This is a rather unusual disc of two piano quartets by Australian composer Andrew Anderson. The quartets were composed within eight years of each other, and they look back firmly to the nineteenth century, but are quite different to each other.
The first, written in 2010 in the key of C minor, reminds me of the earlier part of the nineteenth century. Many composers spring to mind when listening to this work, but it is by no means derivative, and the composer's music is fresh and enjoyable to listen to. It starts with a slow piano introduction, followed by a livelier section in sonata form.
Listen — Andrew Anderson: Movement I (Piano Quartet No 1)
(track 1, 7:30-8:16) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :
The second movement is slower, contrapuntal in style and somewhat restless. The main subject introduced by the piano is chromatic, intensifying the feeling of unease. Muted strings then come in. The style here is more akin to the later Romantic. This is a rather wistful lament, but with a faster mid-section providing lyrical contrast.
The third movement is a scherzo, lightening the mood considerably, with its bright, breezy theme and the interplay between piano and strings. This gives way to a tranquil, tender mid-section, before the opening playfulness returns.
Listen — Andrew Anderson: Movement III (Piano Quartet No 1)
(track 3, 5:10-6:07) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :
The last movement, probably the work's most complex, begins as the first movement, with the same piano opening and theme, which returns from time to time. This is thoroughly engaging music, and even though it could have easily been written in the nineteenth century, the composer's skill in being able to write a good melody and his dexterity in writing for this combination yields an excellent and enjoyable work. The rather long coda is contrapuntal and exciting, and the opening theme appears as a counter-melody.
The second quartet, quite different, is in two rather long movements, and the style seems much later, possibly even early twentieth century. This is a more adventurous work, and whilst melodic lines do occur regularly, I feel that texture and harmonic movements are probably of more importance. There is nothing in this music that would alienate most listeners - it is just very different to the first quartet.
I think this particular work is most effectively listened to in absolute silence. There are many beautiful and contemplative moments. The first 'Part' is more reflective than the second, and the writing style is quite unique, with luscious melodies growing out of more textural elements. In the second half of Part I, the character changes, becomes briefly lighter and almost reminiscent of Ravel or Debussy.
Listen — Andrew Anderson: Part I (Piano Quartet No 2)
(track 5, 7:10-8:10) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :
Part II is much longer and contains a great deal more contrast - at times still and tranquil, and at others, exciting and dramatic. It begins slowly and eerily, but as this section develops, the sun shines through. It then goes through quite a number of changes of pace and mood before ending with a flourish. There are strong elements here, reminding me again of French impressionism. Overall, this is quite a masterful work which certainly grows on the listener.
Listen — Andrew Anderson: Part II (Piano Quartet No 2)
(track 6, 7:34-8:33) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :
When I started listening to this disc, I was prepared to dismiss it as just music that was too backward-looking, and generally I do like contemporary music which is a bit different to what I have heard before. I soon changed my mind, though, and I believe that this composer has a special talent, writing music which is compelling and unique. This is reinforced by the quality of the Australia Piano Quartet's performances, which are committed and of a very high quality. I have seldom had such pleasure as in listening to these new works, and I hope that this composer is recognised widely. His music is very accessible and never trite. This is a must listen to CD!
Copyright © 16 August 2019