Andrew Aronowicz

Andrew Aronowicz

Andrew Aronowicz is mostly a composer, but sometimes writes words. He has had performances with the Tasmanian and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras, and was a 2013 Australian Youth Orchestra Fellow, which is how he met the lovely people (his words) at Limelight.

Articles by Andrew Aronowicz

CD and Other Review

Review: Four Hands: Australian Music for Piano (Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo)

The piano four-hands configuration is surely one of the more humble performance traditions, shirking the flashy egoism of solo playing in favour of friendly fun. But that’s not to say the music isn’t virtuosic, as Anna Grinberg and Liam Viney show in their recent release on ABC Classics, offering an attractive programme of Australian music that’s not without depth. Carl Vine’s Sonata for Piano Four-hands is a multifaceted work that explores the textural combinations possible where four hands share melodies and accompanying figures that ripple and dance with a modal energy. Stuart Greenbaum’s own sonata takes inspiration from the cosmos, building a language inspired by the relationship between Sun and Earth – at times powerful and domineering, at others contemplative and spacious. Both works are evocative responses to the four-hands conundrum and make for satisfying listening. Music by Ross Edwards and Peter Sculthorpe tap into the duo’s tradition of music for younger players. Edwards’ Nine Bagatelles are charming miniatures that dance and play with casual merriment, and occasionally a hint of the telltale Edwards ‘maninya’ style. Sculthorpe’s Four Little Pieces are all arrangements of previous works for piano, imbued with a lyrical melodic character. Elena Kats-Chernin’s…Continue reading Get unlimited digital…

January 30, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Copland: Symphonies (BBC Philharmonic)

Aaron Copland learnt an important lesson from Nadia Boulanger: keep it simple. The renowned composition pedagogue and mighty force in French contemporary music impressed upon the young American the importance of making orchestral music immediately playable, lest he get on the wrong side of conductor and band. Aware of the consequences, Copland didn’t follow the advice. The result is a fascinating collection of early symphonic sorties, presented on Chandos by the BBC Philharmonic under John Wilson’s baton. The Symphony for Organ and Orchestra opens with a nonchalant Andante, featuring slowly drifting melodic lines without clear harmonic focus. The BBC Symphony strings and winds exude a gentle warmth, matching nicely the sensitive timbral world of Jonathan Scott’s organ. Energy builds in the Scherzo, which features the tune-crafting and rhythmic verve Copland became famous for in his Appalachian Spring. The symphony returns to the warmth of the opening movement in the slow, searching finale, which has a darker, more stern atmosphere, with the organ used to particularly dramatic effect. The stern mood prevails in the composer’s own orchestration of his Piano Variations, which are built on an austere theme announced by low brass, strings and percussion. The miniature variations that follow continue…

January 24, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Różycki, Friedman: Piano Quintets (Plowright, Szymanowski Quartet)

You never know what you’ll get when a label releases music by unknown composers. Here the Szymanowski’s and Plowright bring us piano quintets by two Poles plucked from the relative obscurity of the early 20th century. At a time when trailblazers like Stravinsky and Schoenberg were making their modernist mark, many others were remaining faithful to the good old ways of 19th-century Romanticism. Ludomir Różycki and Ignaz Friedman are two such late, Late-Romantics. First up on the disc, Różycki’s Quintet is a wonderful find. Its opening movement has a brooding, romantic character, marked by dramatic swells with gentle hints at the French impressionist sound that had also inspired his more famous compatriot and the quartet’s namesake. The second movement is more solemn, with a greater sense of darkness and melancholy. Plowright and the Quartet are in perfect synchronicity here, elegantly capturing the Adagio’s various moods, particularly cellist Marcin Sieniawski in his impassioned solos. The third movement is perhaps the freshest sounding, having some of the effervescent character of Ravel’s String Quartet second movement. Ignaz Friedman was a pianist-composer with an Australian connection. As a Jew during Nazi-occupied Poland, he was granted a lucky escape when he received the opportunity in…

January 11, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Reverie (The Australian Voices)

The most recent release by The Australian Voices is their first with current director Gordon Hamilton at the helm. As a composer, Hamilton is no stranger to eclecticism, and Reverie offers works that draw on classical, jazz and popular styles, with texts and subjects not limited to war, nonsense and political speech. The most classical offering is Hamilton’s arrangement of Australian-British composer and soldier Frederick Septimus Kelly’s Elegy – In Memoriam Rupert Brooke. It complements other reflective works by Hamilton on the disk, including a sombre meditation on the ANZAC experience, Dark Hour and the radiant, existentialist Who Are We? Graham Lack’s Reverie of Bone, with percussion by Claire Edwardes, dwells in a similar space. At odds with these more sober offerings are groove-driven works, like Lisa Young’s Misra Chappu and James Morrison’s Underwater Basket Weaving, a cute bluesy work featuring Morrison himself on trumpet. But top reason to own this disc is the diptych of politically themed works by Robert Davidson: Total Political Correctness, a musicalisation of the Trump-Kelly debate, and the viral internet sensation, Not Now, Not Ever! – Davidson’s reworking of Julia Gillard’s speech against misogyny. Hamilton says the works each “embrace… the banal in equal measure…

December 16, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Adams: Scheherazade.2 (Leila Josefowicz, St. Louis Symphony)

John Adams frequently references tradition in his music, using contemporary sonorities and forms to comment on the past. His most recent major orchestral work, Scheherazade.2, is only on the surface a nod to Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic poem, taking a more contemporary approach in telling the famous story. Remarking on the disturbing violence committed against women in stories from The Arabian Nights, Adams was inspired to reinvent the principal tale, imagining a strong and empowered ‘modern’ Scheherazade. The composer gives voice to this powerful retelling in a massive four-movement work that’s part symphony, part concerto, with a dramatic solo violin part embodying the Scheherazade character (another cursory nod to Rimsky-Korsakov’s original). The work receives here its premiere recording with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and David Robertson (also Chief Conductor of the SSO) with the soloist for whom it was written, Leila Josefowicz. Josefowicz’s performance is outstanding, negotiating the virtuosic solo part with passion, assurance and an ironclad tone. She slides, ducks and weaves around an often-aggressive orchestra that’s given an exotic flavour thanks to the addition of a Cimbalom – a Hungarian dulcimer. The St. Louis orchestra’s sound is simply magical and perfectly balanced in this recording under Robertson’s expert direction. 

December 7, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Glow: Jaakko Kuusisto

Jaakko Kuusisto is one of those ‘triple threat’ musicians. Accomplished as a violinist, conductor and composer, he has received numerous accolades in his native Finland and around the world. His recordings have mostly featured him as performer or conductor, however this most recent release focuses on the Finnish maestro’s chamber works, performed by a catalogue of exemplary Finnish musos, including Kuusisto himself. Much of the music adopts a language evocative of the early 20th century. Play III sounds like a lost Bartók string quartet, while Valo for piano and violin makes extensive (crossing into exhausted) use of the whole-tone scale in its harmonic and melodic progressions – a favourite device of the so-called musical ‘impressionists’. An ornamented transfiguration of the opening bassoon solo in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring becomes an effective source of material for much of Loisto, also for piano and violin. Play III is a bold opening to the disc. The rich, robust sound of quartet Meta4 sets a strong tone on an album featuring expert musicianship from all featured performers. Kuusisto’s own performances in the two works for violin with piano, and in the central work, Play II, are incredibly powerful, his robust and expressive tone matching…

December 2, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Jeremy Rose: Iron in the Blood (The Earshift Orchestra)

Jeremy Rose read The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes’ seminal account of Australia’s invasion, colonisation and transformation into a penal colony, in 2012. He was struck by the brutal reality faced by prisoners shipped over from the continent, as well as by the Indigenous population, and eventually found a way to engage with that dark history through music. Iron in the Blood is a series of scenes performed by Rose and the Earshift Orchestra, underscoring narrated excerpts of Hughes’ work, read by actors Philip Quast and William Zappa. The excerpts give an overview of the struggle of the convicts, as well as the cruelty of British officers and lawmakers. The descriptions of the treatment of the original population – particularly the genocide of Tasmania’s Aboriginals – are harrowing. Musically, Iron in the Blood is an eclectic experience. Tracks draw on more conventional jazz idioms, while art music traits are present too, including sonic landscapes with dislocated, chromatic harmonies and extended instrumental effects. Some of the most intriguing features are the extended, frantic, improvised solos, often underscoring the most disturbing parts of the narration.   Individual performances and sound are excellent, and the narrations are enjoyable both on a theatrical and educational…

November 17, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Magnus Lindberg: Al Largo, Cello Concerto No 2 & Era

In the mid 1980s, Magnus Lindberg’s sound-world underwent a drastic overhaul. His mammoth work Kraft (1983-5) reveals a composer delving into the kaleidoscope of Modernism. Yet only a few years later, Lindberg’s works were sounding radically different, embracing tonal harmony, and drawing on a wealth of styles, from minimalism to Boulez. The works on this recent release bear a strong Neo-Romantic quality, if not in harmony, then in gesture. Al Largo is a scintillating work bristling with detail. Orchestrations are lush and powerful, rarely retreating below piano, making for a dynamic and full-bodied experience. Commencing with a startling brass fanfare, Lindberg conjures up a series of vivid orchestral scenes, culminating in a joyous exultation. “Orchestrations are lush and powerful, making for a dynamic and full-bodied experience“ The composer’s Second Cello Concerto is a rich, dynamic work, highly expressive in an almost Romantic sense. Despite this, gestures assume a more modernist character, unlocking the rich timbral profile of the cello. Certain features are shared throughout all three movements, particularly Lindberg’s bold and rhapsodic approach, with broad, sweeping melody a constant feature in the solo part. Anssi Karttunen delivers a consistently powerful performance, plumbing the work’s expressive depths and achieving brilliant contrast in the…

October 27, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Debussy, Elgar, Respighi, Sibelius: Violin Sonatas

Debussy, Elgar and Respighi. It’s a curious line-up, but this collection of sonatas for violin and piano works perfectly. All were written within years of each other: Debussy’s in 1916 (it was the composer’s last major work), Respighi’s in 1918 (the year of Debussy’s death), and Elgar’s in 1919. They’re perfect vehicles of expression for world-class violinist James Ehnes, whose performances here demonstrate a brilliant array of tone colours: from bold, impassioned flexing strokes to soft, limpid lines achieved with just the right amount of bow hair. And Andrew Armstrong is the perfect partner – a sensitive player who can pack a punch when it counts. Claude Debussy’s Sonata opens with an unsettled Allegro that twists and winds through some curious harmonic regions. His violin writing emphasises line, with the piano often serving as harmonic and textural support. Both Ehnes and Armstrong capture the strange mystery of this music with their brilliant ensemble skills. The second movement Intermède shifts tempo and mood frequently, while the final movement paints some gossamer-light textures, also seeing the violin rollick from high to low, which Ehnes manages with ease. The first movement of Edward Elgar’s Sonata opens with a spiky counterpoint between the violin…

September 29, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: The Rabbits (Live Original Cast Recording)

The Rabbits has become a real success story in contemporary Australian opera. Featuring a gorgeous score by singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke and Iain Grandage, with a libretto by Lally Katz, the work has won four Helpmann awards and was nominated for best world premiere at this year’s International Opera Awards. Based on John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s illustrated tale of the British invasion of Australia, it’s unquestionably powerful, and stylistically the score draws on all manner of genres. The music of the natives (a band of marsupials) is influenced by pop and musical theatre, while music for the bird (Miller-Heidke’s character) incorporates electronic effects to conjure the aerial world it inhabits. The more explicitly operatic elements are reserved for the leporine European invaders, with waltzes and wonky recitatives underscoring the singing of these slapstick caricatures. A band of five packs a real punch, some doubling or tripling on other instruments. Some of the most engaging music on the disc features Miller-Heidke’s extraordinarily agile and expressive singing. Also worthy of mention is Jessica Hitchcock’s honest performance as Flinch, a young marsupial, as well as Kanen Breen’s prim portrayal of a sadistic scientist rabbit, employing his raucous countertenor to hilarious effect.

September 15, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Higdon: Cold Mountain (Santa Fe Opera)

Jennifer Higdon is one of the most performed composers in the US, and Cold Mountainis the Pulitzer Prize-winner’s first operatic sojourn. The composition got off to a rocky start when the original commission from San Francisco Opera failed to eventuate. Happily, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia and Minnesota Opera rescued the commission of this brilliant new work, with the premiere staged last year in 2015 in Santa Fe. After sell-out performances, the work has since won the 2016 International Opera Award for best world premiere. The libretto by Gene Scheer is adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name by Charles Frazier, which tells the story of Civil War deserter W.P. Inman and his journey to find his beloved Ada, a once well-off but now desperate woman who learns to fend for herself with the help of Ruby, a mountain woman. The setting for the story had a special significance for Higdon, who grew up on a farm in East Tennessee, only 60 miles from the real Cold Mountain in North Carolina. Musically, Higdon’s score is fresh and cast in her own personal brand of Neo-Romanticism, while drawing on numerous hallmarks of classical and folk Americana. Throughout the two-act…Continue…

September 1, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Schumann & Dvořák: Cello Concertos (Carmine Miranda)

Releasing a disc with two monuments of the Romantic cello repertoire is a major statement for a young performer. And in a somewhat crowded marketplace, those recordings need to be of the highest possible calibre. Miranda’s readings of both concertos are bold and voluptuous, demonstrating a fine sense of musicianship. Unfortunately the Venezuelan-American cellist’s solid performance is not always enough to galvanise this recording. Miranda plays with a strong sense of expressivity, so there are plenty of enjoyable moments. The Schumann in particular is quite delightful. The outer movements feature stunning passages of technical bravura, which Miranda manages well with a good sense of bite from the bow. The same is true of the final movement of the Dvorák. Other areas are less enjoyable. The cello is recorded quite closely, and there’s no real ambience in the orchestral sound, so the overall effect lacks atmosphere and depth. The second movement of the Schumann should sound like a cello aria surrounded by an orchestral halo, but the sound lacks that character. The first movement of Dvorák’s Cello Concerto should really pack a punch, but the final climax comes off flat, mostly due to the orchestra’s intonation. With some stunning recordings on…

August 30, 2016