The Studio

It always gives me much pleasure to review works by talented Australian composers and performers and this disc is no exception. Five composers feature on this recording of contemporary piano music, superbly interpreted by pianist Trevor Barnard who plays with feeling, sensitivity and enormous conviction.

The title takes its inspiration from “Blue Wrens at Amberley”, the third of Geoffrey Allen’s Three Piano Pieces written in 1993/4 and premiered by Trevor Barnard in 1999. This collection of delightful works shows English and French stylistic influences with strong climactic areas, while a hint of well-known national songs features in the second work, “D’Alliance français”. Allen’s Piano Sonata No. 4 also features on this recording. A one-movement work, at times its long flowing lines display somewhat Spanish overtones, suggested by guitar-type figuration, staccato areas and parallel thirds which help to enunciate its character. As a composer, Allen has found his major influence in the work of British composers, particular Delius; as a publisher, he has done much to bring to the notice of the public and teachers alike the works of past and present Australian composers writing in a variety of genre.

Dating from the early part of 1951 [and published posthumously in 1969] the dramatic three movements of Dorian Le Gallienne’s Piano Sonata are a powerful monument to the inspired genius of this most original composer. Unblemished playing makes for passionate climaxes and an invigorating sense of drama and controlled tension, elements that make this work and its interpretation a truly exciting event.

Dedicated to Trevor Barnard, Felix Werder’s contribution, Monograph, was written especially for this recording and is the newest of the works on the disc. Within a discernible dance-like character, a subtle, virtuosic element is evident in this eloquent, three-movement work.

Composer Michael Bertram is represented by two works, the early Sonatina and the 1984 collection, Five Pieces for Piano. The eerie sparseness of the Sonatina’s first movement is in direct contrast to the textural richness and bell-like sounds of the aleatoric middle movement, – so well defined by Barnard – while the short, final movement turns back to the ideas of the original opening. Five Pieces represents a variety of moods and emotions: the sense of calm naivety found in “Rumelia” and “Ingenu” contrasts with the energetic, swirling cascade of “Kinetic” while the bold explosions of “Violet” preface the independent meanderings of “Iconoclast”.

Tim Dargaville is represented by his solemn 1997 work Night Song, which has an extra-musical association with the Ned Kelly story. Low bass notes, sparse texture and ostinato-like figures give a certain hypnotic calmness to the work, the whole superbly defined by Trevor Barnard.

Teachers and students alike will enjoy this splendid recording whilst teachers will find these works a most worthy addition to their studio teaching material. Recorded on the Divine Art label, CD 25017, the recording is available at good record stores. Apart from Le Gallienne’s Sonata, which is an Allan’s publication, the scores are published by, and available from, The Keys Press.

—Rita Crews