Flute Odyssey: Emma Knott (flute), David Miller (piano) Wirr 016

This is one of these most delightful recordings of unknown music by some highly regarded and newer names in Australian composition in which both artists, Emma Knott and David Miller have combined to produce a performance of great merit, exuberance and sheer delight. The compositional style of Amanda Handel, May Howlett, John Spence and Steve Clark may not be so well-known, unlike say Betty Beath, Houston Dunleavy, Ann Carr-Boyd and John Terry, but this collection of composers all have something very individual to say in their music. The writing for flute and piano is assured and at times idiomatic. It is an engaging journey through diverse styles.

The first nine tracks (Handel’s Moonlight Mirage, Nightscapes; Howlett’s Wings of the Wind; Beath’s Night Moods; Spence’s Hymn to the 89th Constellation; and Dunleavy’s Sideling Hill) all deal with picturesque or descriptive elements from nature. Clark’s Phryg Magnet (the only work not originally written for this combination but for violin and piano) is a response to the use of the Phrygian mode and minimalism, whilst Carr-Boyd’s Suite is, in part, a reflection of a number of composers, such as JS Bach and Copland, and finally Terry’s Flootin’About is a chatty and cheerful instrumental conversation with a jazz flavour.

Produced on the Publications by Wirripang label (www.australiancomposers.com.au), this is an engaging journeymost worthy addition to the flautist’s library, and particularly for those devotees of new Australian music.

Debussy & Ravel String Quartets: Australian String Quartet ABC 476 6904

This is the debut recording for ABC Classics by this hugely successful quartet. The quartet, comprising Sophie Rowell and Anne Horton (violins), Saly Boud (viola) and Rachel Johnston (cello), bring a sophistication and dazzling virtuosity to this French music that is captivating.

Both quartets, masterpieces in their own right, are the only works in this genre by Debussy and Ravel. The instrumental colouring, exotic harmonies, enchanting melodies and rhythmic energy from the music are given a superb performance on this recording. Interestingly, whilst both composers conformed to a four movement layout, their second movements were fast and rhythmic whilst the third movements were both slow and expressive.

The Australian String Quartet was established in 1985 and is Quartet-in-Residence at the Elder Conservatorium on Music at the University of Adelaide. It tours extensively throughout Australia and internationally. Making a major impact on the musical life of this country, the quartet has participated in prestigious events with, for example, the Alban Berg Quartet in Cologne, and has the distinction of winning more international chamber music competitions than any other Australian ensemble.