Our Australian Art Music playlist for June explores the expressive potential of the string quartet and wide array of music created for the ensemble by Australian composers. Occasionally joined by a guest soloist, it’s been a pleasure to feature both local and international quartets delving into Aussie repertoire.

Australian Art Music
Image credits, top-left to bottom-right: Liza Lim © Klaus Rudolf; Kate Moore © Marco Giugliarelli; Australian String Quartet © Sam Jozeps; Sally Whitwell © Maja Baska.

While streaming is a great way to discover new music – purchasing albums or merch is an even better way to support the artists you love. Visit the Merch Table for this month’s playlist.

Our local offerings include the Australian String Quartet’s ongoing Anthology series, featured here are Kate Moore’s Cicadidae, Joe Chindamo’s Tempesta, and William Barton’s Square Circles Beneath the Red Desert Sand. Also relatively new releases in Felcity Wilcox’s SON-ombra, String Quartet No 1, and Jessica Wells’ The Night Parrot.

There is also a long history of composer-performers within Australian string quartets, from Roman Crivici’s Elektra String Quartet to the works of the Zephyr Quartet in Adelaide and The Letter String Quartet’s Biddy Connor in Melbourne.

Of our international ensembles, the famed new music specialists, the Arditti Quartet, masterfully perform Liza Lim’s Weaver’s Knot (which was also performed by the Penny Quartet in Melbourne back in 2017), while the UK-based Doric Quartet (which some may remember from Musica Viva’s 2019 season) tackle Brett Dean’s String Quartet No 1 with delicate care.

Finally Yitzhak Yedid’s And Behold Again the Celebrators from Visions, Fantasies and Dances which draws inspiration from Arabic music as well as contemporary Western classical music is performed with vigor and precision by Israel’s Sapphire String Quartet.

Some personal favourites this month include Lyle Chan’s In September the Light Changes whose viola melody manages an exquisite warm sadness – one of the many reasons his An AIDS Activist’s Memoir in Music is on my saved list. Katie Noonan’s A Song of Hope in A Major utilises the quartet perfectly as a shimmering atmosphere whereas in Iain Grandage’s Black Dogs the strings threaten to overwhelm Slava Grigoryan with a visceral roughness that is equally as enjoyable.

Belinda Gehlert’s Driving is probably one of my most listened to pieces on Spotify – it has a smoothness and momentum that find both calming and energising. And finally a new discovery for me is Stephen Whittington’s Windmill (also performed by the Zephyr Quartet), the opening in particular is incredibly evocative – a dance-like chorus of whining axles in field. I can’t help but hear this as wonderful, pastoral machinery at work.

I hope you enjoy some of the new faces and sounds on the Australian Art Music playlist this month – it’s been an exciting one to research and construct. If you’re looking for more to listen to, the full Australian Art Music Archive has also been updated on Spotify (now over 70 hours of music!).

Join me next month when we go south for the Winter.

– Cam

Australian Art Music Playlist

Curated by Cameron Lam

Tracklist

SON-ombra String Quartet No 1 by Felicity Wilcox | performed by Sydney Art Quartet
In September the Light Changes by Lyle Chan | performed by Acacia Quartet
Scenes From A Poet’s Life by Tom Henry | performed by Flinders Quartet
Kudikynah Cave by Moya Henderson | performed by Acacia Quartet
Nautical Twilight by Alice Humphries | performed by The Letter String Quartet
And Behold Again the Celebrators by Yitzhak Yedid | performed by Sapphire String Quartet
Technologic 135 by Matthew Hindson | performed by Elektra String Quartet
The Weaver’s Knot by Liza Lim | performed by Arditti Quartet
String Quartet No 1 Tempesta by Joe Chindamo | performed by Australian String Quartet
String Quartet No 4 by Carl Vine | performed by Goldner String Quartet
Cicadidae by Kate Moore | performed by Australian String Quartet
Windmill by Stephen Whittington | performed by Zephyr Quartet
Alchera-Jugulba by Anne Boyd | performed by Riley Lee & Enigma Quartet
Femme fatale: II. Hedda Gabler by Belinda Gehlert | performed by Zephyr Quartet
String Quartet No 2 by Roman Crivici | performed by Elektra String Quartet
A Song Of Hope in A Major by Katie Noonan | performed by Katie Noonan & Australian String Quartet
Four Pieces For String Quartet by Don Banks | performed by Sydney String Quartet
The Night Parrot: VII. Victoriana by Jessica Wells | performed by Morgan England-Jones & Acacia Quartet
Square Circles Beneath the Red Desert Sand by William Barton | performed by William Barton & Australian String Quartet
Time’s Timeless Art by Jason Thomas | performed by Zephyr Quartet
String Quartet No 2 “Shekina Fantasy” by Ross Edwards | performed by Goldner String Quartet
Three By Three by Sally Whitwell | performed by Alicia Crossley & Acacia Quartet
String Quartet No 1 “Eclipse” by Brett Dean | performed by Doric String Quartet
Black Dogs: 3. Subito allegro by Iain Grandage | performed by Slava Grigoryan & Australian String Quartet
Driving by Belinda Gehlert | performed by Zephyr Quartet
String Quartet No 5 by Gordon Kerry | performed by Acacia Quartet
All The Stories by Biddy Connor & Maria Zajkowski | performed by Marita Dyson & The Letter String Quartet

Want to recommend music for future playlists? Tag #AussieArtMusic on Twitter or Cameron Lam on Facebook or TwitterFor previously featured music and merch visit the Australian Art Music archive and archive Merch Table.

Sign up to the Limelight newsletter