Australia Ensemble UNSW 2023 Subscription Concert: Fantasy
A program of contrasts, showing the free rein of composers’ invention. Brahms breaks free of classical convention in his first Sextet. Australian composer Elizabeth Younan plays off ensemble and soloists, Robert Muczynski and Herbert Howells pay homage to the past and imagine the future.
Herbert HOWELLS | Fantasy Quartet Op.25 (1924)
Robert MUCZYNSKI | Fantasy Trio Op.26 (1969)
Elizabeth YOUNAN | Concord Concertino (2022)
Johannes BRAHMS | Sextet no.1 in B flat Op 18. (1860)
The luminous richness of the string sextet allowed the young Brahms free rein for his Romantic imagination. Encouraged by the great violinist Joachim and Clara Schumann, Brahms produced his First Sextet in 1860, a spacious work of dramatic contrasts between radiant textures and long, lyrical melodies, restrained pathos and extroverted dance rhythms, expressive harmony and taut counterpoint.
Such contrast was the lifeblood of the Tudor-era ‘fantasy’, revived in early 20th-century Britain and reimagined in Herbert Howells’s Fantasy String Quartet. Its linked movements contain deceptively simple melodies, magical evocation of large spaces and striking use of harmony, and end with a quiet elegy.
Elizabeth Younan’s energetic Concord Concertino features vibrant metrical mosaics and moments of utter stillness, juxtaposing intricate ensemble textures with passages of soloistic virtuosity closely tailored to the members of the Australia Ensemble, while US composer Robert Muczynski’s four-movement Fantasy Trio from 1969 combines the rhythmic urgency of Bartók with moments of whimsical lyricism and cartoonish fun.
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