My motivation for purchasing this cd came from a performance of the 3rd string quartet by the Australian String Quartet in Wellington, NZ. The work was a standout in an excellent concert; I bought the cd as soon as was practical.
As with his compatriot Sculthorpe, Carl Vine has a distinctive voice, not easily classified. He uses discordant harmonies, interesting, jaunty and sometimes beautiful melodies, and rhythmic devices equally effectively, and he definitely has a flair for the dramatic. He is just as chameleonic as Sculthorpe. His oeuvre is wide ranging: film and theatre music, classical dance, symphonies (seven at the time of writing), concertos, chamber music and solo piano works.
Just as Sculthorpe has suffered from a lack of recognition beyond his own shores, Vine too has found it hard to break in to the established musical order that dictates concert performance around the world. Consequently, there are few recordings of his works. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, through its Classics label, recorded all six (to that time) symphonies, though by the time they were released, Vine had already written and published a 7th. Beyond that, there are a few disks dedicated to works of Vine only, but otherwise we are limited to piece-meal releases involving several different composers.
This release from the Tall Poppies label is the 2nd disk from this label concentrating on Vine's chamber music. It contains the 2nd piano sonata, a sonata for flute and violin, the 3rd string quartet, Five bagatelles for solo piano and a cello piece titled "Inner World". Both of the sonatas and the cello piece are played by their dedicatees.
The start of the piano sonata #2 is somehow reminiscent of say a Scriabin on top of his game, but it heads off into less-Scriabinesque lands, no less fertile, but distinctively Vine. At times jarring and confrontational, it later has an almost jazz feel to it. Both the flute and piano sonata and the third string quartet are driven by rhythmic devices, the former in a subtle way, the latter in a forceful and repeated way. The quartet is a truly exceptional modern work and anyone with a passion for 20th century string quartets should bag this disk for this piece alone (I do not know of a 2nd recording). The Five bagatelles for solo piano are wide ranging in their effects and styles, the odd catchy melody juxtaposed to more sombre music -- the last of the five -- Threnody -- was originally written by Vine for a fundraising dinner of the Australian National AIDS Trust. The cello piece that rounds off this disk is a cello accompanied with electronic sounds constructed from a recording of the cellist, "dissected and rearranged". A cross-over piece, it is an excellent example of how electronic effects can be used to good affect within the framework of a classical piece. Look out for a surprising melody -- I can only describe it as Irish -- that comes in towards the end of the piece and leads through to the end of the work. This last work was also recorded and released on this cd by Steven Isserlis; that performance has a darker feel to it compared to this one by David Pereira.
For me, the piano sonata and the string quartet are the standouts on this disk, but others will have their own favourites. Whatever the case, there is plenty of music for the mind here, and any fan of 20th century classical music willing to dip their toe in Vine's world via this disk will be well rewarded.