..", a reference to the ages of both himself and the late Marjorie Beer. In keeping with this philosophy, it is interesting to note that the tempo of each item progresses from Allegro non troppo in the first work, gradually becoming much slower by the last.

In tandem with the publication of this collection, and in tribute to Geoffrey Alien's 75th birthday, JADE have released the works on the CD entitled Autumn Rhapsody where they are performed by pianists Joy Lee and Edward Neeman. The disc also contains several other items including five movements from Alien's woodwind trio work Diversions for oboe, bassoon and clarinet, played by Jay Harrison, Jill Mowson and Jack Harrison respectively. The jaunty rhythms and contrasting styles of these little pieces would be greatly enjoyed by wind players whilst the various motifs perfectly suit the instruments concerned in the 'conversations' that take place between them.

More of the gentle colours of autumn prevail in Robert Allworth's five piano preludes -An Autumn Reverie - originally composed in 1972 and revised in 1990,.This is the first time they have been released as a set. Described by the composer as 'colour preludes' and entitled respectively, Mosaics, Yellow, Gold, Grey and Green the unusual harmonies in these works conjure up a vision of a season that whilst it can be gentle, can also be unpredictable.

Always a favourite, Eric Gross's 1996 Pensive Prelude also appears on the disc. This gentle, undulating music from one of Australia's foremost composers is always a delight to listen to and to play.

The last item on the disc is Part 3 of Derek Strahan's powerful piano tone-poem, Atlantis variations for Solo Piano. This is a fascinating work that seeks to trace and represent by musical means,'the cataclysm that is thought to have terminated the Quaternary Age and is referred to in the mythologies of many cultures as the Flood".. Not for the faint-hearted, a solid and robust piano technique is required to successfully perform this stunning work.

I particularly like the visual effect of these two items - score and disc - sharing as they do, the cover illustration of tree branches of golden autumn colors. After the Rapture has a RRP of $17 (Australian) and is available from the publisher:
The Keys Press, 66 Clotilde St, Mt Lawley, WA 6O50, Australia;

The JADE CD Autumn Rhapsody JADCD1096 available from the Australian Music Centre and good record stores. Both should be added to your library.


Autumn Rhapsody JADCD1096 is also available at this site. Click on the title for more information.