Clas­si­cal

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

A Race Against Time Fred­er­ick Sep­ti­mus Kelly ABC Clas­sics One of the most in­trigu­ing re­cent res­ur­rec­tions has been the emer­gence of a vir­tu­ally un­known Aus­tralian com­poser, Fred­er­ick Sep­ti­mus Kelly (1881-1916). The sev­enth child in a wealthy Syd­ney fam­ily, Kelly was a vir­tu­oso pi­anist, Ox­ford ed­u­cated, an Olympic oars­man, Gal­lipoli sur­vivor but fa­tally shot at the Somme, aged 35. Since the Na­tional Li­brary ac­quired Kelly’s di­aries in 1979 there has been a fris­son of in­ter­est in his mu­sic. Most pieces here are short songs or vi­o­lin and pi­ano pieces; sev­eral are re­con­struc­tions that hint at the mu­sic that might have been. The best known, per­haps the only known piece, is El­egy, a pro­foundly mov­ing string me­mo­rial to the poet Ru­pert Brooke. The heart-rend­ing per­for­mance here by the Tas­ma­nian Sym­phony sug­gests Kelly’s nine­minute lament is pos­si­bly su­pe­rior to the famed Vaughan Wil­liams Tallis Fan­ta­sia (1910). Over­all, de­spite the procla­ma­tions of the apol­o­gists, the other reper­toire in this an­thol­ogy can hardly be re­garded as great mu­sic. There are glim­mers of great­ness, surely, but few and far be­tween. The songs owe much too much to Hugo Wolf, the vi­o­lin mu­sic emerges as boiled-over Brahms and the pi­ano mu­sic dashes be­tween the Ger­man ro­man­tics and Scri­abin. Had he lived, Kelly would doubt­less have re­turned to re­view his manuscripts. As they stand, some ju­di­cious edit­ing would have been help­ful. Tonu Tubli’s de­monic drum­ming and along­side rapid-fire in­can­ta­tions said to ward off lupine at­tacks. A song about bears ( Momm) fea­tur­ing ur­sine-strength male scat­ting ends with a Led Zep-proof rock riff. In a wild open­ing salvo ( Talgo), based on a tra­di­tional runo song, twangy Jew’s harp com­bines with whis­tles and vo­cals to set the al­bum’s high-oc­tane tone. Even a spell­bind­ing lul­laby, Unelaul, switches hits over­drive mid­way. A power-packed polka ( Nu­ud­is­polka) and an ex­press-paced re­la­tion­ships song ( Ka­bala) echo Celtic punk bands Drop­kick Mur­phys and Flog­ging Molly. Sade stands in stark con­trast: an ex­quis­ite dream­scape that floats like an Ir­ish air. Trad.At­tack! has per­formed its edgy, ut­terly en­gross­ing mu­sic in 30 coun­tries in just three years, from Chile to South Korea. Aus­tralia is re­port­edly on its agenda.

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