Through a Glass Darkly

Patricia Kelly
The Courier Mail (Australia)

Since British composer Roger Smalley came to Australia in 1974, he gradually shed avant-garde styles and electronic gadgetry from earlier years. Now he finds creative stimulation in music that grapples "with the problem of the reintegration of tonality". The three works on this disc exemplify how well Smalley does this, mentored by Chopin, whose mazurkas become springboards for developing his variations style, and with his own gift for linking fragments of his own creation across genres.

The disc's dark cover, handsome in the way of all Melba productions, reflects ghostly images hovering over the canonical features in Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano with Darryl Poulsen (horn), Paul Wright (violin) and Smalley (piano). The Australian String Quartet featured on the disc is the second manifestation of this ensemble, Natsuko Yoshimoto and Brisbane boy James Cuddeford (violins), Jeremy Williams (viola) and Niall Brown (cello), who now play as the Grainger Quartet.

In scintillating performances of Smalley's String Quartet No. 2 and Piano Quintet with Smalley on piano, the Grainger players manage and balance the music exquisitely, taut, unified and deeply thoughtful throughout the program.