White Ghost Dancing
Australian Composer Series
Reviewed by Neville Cohn
Ross Edwards: White Ghost Dancing; Veni Creator Spiritus; Concerto for guitar and strings (Karin Schaupp (guitar); Mountain Village in a Clearing Mist; Chorale and Ecstatic Dance (Enyato 1)
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Richard Mills (conductor)
ABC Classics 476 227-0
More than any other composer now working in Australia, Ross Edwards’ creative style is so strikingly original that any work of his requires little more than a few seconds’ listening to be identified as written by him.
In yet another in ABC Classics’ excellent series devoted to the music of Australian composers, this compilation is a cornucopia of some of Edwards’ most appealing works.
Much of Edwards’ music has a marked danceable quality, richly apparent in White Ghost Dancing. As Edwards has himself said, this work incorporates ideas sparked by encounters with the natural world. Scattered through the piece are discreet snatches of what might be bird song or the sounds one associates with insects, sonic images to which woodwind, brass and strings respond in impressive ways, not least oboe, bassoon, bass clarinet and trumpet which contribute to a fascinating sound picture.
This pulsing score that borders on the ecstatic has about it a danceable quality that cries out for choreographic treatment.
The opening Puro e tranquillo movement of Veni Creator, which is irresistibly suggestive of Arvo Part’s Fratres, is an engrossing study in reverential stillness.
Ritmico, the second movement, is very much cheerier, optimistic material which, like White Ghost Dancing, sounds tailor-made for the dance. Its drawn-out, solemn Amen is a perfectly gauged concluding moment.
Another delight is the Guitar Concerto, the perky, insouciant solo line in the opening First Maninya splendidly presented by soloist Karen Schaupp.
In the so-called Arafura Arioso (which equates to the slow movement), strings provide a quiet sonic backdrop against which Schaupp’s solo line stands out in clear relief. The sound engineers have captured this beautifully. And in the delightful Second Maninya finale, soloist and orchestra do wonders as they come to grips with Edwards’ trademark rhythmic requirements; there’s an excellent sense of onward momentum here. The ending is curiously abrupt.
Mountain Village in a Clearing Mist is a cornucopia of gentle musical delights. There is about the work a sense of repose, a tranquillity that is enhanced by some first rate clarinet playing. Episodes are most effectively framed by silences.
In the opening movement of Chorale and Ecstatic Dance, Edwards employs a rich harmonic language. This is deeply affecting, prayerful music, the notes of which are clothed in glorious tone. And the intricate rhythms of the Dance that immediately follows are a perfect foil to what had gone before.
This recording has the stamp of distinction.
Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn