“Music is the art of agony” said Percy Grainger to a radio show host. Really? This statement could be either a deeply-felt sentiment or a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ response to the interviewer. In any case, it makes a great title for the CD and inspiration for a piece of music.”
In his composition The Art of Agony Robert Davidson takes a recording of part of the Grainger interview and surrounds it with music for two pianos, using phrases that frequently mimic the rhythm of the spoken word, with repetitions to amplify the content. Davidson’s lively, energetic writing matches the vividness and vitality of Grainger’s own piano music and is book-ended by two sections from Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy. The work provides an opportunity for some thought about the title whilst enjoying some lovely playing from the Viney-Grinberg Duo.
When describing his composition On Reflection Andrew Ford observes that: “Conventionally, in a piece for two pianos, the players sit facing one another, their instruments stretched out between them. They are mirror images of each other . . .”. This music explores their reactions to each other i.e. the “reflection” of the title. Contrasts are evident from the start, where highs and lows juxtapose before going into a syncopated section with chordal passages; it becomes deliciously jazzy. Highs and lows remain a feature, with repetitive chords and an ongoing momentum and pulse. A quieter passage changes the mood, with lacy interactions in the treble and sparkling upward arpeggiations as the two players come together, then a coda to finish. This is a terrific piece, written for and given a superb interpretation by the Duo.
Louise Denson’s Mill Life has an interesting genesis. The Piano Mill is a purpose-built structure in northern New South Wales housing 16 pre-loved upright pianos. Liner notes inform us that the piece was inspired by the idea that the Piano Mill is in fact a “music factory”. Denson’s work takes the listener into industrial spaces via the recorded sounds of many different types of machines with their rhythmic and repetitious rattles, clanks and bangs. The Duo recorded on 22! pianos of different types from various halls, practice rooms and offices at the University of Queensland, and occasional percussion instruments. The work is unusual, evocative and lots of fun; it could inspire interpretation by a modern dance group.
Colin Brumby’s 3 Easy Piano Duets were written for youthful pianists. Gentle, cheerful and tender in turn, the three little pieces each lasting around one minute make an attractive group; this music has waited forty years for its premiere recording. Also for four hands on one piano, Gordon Hamilton’s Shorter/Longer is a vibrant and exuberant work. Its happy mood could possibly depict the Viney-Grinberg children romping around in play, because the following piece is a Lullaby for Liam and Anna’s Kids who, having just worn themselves out, drift off to sleep accompanied by sweet, soft sounds.
Étude by Kate Neal is one of a rare genre – an étude for two pianos. We have plenty of examples for single piano, and here is one for two pianos. A shimmering, filigree first part is followed by a vigorous perpetuum mobile that leaves the listener breathless. A little gem.
In Visible Weapon Matthew Hindson confronts the constant presence of violence in our world, a response to varying brutalities and nastiness that we are continually faced with. Commissioned by the Viney-Grinberg Duo, the work employs two pianos and pre-recorded material to generate an intense and passionate outpouring. Serene, peaceful sections balance the more dramatic passages, military-type shouting evokes an image of war whilst exquisite cascades of notes remind us that beauty does exist. This is quite a demanding piece – we are not meant to sit back and relax, we will inevitably become involved in the composer’s profound disquiet. It is a tour-de-force for the two pianists and they deliver a powerful listening experience.
The Viney-Grinberg Duo is currently ensemble-in-residence at The University of Queensland. With 6 commissions and 8 premieres on this CD they continue to demonstrate an impressive commitment to Australian music, having already released another CD of all Australian music – Four Hands (ABC label). Bravo and Brava!
The music was recorded in 2019 at the School of Music, University of Queensland by sound engineer David Spearritt with editor Chris Perren, who have combined diverse elements to produce an excellent result.
Liam Viney wrote the liner notes, which include the words from the Grainger radio interview.