Through a Glass Darkly

13/09/2008
Peter McCallum
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

This disc contains some of the strongest chamber music written in this country (I was going to add in recent years but that seems unnecessary).

Roger Smalley's Piano Quintet, played by the composer with the Australian String Quartet, is large scale in its expressive scope and range of stylistic references. Its central preoccupation is a fragment from Chopin's Mazurka In F minor, to which it returns as though Smalley had the whole of the richness of romantic tradition in view as he wrote it.

The Trio For Horn (Darryl Poulsen), Violin (Paul Wright) and Piano is probably the most impressive work in this genre since the Trio by Gyorgy Ligeti, its centre being a magical set of Mirror Variations, beautifully played here with sensuous delicacy. The String Quartet No. 2 also has a Chopin Mazurka subtly below the surface, which rises to the top three times, like an idea crystallising after deep thought.

This is subtle, complex music, beautifully played, richly rewarding at first hearing and on many hearings thereafter.