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fluctuating states of calm

Chamber music of Sandra France

$23   (Australian dollars)


buy at: AMC - Buywell - iTunes

Chamber music of Sandra France, played by various musicians, most based in Canberra. Sandy lives in Canberra and writes with a unique voice. Her music deserves a wider audience, and this CD provides an introduction to her work. From works for solo cello, to string quartet and ensemble pieces, to works for wind band and orchestra, here is an overview of an emerging younger Australian composer.

Music by Sandra France
Heritage OvertureSydney Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Colin Piper
Three Miniatures for Piano Trio1. Stravinsky’s Book
2. Playing in the Shadows
3. You’re Sitting on My Thoughts

Kate Bowan (piano), Barbara Gilby (violin),
David Pereira (cello)
What Goes Around Comes AroundClarity Quartet
Fluctuating States of CalmDavid Pereira (cello)
String Quartet No. 1Barbara Gilby (violin), Max Holtzner (violin),
Katherine Owen (viola), David Pereira (cello)
MonismPal Eder (violin), Gary France (marimba)
Duo for Flute and CelloVirginia Taylor (flute), David Pereira (cello)
Miss MugwortVirginia Taylor (flute), Nicole Canham (clarinet),
Barbara Gilby (violin), Charlotte Winslade (cello),
Gary France, Wyana Etherington (percussion),
Kate Bowan (piano), Sandra France (toy whistle),
Tor Fromyhr (conductor)
Kroger MarchLawrence University Wind Ensemble
Robert Levy (conductor)


This is a wonderful collection of pieces for different ensembles, ranging from solo cello up to full orchestra. Sandra France's works are deeply personal, lyrical statements drawing from a skilful use of resources and a favourable leaning on historical archetypes. There is a sense of playfulness never far from the surface in most of the works in this collection _ playing with sound combinations, structures, and with melodic ideas.

The pieces draw inspiration from a range of sources _ melodic fragments, structures, and instrumentation from Haydn, Brahms, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and even Ligeti; development approaches from different periods pre- and post-20th century; folk tunes and nursery rhymes; and for one piece an Ives-like clash of marching band melodic and rhythmic fragments.

The disc opens with the Heritage Overture for orchestra, performed by the SSO under Colin Piper. Colourful orchestration, driving ostinati and dramatic use of percussion recall the optimism of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony. With a nod to her heritage, France incorporates a Quebecois folk tune, Valse Frantenac, one of her parents' favourite tunes. The piece has great appeal from its first hearing.

The pieces date from 1993, String Quartet, to the Three Miniatures for Piano Trio of 2002. It is the later pieces that I find most successful, perhaps showing the benefit of her studies with Dr Cindy McTee at the University of North Texas. I especially liked this last piece with its effective use of resources of the piano trio, clarity of development, and emotional impact.

Different pieces explore different moods _ from the melancholy of the Duo for Flute and Cello and the introspection of the Three Miniatures, to the joyful and playful Miss Mugwort, a reflection on the joys of parenting her daughter Antoinette. This last piece incorporates the use of a toy whistle, playing a melody sung to Antoinette since birth, that recalls Ligeti's use of ocarina in his late orchestral works.

The piece Kroger March is great fun, remembering the marching band practice which France saw and heard happening at all hours during her stay at UNT… 'drum lines rehearsing in large car parks … and crazy wind players rehearsing their marching steps on football ovals very late into the night'. The piece features clashes of melodic and rhythmic sections ofthe ensemble, as Charles Ives was wont to explore. Performed by the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble, I hope the players recognized the irony!

This is a wonderful collection of pieces from an emerging composer. Her depth of knowledge and skill in the use of instrumental resources is evident but does not overcrowd a very personal lyrical and emotive expression. Highly recommended!
Anthony Linden Jones
Music Forum August - October 2006

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 TP (1-901)



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