Buy this album on iTunes:  Sculthorpe: The Complete String Quartets with Didjeridu – Del Sol String Quartet & Stephen Kent


The string quartet was central to Peter Sculthorpe’s output. His last, No 18, had its premiere on his 81st birthday. He undoubtedly liked string instruments because of their ability to sustain long-held notes. Drones play a pivotal part, not only in imitation of indigenous music, but as an aural equivalent to the Australian outback. Strings are also adept at imitating birdcalls, as the third movement of Quartet No 14 shows. Sculthorpe’s quartet writing with its drones and repetitive ostinaticontain all of this, and through subtle harmonic and rhythmic juxtapositions he suggests the life with which this landscapes teems. Neither the terrain nor his musical depiction of it is remotely passive.

In 2001 Sculthorpe was introduced to a young Aboriginal didjeridu player, William Barton, who asked Sculthorpe to write for him. The composer responded by adding a didjeridu part to some of his orchestral works, notably Earth Cryand Kakadu. He also added the instrument to his existing String Quartets Nos 12, 14 and 16 – the ones with the most significant Aboriginal themes. Later works...