Mermaids: Music by John Wayne Dixon Wirripang (Wirr 033)

A new CD is an important addition to the oeuvre of Australian music and highlights the work of a very under-rated composer from Wollongong, John Wayne Dixon.

The composer states “all the works on this CD have been written since the turn of the millennium, a significant fact in that I had a ten-year fallow period during the 1990’s”. And thankfully he has emerged from this period resplendent in creative ideas.

Taking poetry from a variety of sources, he has composed a five part song cycle, Songs of Love and Night, which explores a romantic idyll with great poignancy and melancholy. Mezzo soprano Lotte Latukefu joins with pianist David Vance to bring this music to life in its first ever recorded performance.

Whilst not a song cycle but rather a set of songs loosely tied together by its collective title, Seasons Lived, Seasons Dreamed, Op 21, are interesting, albeit somewhat sluggish takes on nineteenth century texts which endeavour to evoke images. Pamela Mildenhall is the soprano here with David Vance on piano.

The finest display of this composer’s work here is his instrumental writing, such as the title work, a piece written in 2006 for 11 solo string instruments and beautifully played by the Bourbaki Ensemble. It is atmospheric, languid, and mysterious writing, which has a sophistication, yet cautiousness.

Pianist David Miller performs with cellist Julia Ryder in Giverny Idyll, Op 27 (which took its inspiration from a walk in Monet’s garden and a Mayday military display) and later with clarinettist Rosalyn Dunlop in mauve-purple, Op 23a. The first of these two pieces is charming in its garden reflections and given a delightful account by the duo. The trio (second piece) is a slow unfolding of sparse melodic ideas, creating a nocturnal quality.

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