Review: Sculthorpe music evokes the North

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Peter Sculthorpe
Sculthorpe: Music for Guitar,

Canberra International Music Festival Albert Hall, May 19.

Reviewed by ClintonWhite


Peter Sculthorpe was chuffed that the Canberra International Music Festival had programmed an entire concert of his works for guitar.  It had never happened before.  But then, as he said, Canberra is the guitar capital, because of Timothy Kain and the guitar course he leads at the ANU School of Music.

Having the composer present for a performance of their works is always a bonus, if perhaps somewhat daunting for the musicians.  In Sculthorpe’s case, the bonus was multiplied because he talked about his works along the way.

We heard seven works configured for solo guitar, guitar and strings, guitar and voice, flute and guitar.  One of the works, “Oh T.I.!” (“Oh Thursday Island!), a CIMF community commissioned work, received its premiere performance. Written for guitar and strings, the work is evocative of the landscape and the culture of the people who call Thursday Island home.

My favourite work of the day  was the final piece, “Nourlangie”.  Here we were drawn into Australia’s Top End, this time sitting with Sculthorpe on top of the rock monolith that bears the name of the work.

Guitarists Alexsandr Tsiboulski, Callum Henshaw, Andrey Lebedev, Bradley Kunda, Matthew Withers and Minh Le Hoang, along with mezzo Christina Wilson, flautist Laura van Rijn and the Canberra Festival Camerata are all well-known to Canberrans.

Sculthorpe was delighted.  And so were we.

Festival director, Chris Latham, came to the front during the concert to acknowledge the presence in the audience of the director of the School of Music, Prof Adrian Walter, himself an accomplished guitarist.  Latham expressed his gratitude for the contribution Walter had made to the school as well as in Australia’s festivals fraternity.  He choked back tears as he expressed his sorrow at Walter’s treatment by the ANU and the loss to Canberra and Australia as he heads to Hong Kong in September.

In doing so, he showed just how dedicated the staff and students of the ANU School of Music are to the musical life of Canberra. All but a handful of players in this concert were students or graduates, nearly all of whom were playing (and rehearsing) for no fee.  Many of them played in several concerts across the festival, with multiple rehearsals required for each.


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