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Four Hands - Australian Music for Piano
Ross EDWARDS (b.1943)
A Flight of Sunbirds: Nine Bagatelles for piano duet (2001) [9:02]
Carl VINE (b.1954)
Sonata for Piano Four-Hands (2009) [22:54]
Peter SCULTHORPE (1919-2014)
Four Little Pieces for Piano Duet (1979) [8:40]
Stuart GREENBAUM (b.1966)
Sonata for Piano Four-Hands (2013) [20:38]
Elena KATS-CHERNIN (b.1957)
Victor's Heart (2008) [7:10]
Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo
rec. 2015, Conservatorium Theatre, Southbank, Brisbane.
ABC CLASSICS 4814592 [68:37]

It's satisfying to have a collection of today's music from today's Australian composers. OK, you might argue about my use of the word "today" when the earliest piece here is Sculthorpe's from 1979. In fact, the scores date from a range between 1979 and 2013.

The programme for one piano, four hands casts its net among some fairly familiar names. All these composers are living except Sculthorpe who died three years ago. Edwards' A Flight of Sunbirds: Nine Bagatelles is limpid, melodic, playful and rootedly tonal. He is even prepared to do a perilous dance with sentimentality. The final Vivace blows any cobwebs to shreds and tatters. Carl Vine's 23-minute Sonata rocks the floors and assaults the rafters like an amalgam of Malcolm Williamson and Olivier Messiaen. He also quickly changes pace to thoughtful and then syncopated liveliness in the manner of that other master Australian composer of an earlier generation, Arthur Benjamin. A cheeky final Toccata with harmonic crunches, crazes and shatters echoes the first of the sonata's five movements. When Vine kicks in the stained glass windows he reminds me of Williamson's Third Piano Concerto.

Sculthorpe's Four Little Pieces are softer fare - very much in the road followed by Ross Edwards. Stuart Greenbaum's Sonata speaks in a pulsating liquid flow with a measure of repetition of note-cells. It's caught between Edwards and Vine with a stronger leaning towards the accessible Edwards. Kats-Chernin's Victor's Heart was a family commission in memory of Victor Eutick who lost his life in rescuing a friend from drowning. Victor's Heart is muscular and dignified. It accelerates to a plateau occupied by an insistent motif; such persistence is one of this composer's welcome hallmarks. Her ABC piano music set was reviewed here.

The liner-notes cut the cake two ways. There's a far from perfunctory overview by the two pianists and notes on each piece by the respective composers.

A strongly recorded collection, well projected and advocated by the Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo and more than competently documented.

Rob Barnett



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