April 29th2009

Review from July 2008

CD: Crotchet


Sean O'BOYLE (b. 1963) & William BARTON (b. 1981)
Concerto for Didgeridoo
(Earth; Wind; Water; Fire) (2003) [18:53]
Sean O'BOYLE (b. 1963)
(Storm Clouds Gather; Memory of the Sea; Riverflow to Angry Waters; Dolphin, Platypus and Fish Dart in the Shallows; A New Purpose; Memory of the Sea, Riverflow and River of Life; River, Cities and Pollution; Lament for the River and Triumphant Return to the Sea) (2000) [23:53]
William Barton (didgeridoo)
Jane Sheldon (soprano) (Child of the River)
Anna Fraser (soprano) (Mother of the River)
Willoughby Symphony Choir/Philip Chu
South Brisbane Federal Band/Edward Kennedy
The Queensland Orchestra/Sean O'Boyle
rec. 4-5 February 2003, Queensland Orchestra Studios, Ferry Road, 27 June 2007 Farmhouse, Brisbane (Concerto); 26-28 March 2002, Queensland Orchestra Studios, Ferry Road, 20 May 2007, Trackdown Scoring Stage, Sydney (Symphony)
world premiere recordings
ABC CLASSICS 476 6288 [42:58]


O’Boyle’s Concerto for Didgeridoo is a joint composition with soloist William Barton. It's in four movements each named after the traditional elements. Earth is tense with pent-up energy. The primeval ululating growl of the solo instrument is relieved by gleaming Hovhaness figuration from the violins. extract Wind seems to speak in mystical and fearsome numbers through the didgeridoo. It articulates a voice from the stone and from the sand. This time there is a slamming and hunting scherzo character to the music. extract Barton also speaks through the Didgeridoo – there are words in the sound of the instrument and this gives a supernatural and hair-raising effect. Water is a more contented essay with strings imparting gentle breath. There are light-imbued contributions from harp and woodwind. This is a necessary release after the grim intimations of the first two movements. extract Even so the didgeridoo adds its overlay of threat later in the movement. Fire, the finale, rushes, howls and roars, in a blasting bloodlust. Fast stabbing strings are there in ostinato and the didgeridoo croaks a savage and sometimes jazzy exultation. extract
Riversymphony is a work for massive forces: soloists, choir, thirty-strong brass band and orchestra. It is designed for outdoor performance - in this case along the banks of the Brisbane River. The Symphony symbolises the rivers of the world. It is in eight short movements across 24 minutes. The effect is lavishly romantic-heroic and broad, moving amid styles we recognise: Walton, Vaughan Williams, Rutter, George Lloyd, Mussorgsky, Debussy and Smetana. The film music of John Williams,  Howard Shore and John Barry is also referenced. Jane Sheldon who made such a hit with the Wild Swans music of Kats-Chernin here sings the honeyed role of Child of the River. The music has an inspired marine quality though the manner is often related to the better known composers mentioned above. The work ends is a heaving blaze of unashamed exultation with great surging waves of brass and rolling choral weight.

Extract Opening Storm clouds gather

Extract Dolphin, Platypus and Fish Dart in the Shallows

Extract Ending: Lament for the River and Triumphant Return to the Sea
This is music that is pleasingly wild and candidly indebted when it comes to the style palette. It was after all meant for major public celebration outdoors. The Concerto is a different and more substantial matter, speaking as if from Australia's far distant past. Pity about the very short playing time.
Rob Barnett


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