This new series from ABC Classics again highlights the magnificent work of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Over the last few years they have built up an impressive discography ranging from the complete Beethoven symphonies to contemporary classics like those featured here. Wherever it’s under their maestro Ola Rudner or guest conductors like David Porcelijn this versatile ensemble gives spirited, expressive performances.

Ross Edwards, Gordon Kerry, Carl Vine and Nigel Westlake are all experienced composers with impressive credentials and it is great that these discs give voice to their new work.
I particularly love the sombre tone world of Ross Edwards, his deep, circuitous musical architecture evokes a rich spiritual world that one critic described as contemplation objects in sound. He is self-consciously concerned with wholeness and his often religiously inspired titles indicate something of his preoccupations. Although there are echoes of the Eastern European symphonic sound of Part and Gorecki, Edwards is always his own man and the sounds of the Australian bush environment fundamentally alter this traditional approach. His Concerto For Guitar And Strings is particularly beguiling. The guitar’s ability to strike highly individual notes, its airy flight, is set against richly layered orchestral writing.

Diana Doherty, the Sydney Symphony oboist, is guest soloist on the Carl Vine disc. She brings her characteristic flair and control to Vine’s Oboe Concerto. The monadic solo part makes the most of the instrument’s haunting quality and Vine has set this against an almost menacing background. But there is no sense of stasis in this essentially quite simple piece. Its layers unpeel, giving way to a final movement of romantic lyricism and surprising softness.

Nigel Westlake’s Clarinet Concerto is of course very different. The clarinet slips and slides where the oboe meanders. Westlake’s compositional style allows the different elements to both crash and cohere around this slinky centre. At times it has the surprise and humour of a jazz improvisation but actually represents the seriousness of a brilliantly controlled composition.

The featured instrument in Gordon Kerry’s Heart’s Clarion is the trumpet. The trumpet here seems to play to find its voice, to scamper across an orchestral landscape that Kerry says is meant to signify both apocalypse and hope.

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