Sculthorpe

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Sculthorpe
LABELS: ABC
WORKS: Complete works for solo piano
PERFORMER: Tamara-Anna Cislowska (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ABC 481 1181

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This set was not intended as a memorial to Peter Sculthorpe, who died in August 2014, but it is a fitting and transfixing celebration of Australia’s foremost composer. The two discs present Sculthorpe’s music in chronological order. Although there could have been stronger openings than the youthful Falling Leaves and Nocturne, they are attractive works and underline the extent of Sculthorpe’s explorations. While the colours change, it barely registers whether the music is post-Debussyan impressionism, serial, experimental or has the resonant directness of Arvo Pärt and Howard Skempton. Sculthorpe’s musical voice and sense of his own land and its cultures is always beguilingly to the fore.

The three semi-improvised pieces with tape, Landscape and Koto Music I & II, are particularly beautiful in Tamara-Anne Cislowska’s sensitive performances, and Djilile is mesmerising. Not that Sculthorpe’s music is all dreamy evocation. Pieces such as Mountains and Simori are forceful, violent even. The latter is especially disturbing after the stylistically disjunct Rose Bay Quadrilles, four fairly unprogressive pieces written in 1885 by composer William Stanley, presented here in Sculthorpe’s own performing edition.

Many of the early pieces are first recordings, including the Piano Sonata from 1963. It’s also the first appearance of his final piano work, the 25-minute Riverina. It would be hard to find a more committed or convincing advocate than Cislowska.

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Christopher Dingle