All posts by Mandy Stefanakis

A Little French Cello

Zoe Knighton, cello, Amir Farid, piano
Move Records MD 3367
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2015

This CD was immediately appealing given my love for all things turn of the century (19th to 20th) the wondrous contribution of the French to all aspects of that time’s aesthetic, my relatively nouveau affaire d’amour with the cello and a musical encounter with Amir Farid performing the 1st Piano Trio by Brahms. This was… continue reading »


Dead Letter Circus. Kim Benzie (vocals), Luke Williams (drums), Clint Vincent (guitar), Luke Palmer (guitar) and Stewart Hill (bass)
UNFD 070-A
Reviewed by , October 1st, 2015

Well, I’m locking my gun in the cabinet with the Wedgwood china and discarding the key just to ensure that my penchant for political, environmental and social activism does not lead to a drift from the lagoon of pacifism to the tsunami of violent extremism. (Endnote 1)  My sexagenarian status may render me inept at… continue reading »

Antonín Dvořák Violin Concerto and Legends

Richard Tognetti, Nordic Chamber Orchestra, Christian Lindberg conductor
Classical, Music
Reviewed by , June 1st, 2014

Dvořák was influenced by both people and places in his composing and in this, his famous Violin Concerto in A Minor, both musical heavyweights and his own Czech heritage help shape his composition. The Concerto took several years to reach fruition, not because of Dvořák’s tardiness, but rather because he awaited the suggestions and approval… continue reading »


Post by , May 1st, 2014

Going out on a limb, Karnivool is the best contemporary band in Australia. They are musically intelligent, exploring polyrhythms, independent harmonic layering, novel structures and chromatic melodic sequences. As drummer Steve Judd reminds us, toddlers can count to four. Possibilities beyond this are enticingly infinite. All facets of the band’s technique are masterful. They are… continue reading »

Blackwattle Caprices. Music by Malats, Walton, Ross Edwards, JS Bach, Takemitsu, Tom Waits

Jacob Cordover, classical guitar
Classical, Contemporary, Music, New Music
Cala Records CACD77017
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2016

“Jacob Cordover is an exceptional guitarist and part of his measure is his ability to keep the customer waiting in order to keep the customer satisfied.” This is particularly the case in the well-known Serenata Española originally composed by Joaquín Malats for piano, but a work lending itself superbly to classical guitar, here arranged by… continue reading »

Carl Vine String Quartets

Goldner String Quartet
Classical, New Music
ABC Classics 4765168
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2014

 Carl Vine probably does not consider himself a romantic composer, but in a definitively Australian contemporary way, he certainly is, traversing the gamut of emotions as he does, often in the one piece. The full palette of Vine’s technical prowess and emotional intensity is on show on this album, the works stunningly interpreted by the… continue reading »

Children’s Songs

Composed and performed by Mark Isaacs, piano
Classical, New Music
Soundbrush Records SR1029
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2015

People are often drawn to particular historical times. For me, the more I learn about ancient Greek and Mesopotamian civilisations, the more I realise that ‘progress’ is not a natural, upwardly inclining gradient, but rather resembles the movement of the Aussie dollar against the greenback. It is the mix of ideas, scientific, mathematical, philosophical and… continue reading »


Lior, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Nigel Westlake composer and conductor
Classical, Contemporary, World
ABC Classics 4810678,
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2014

There have been odd times with Nigel Westlake’s works where I have sensed that he has held his ‘soul-laid-bare’ card close to his chest. With Compassion, however, that card is on the table – in spades. Compassion is a series of seven melodies, all but one written with the Israeli-born Melbourne inhabitant Lior, whose body… continue reading »


Darren Harts (Harts), composer, performer
Contemporary, Disco, Electronic Music, Funk, Soul
Offtime Music 3967772
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2015

One of the pearls of wisdom offered by awesome guitarist, Bob Spencer, of Angels and Skyhooks fame, was that it isn’t the number of notes you play, but where you place them. Daydreamer is the first album I’ve listened to in a very long time which provokes contemplation of that truism. Darren Hart, stage name,… continue reading »

Destination People Street

Moth People
Contemporary, Indie, Jazz
Synergy Percussion
Reviewed by , January 1st, 2015

Artistic Director of Synergy Percussion, Timothy Constable, is the consummate musician, covering the spectrum of genres in his work as a percussionist and composer, from taiko drum extravaganzas, to classical interpretations and jazz. The ensemble’s latest venture seeks commissions for 40 composers to each create pieces lasting 40 seconds for a celebration of the group’s… continue reading »


Hands like Houses. Matty P Cooper, lead guitar; Joel Tyrrell, bass; Trenton Todd Woodley, lead vocals, keyboard, programming; Alex Pearson, rhythm guitar and backing vocals; Matt Parkitney, drums
Contemporary, Experimental Music, Rock
Rise Records
Reviewed by , March 3rd, 2016

With their third album Dissonants and eight years under the belt, Canberra-based band Hands like Houses have well and truly ‘arrived’. Hands like Houses have toured extensively over the last couple of years, boosted by the support of the Oregon-based label, Rise. They are quickly impacting on audiences, rising through the ranks as support bands… continue reading »

Dream Your Life Away

Vance Joy
Liberation LMCD0247
Reviewed by , October 1st, 2014

My first encounter with Vance Joy’s music was when I walked in on a school ukulele band rehearsal. The group was learning his single Riptide, an intoxicating and addictive song with a seeming innocence and wit, which on closer examination, explores darkness and vulnerability. Joy, a.k.a. James Keogh, is a Melbourne-based singer, songwriter and uke… continue reading »

Making Signs

Syzygy. Laila Engle, flutes; Blair Harris, cello; Leigh Harrold, piano; Robin Henry, clarinets; Jenny Khafagi, violin; Guest: Daniel Richardson, percussion
Classical, New Music
Reviewed by , December 1st, 2015

In my early days of teaching, an inquisitive thirteen year old trying to swim in a sea of peers already world-weary, said to me, ‘Miss, did you know that syzygy is the only word in the English language which has three syllables and no vowels?’ I didn’t, but like all good learners, I haven’t forgotten…. continue reading »

Mantras and Night Flowers. Piano music of Ross Edwards and Carl Vine

Bernadette Harvey, piano
Classical, New Music
Tall Poppies TP220
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2016

I have very strong memories associated with the music of Ross Edwards and Carl Vine. I listened spellbound to Edwards’ Dawn Mantras, the sheer beauty of it, those sublime climactic notes from Jane Sheldon, as it was performed for the Dawn Service, part of celebrations around the world with the new millennium for which the… continue reading »

Paper Planes. Film score by Nigel Westlake

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Westlake. Performers include Michael Keiran Harvey, Riley Lee, Hannah Coleman, Cold Chisel, Lior. Film directed by Robert Connolly, starring Ed Oxenbould, Sam Worthington.
Classical, Contemporary, Film Music, New Music
ABC Classics 481 1477
Reviewed by , August 1st, 2015

Based somewhat loosely on a true story, Paper Planes is a film for children scored by Nigel Westlake. It’s the highest grossing Australian children’s film ever. The original true account described on the ABC’s Australian Story (see link below) is about a young adult, Dylan Parker, who is a keen distance flyer of paper planes…. continue reading »


Storm the Sky. Daniel Breen, vocals; Will Jarratt, clean vocals; Andy Szetho, guitar; Lachlan Avis, guitar; Benny Craib, bass; Alex Trail, drums
UNFD 055-A
Reviewed by , July 1st, 2015

This week I viewed favoured images from the Hubble telescope. I tried to get my head around the scale of just one galaxy, not the entire universe, but couldn’t. Then I watched a TED talk where the neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran talked about our brains. He described how this ugly piece of jelly-like matter can fit… continue reading »


Vince Jones and Paul Grabowsky
ABC Jazz 475 3486
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

For some, the passage of time leads to the solace of entrenchment. But for others an accumulated wisdom entices them to succumb to the persistent eddy of creation. Vince Jones describes it so beautifully, ‘A person who doesn’t create is like a cloud that never rains.’ There is much precipitation on this album. So light… continue reading »

Real Feel

The Holidays
Contemporary, Pop, Techno
Liberation LMCD 0237
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2014

After four years The Holidays, a Sydney-based indie-pop band, have released their second album, Real Feel. How does one describe the sound? It’s rich, harmonically warm, techno-infused, ethereal pop. But such a description does little justice to an album which explores such depth of feeling and complexity of timbres and issues. Indeed, what I cherish… continue reading »

Sarah Blasko. I Awake

Sarah Blasko, with orchestra
Dew Process/Universal Music DEW9000501
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2014

Sarah Blasko. It’s the voice. You can wrap it in anything you like, or not at all. Some singers are singers. Blasko is a soul-smith. She reaches into the core of herself and picks out the seeds, slowly. It ain’t pretty, but it is beautiful. I Awake is a risky business. There are strings, lots… continue reading »

Scattered Reflections

Adult Contemporary, Contemporary, Music
Independent SENSOCD333
For websites, see foot of review
Reviewed by , August 1st, 2014

Melbourne-based singer/songwriter Lior’s latest album, Scattered Reflections, is at its best when it explores human fragility and this is particularly potent when referencing those with whom he is the closest. The simple, unadorned lullaby, My Grandfather is a biographical song of the relationship between the two men. Watch the video at Lior’s website and I… continue reading »

Sun, Cloud by Luke Howard

Sun, Cloud

Luke Howard
Classical, Jazz
Self-release. CD, vinyl or digital
Compositions by Howard. Performance by small orchestra, ensembles, soloists
Reviewed by , March 2nd, 2014

In Melbourne they say if you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes. But on the 13/11/13 it rained and rained … and then some. Awaiting a grand entrance to the South-Eastern ‘Freeway’ I confronted an island of alert red tail lights. I slipped on Luke Howard’s Sun, Cloud seeking a different means of… continue reading »

The Bitter Suite

Paul Grabowsky composer, performed by Paul Grabowsky Sextet
ABC Jazz 377 1278
Reviewed by , July 1st, 2014

For me, the measure of a true muso is in the execution of the slow stuff. There are several pieces on The Bitter Suite which meet my required assessment criteria in this regard. For example on Black Saffron a beautiful passage focusses on the harmonic unification of trombone and saxophones. Jamie Oehlers introduces it after… continue reading »

The Classic 100: Baroque and Before

Many Australian and international soloists, ensembles and orchestras
Classical, Early Music
8-CD box set, ABC Classics 482 0818
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2014

How fascinating it is that a classical audience should choose Handel over Bach as favoured Baroque and Before composer with The Messiah which came first. Worthy? Perhaps, but Bach does not rate a mention until his St. Mathew’s Passion which comes in at number five. Here we are privy to just a five minute snippet… continue reading »

The Healer

Anton Delecca Quartet
Jazz, Music, Reviews
Jazzhead HEAD-192
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2014

There is a point some artists reach in their careers where they have such mastery of the technical and expressive capabilities of their craft that their work seems effortless. When this happens with all players in an ensemble it is really quite special. This, the third album from Anton Delecca’s Quartet, The Healer, embodies this… continue reading »

The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story: Life, Countdown and Everything in Between

Ian Molly Meldrum with Jeff Jenkin
Biography, Books
Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, 2014. 456pp.
ISBN 978 1 76011 205 9 (hardback)
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2015

The Executive Producer of Countdown, Michael Shrimpton once said that Molly Meldrum was ‘a collection of nouns searching for a verb’. Actually, Molly has done a lot of verbing in his life, much of it with a capital ‘V’. One could almost call him verbose! He also cites many nouns, particularly the proper variety (though… continue reading »

The Quartets: Peter Sculthorpe with the Goldner Quartet

Peter Sculthorpe, Goldner String Quartet
Classical, New Music
DVD ABC Classics 076 2914
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2015

I was lucky enough to recently hear the Goldner Quartet at The Recital Centre in Melbourne as part of their twentieth anniversary celebrations. In the fragile world of string quartets that’s almost worthy of a letter from Her Maj! I know Beethoven is a favourite of theirs, but it was the Ligeti that was awesome…. continue reading »

The Reef (DVD)

Australian Chamber Orchestra. Richard Tognetti, Jon Frank, Mick Sowry, Iain Grandage
Classical, Early Music, New Music
DVD ABC Classics 076 2850
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2014

Richard Tognetti’s introduction to The Reef captures his overall philosophy in the most beautiful way. He describes the magical experience of playing Bach and Beethoven in a small shed near where the desert ‘pours into the sea’ at Ningaloo Reef in north Western Australia. He hopes we will enjoy the coming together of the live… continue reading »

The Secret River. Film music by Burkhard Dallwitz

Erkki Veltheim, Ceridwen Welsh, Charlotte Jacke, Jon Heilbron, Yinuo Mu, John Barrett, Rebecca Simpson, David Herzog, Burkhard Dallwitz, The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jan Chalupecky. TV miniseries of the novel by Kate Grenville
Film Music
ABC Classics 481 1824
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2015

The Secret River is a two-part television series based on the novel of the same name by Australian author Kate Grenville. It provides a devastating account of the brutality of life for first white settlers in Sydney and along the Hawkesbury River, and for the Aboriginal people whose land was overrun and whose people were… continue reading »

This Time

Grigoryan Brothers
Classical, Jazz, New Music, World
Which Way Music WWM022
Reviewed by , June 1st, 2015

This album was difficult to resist given the names adorning it. The Grigoryan Brothers need no introduction. Slava and Leonard Grigoryan are highly renowned guitarists in both Australia and around the globe with many awards to their credit. Here they have collaborated with quite diverse composers, from the nouveau classical Nigel Westlake, to jazz composer… continue reading »


The Kite String Tangle
Contemporary, Electronic Music
Warner Music 5419627362
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2014

The brave new world of electronic music is actually quite old now, first truly established in art music during the 1950s through the likes of Stockhausen; however it has been made accessible to the masses over the last few decades and spread its wings across the music style spectrum. Unbeknownst to many, Australian-based wunderkind, Michael… continue reading »

About Mandy Stefanakis

Mandy Stefanakis lectures in music education at Deakin University. She has authored books and articles and loves composing. She is a life member of the Association of Music Educators, a member of The Music Trust Advisory Council and conducts interviews with musicians and filmmakers for the National Film and Sound Archive.

Copyright The Music Trust © 2024