We asked budding music writers at the Sydney Conservatorium to review a new Australian classical CD.

Following Limelight editor Francis Merson’s recent lecture about music criticism at the Sydney Conservatorium, we gave students a little homework and asked them to submit their own reviews of the new album from the Con resident ensemble the New Sydney Wind Quintet.

Limelight published all the student submissions and invited readers to vote for their favourite review. We’re pleased to announce the winner of our Young Critics’ competition: Helena Czajka.

Helena receives a year’s subscription to Limelight magazine and a copy of the Quintopia CD. Her review is below, as is the audio for one of the charming tracks from the album. You can read Limelight‘s own critique in the December issue, on sale November 16.

Thanks to all who entered and voted, and congratulations Helena!

Grainger Lisbon


Ravel; Grainger; Nielsen; Chan
New Sydney Wind Quintet
Self-released (www.nswq.com.au)


New Sydney Wind Quintet entices the inner child in us all to come out to play in Quintopia, the follow-up to their debut CD. The wind quintet’s instrumentation lends itself beautifully to capturing the youthful innocence in the repertoire.

Quintopia brings to life the tales of Ravel’s Ma Mère L’Oye with shifting tone colours that weave in and out of the texture. The well-employed phrasing of the ambiguously metred second movement of the Ravel successfully depicts the weariness of Thom Thumb wandering through the forest.

Percy Grainger’s tunes leave me with mixed feelings. The Irish Tune from County Derry is expressed with pleasing restraint. The delicate pauses between each phrase maintain an elastic energy that bounds forward and then pulls back with the utmost sensitivity. However, it is the restraint in Lisbon that I believe is its downfall. A greater dynamic range is necessary to maintain the forward momentum that is lacking in this rendition.

Lyle Chan’s Passage, composed in 2010, stands out as the discordant piece in this repertoire.  The jazz-inspired, syncopated melodic motifs and the alarming overblown notes from the muted brass bear no relation to the serene atmosphere created by the other smooth, tranquil works.  However, the positioning of the track midway through the album does provide an uplifting counterpoint that commands attention for the second half.

Nielson’s Wind Quintet, one of the 20th century’s major works in the genre, is delivered with just the right amount of dramatic expression in the third and fourth movements to balance the light and flippant tone of the first and second. The group creates beautiful sonorities by blending timbres, demonstrating their sophistication in timbral matching in the final Tema con variazioni, where the bassoon weaves in and out of the melody of the french horn with incredible control and sensitivity.

This CD firmly ingrains New Sydney Wind Quintet as Australia’s leading wind quintet.

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