Through a Glass Darkly

Peter Larsen
3MBS FM Libretto (Australia)

Piano Quintet: Australian String Quartet with Roger Smalley. This interesting and attractive piece, completely tonal, opens in the style of a concerto movement. Swirling motifs follow repeated violin patterns; persistent rhythmic figures are dominant. In the second movement, a kind of moto perpetuo, piano and strings interact on equal terms. Mysterious, restrained and brief, it has much pizzicato. In the Scherzo, characterised by ostinato rhythms, contrasts include bold yet mysterious passages; semi-chromatic vs. diatonic figures; tremolando as distinct from legato bowing. The last movement, a chaconne with variations, has much ‘conversation’ between piano and strings. Several solos are lyrical, even Romantic. After a somewhat frenetic high point, the work ends in a calm, valedictory spirit, with strings and a single chord from piano.

A running, repetitive piano solo opens the Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano. Wide-ranging and agile horn passages, beautifully blended with violin, lead to a point of high contrapuntal intensity, followed by a chorale-like passage and a concluding horn solo. In the second movement, 'Mirror Variations', there is close imitation between instruments; a sense of intervallic experimentation. The movement ends quietly and indeterminately. The third part begins with a striking horn solo. In a Romantic middle part for the three instruments, horn is muted. After a great climax, the piece ends with a long-sustained piano chord.

After a tentative opening, String Quartet No.2 bursts into life. Played without break, it is intensely melodic and Romantic. A slow middle section gives way to slashed chords and increasingly complex rhythms. After a high, serene violin solo, the quartet ends quietly and concordantly, ‘all passion spent’.

Performances are excellent, highly recommended.