Carl Vine has always been suave. From his early dance scores in
the 1970s (he wrote his first in high school) to his larger orchestral works of the ‘80s onwards, his music has remained assured, tuneful and immaculately crafted. For an artist who’s also helped direct the world’s largest chamber music organisation, Musica Viva Australia, for over a decade, the string quartet seems like his perfect medium. This disc brings together the bulk of his quartets to date: four full works (Nos 2, 3, 4 and 5) and two movements from his first foray into the medium, Knips Suitefrom 1979. Effortlessly written yet tightly constructed, from the outset they offered a compelling alternative to the dominant avant-garde movement of the time.

String Quartet No 3 snaps and crackles with pop-like energy. The work plays on looping rhythms, bringing to mind Assez vif – Très rythméfrom Ravel’s entry in the genre, as well as the Balinese rice-pounding rhythms of Sculthorpe’s celebrated Eighth Quartet. The opening saws away like an especially intense blues vamp, a moody and capricious solo line bounding over the top. There follows a hazy, reflective middle section before the opening energy returns to close. The Quartet No...