CD Review: Eve Duncan | Elephanstasy

by | Jun 29, 2021 | Ambassador thoughts, CD/Recording, Composer

The majority of the tracks in this recently released CD by Melbourne composer Eve Duncan are the result of an ABC concert recording at the Salon of the Melbourne Recital Centre in 2016 completely dedicated to the music of Duncan and gives a wonderful and broad insight into the creative thinking of a major musical voice from our southern capital. Orchestral scores, some with piano soloist and others with voice, allow Duncan to paint with broad colourful strokes whilst in the smaller scale works we hear a composer who seems to enjoy polishing small motifs and making them sparkle.

Soloist Michael Kieran Harvey (MKH) is a magnificent champion in the piano concerto Sydney Opera House weaving mercurial lines throughout the at times seemingly congested textures.

Justine Anderson, Jerzy Koslowski, Deborah Kayser and Don Walker all shine as soloists in six movements from the opera The Aspern Papers. To a concise libretto by David Malouf Duncan creates an elaborate musical argument that attracts attention.

Two little gems of composition are given delightfully charming performances by pianist MKH and Tristram Williams. The solo piano work From a Star Afar is less than 2 minutes but it’s brevity is just spot on. And in the miniature for trumpet and piano, originally written for the Sydney trumpet virtuoso Paul Goodchild, Deep in Summer, Williams and MKH show why they are such esteemed performers bringing forth all the colours and nuances implied in the score.

Special mention must go to the orchestral players in the concerto and opera under the fine direction of Timothy Phillips. There are so many fine moments to savour from these excellent musicians.

The whimsical trio Aer Turas (Air Journey) is played with appropriate light-hearted flair by the renowned Sirius Chamber Ensemble from Sydney.

This attractively presented CD is a joy to behold and is an important document for those who collect single composer recordings.

A little aside from me on first hearing the music of Eve Duncan:
In early 2013 whilst in Victoria I was given a CD of music by Eve Duncan and was surprised that I had not heard of her before as the music showed a strongly distinctive and intelligent voice. Subsequently I approached her and asked if I could program a couple of her works in concerts in Sydney. At the performance at Watters Gallery I introduced her works by saying that the tyranny of distance does not just exist as a concept between Australia and other parts of the world, and in particular ‘the old world’, but between various parts of Australia. Indeed, from London to Paris is only 470 km, Paris to Amsterdam is 515 km, Vienna to Budapest is only 242 km, Vienna to Berlin 681 km and Zagreb to Vienna 372 km and so on whilst Sydney to Melbourne is 890 km. And until recently composers in these European centres have, like their colleagues in the far-flung cities of Australia, not been able to easily access the music of other composers in places that seem to us not too distant. Several decades ago, distance, from an interactive cultural perspective, was truly tyrannical. Thankfully now we can access music from just about anywhere in the world as soon as it is ‘made’. And we can buy CDs online with just a few moments of effort. O distance, where is your tyranny now?

Eve Duncan’s Elephantasy is available on MOVE records here  

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