An Essay on Love Ananda Sukarlan anandasukarlancenter.com
Ask any Australian about music in Indonesia and the answer will rarely get beyond the gamelan. Apart from that rich lineage of traditional music and the increasing prevalence of more commercial popular idioms, there is a strong tradition now in Indonesia of classical music inspired by Western heritage. In this context, the musician leading the international export of Indonesian music would have to be 47-year-old Ananda Sukarlan, pianist, conductor, composer and purveyor of competitions and events. An Essay on Love contains 12 short songs to texts by Indonesian poets, sung in Bahasa by impressive tenor and soprano voices. Some are dedications to victims of earthquakes, tsunamis and AIDS, and show glimmers of Javanese scales and full-blown Italian opera. Like many Indonesian composers, Sukarlan is an unabashed melodist; one of his duets sounds as beautiful as anything by Monteverdi. Sukarlan also has a deft ear for instrumental colour, shown in the 21-minute Chamber Symphony No 1 (2010) for 10 instruments, commissioned by former Indonesian president BJ Habibie in memory of his wife. (A recording of Sukarlan’s second chamber symphony, premiered earlier this month, will be released next month.) At times, as the listener nestles into the familiar world of Hollywood-inspired film music, an impish gesture interrupts, revealing the Jakarta origins of the composer and his many influences from Italian opera, Sondheim musicals, Milhaud neoclassicism and traditional Javanese scales and dance forms. As composer, pianist, conductor and proselytiser, Sukarlan would be a welcome guest at any arts festival here and a highly effective builder of artistic bridges between Indonesia and Australia. This album provides an impressive introduction to an internationally significant composer and his music.