Clas­si­cal

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Vin­cent Plush

Songs of Home Bon­nie Brown and Louisa Breen Dwarf Mu­sic There’s a long tra­di­tion of Aus­tralian mu­sic for piano duo or duet. Think back to Frank Hutchens and Lind­ley Evans in the 1940s, to Larry Sit­sky and Don­ald Hol­lier in the 60s, Ian Farr and Nigel But­ter­ley, Michael Kieran Har­vey and Bernadette Har­vey-Balkus, and a few oth­ers. Usu­ally one of the pian­ists is a com­poser, so there’s a deal of reper­toire for this com­bi­na­tion. Two young Aus­tralian pian­ists, Bon­nie Brown and Louisa Breen, have taken to min­ing and ex­pand­ing that reper­toire, fruits of which are in this very at­trac­tive first al­bum. It’s in­evitable that our great­est com­poser-pi­anist should get a guernsey. Grainger’s Porgy and Bess Fan­tasy is one of those pieces that sweeps you away, and this per­for­mance almost sweeps the mem­ory of the fa­mous Labeque sis­ters record­ing over two decades ago. Full of verve and syn­co­pated sass, it’s saucy and de­li­cious and teases the pos­si­bil­ity of more Gersh­winGrainger in the fu­ture. The al­bum ends with a sur­pris­ing dis­cov­ery, the Toc­cata for Two (1973) by Miriam Hyde, long ne­glected and some­times un­justly dis­missed, but here re­stored to her right­ful place in the pi­anis­tic pan­theon. Along the way there are nine charm­ing minia­tures by Ross Ed­wards, two Bach Re-in­ven­tions from the ubiq­ui­tous Elena Kats-Ch­ernin, and a witty Stravin­skian makeover from Nigel West­lake. But the sell­ing point here is the open­ing work — Peter Sculthorpe’s last ma­jor work, com­pleted just be­fore his death in Au­gust 2014 and writ­ten especially for this duo. His Is­land Songs opens with a plain­tive didgeri­doo lament from Rus­sell Smith, then un­furl into fa­mil­iar Sculthorpe ter­ri­tory. Like many last tes­ta­ments, this work aches with world-weary calm and res­ig­na­tion, but th­ese two su­perla­tive mu­si­cians do not al­low Sculthorpe’s unique and last­ing vi­sion to be over­whelmed by sen­ti­ment.

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