I couldn’t start this playlist without an opening, luckily Harry Sdraulig’s Entertainment because Lyrebird Brass has me covered. The work is a soft, energetic number that constantly moves and advances and plays expertly with layer and texture to keep the ear engaged. This leads directly to Insomnia by Emma Greenhill, and the opening trumpet motif is so remarkably effective that it sticks in my head even after a month. It’s the perfect opening to launch this piece that goes from high octane to melancholy and back again. A wonderful centerpiece that shows the full expressive range of James Blackford and Matthew Collins.
We have a number of works featuring the French horn, starting with that of Maria Grenfell Prelude, Fugue and Foxtrot. I’m really impressed with the space Grenfell gives horn player Kristy Morrell to play – it really allows her to sing those distinctive horn melodies. Climbing the Bakery Hill by Vincent Plush takes a rather different approach to exploring the long vocalise-like horn lines. This work, either for solo horn and pre-recorded sound, or for nine live French horns, builds all of its texture and acoustics from horn pedals or slowly unfolding phrases. Leading to a water-like sensation of disturbances, ripples and then calm.
Finally, we have out of the woods for violin, horn and piano by composer and horn player Catherine Likhuta, a long work that starts off with incredible zest but is unafraid to explore space and silence. Likhuta is a master of color, effortlessly blurring lines of violin and horn to create intricate and effective textures and transitions. An exciting journey that must be heard throughout.
It’s also exciting to hear some examples of less common brass instruments, including the cornet in Ann Carr-Boyd’s Balmoral Beach Cloth, a hopping ragtime work showcasing the distinctive tone of the instruments. Alice Humphries spotlights Callum G’Froerer’s double bell trumpet in her work Patience, using mutes to improve effect and timbre possibilities. The solo work of Christopher Gordon, look away, features the very rare ophicleide, a 19th-century keyed tuba-like instrument that projects sonically and moves faster than expected.
Brendan Collins’ Mischievous Concerto for two trumpets highlights the agility of the instrument in a sort of sparring match of repeated notes and running phrases. Another often overlooked characteristic is the rich color of the trumpet’s low register which is also well explored in the middle section of this finale. Presto movement. As it should be, we complete the playlist with Nadje Noordhuis’ The end, a laid back jazz tune featuring the composer leading the band on trumpet. Noordhui takes off with a beautiful timbre supported by a skilful arrangement full of rich details to discover.
I hope you enjoyed a range of pieces and composers this month, I always love having an excuse to dive into the repertoire and find works or recordings I didn’t know existed before. As mentioned earlier, if you enjoyed any of the Aussie Art Music playlists this month, be sure to see if there are any gigs to attend or albums to buy – I know musicians would appreciate really your support.
But, if you’re looking for more music to stream, the full Australian Artistic Music Archive has also been updated on Spotify (now with over 100 hours of music to discover!