Women of Note: A Century of Australian Composers, Volume 2
To coincide with International Women’s Day 2020, ABC Classic has released Volume 2 in the Women of Note series, featuring another impressive program of fabulous music by composers both famous and lesserknown. Volume 1, which contained well-known favourites such as Peggy Glanville-Hicks’s Etruscan Concerto, was a tremendously enjoyable musical feast. ABC Classic saved some goodies for Volume 2, such as the Eliza Aria from Elena Kats-Chernin’s Wild Swans concert suite, with which many will be familiar.
This definitive recording features the angelic voice of none other than Jane Sheldon, whose pitch and rhythmic accuracy is a lesson in beautiful singing. Miriam Hyde’s Village Fair is a bit of a romp, bringing to mind another Australian classic – Danish Folk-Music Suite by Percy Grainger. Any collection of Australian music would be incomplete without something by Margaret Sutherland, and presented here is her symphonic poem Haunted Hills, which is as epic and creepy as the name suggests.
A highlight is Deborah Cheetham’s moving ‘Eumerella: A War Requiem for Peace’, and should be compulsory listening for all Australians. Sung entirely in ancient Gunditjmara dialects, the requiem pays tribute to those lost in the bloody and brutal Eumeralla Resistance War. Cheetham surely is a national living treasure, and hers is a vital voice in the Australian classical music landscape.
Nardi Simpson’s Wilga’s Last Dance for symphonic wind rounds out the collection – in this short but affecting piece, Simpson has attempted to recreate the only surviving traditional Yuwaalaraay melody, and in so doing demonstrates the remarkable diversity of work presented on Women of Note.
Unfortunately male conductors are still overrepresented here – classical music seems to be very slowly catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality across the board. Perhaps next year – if we’re lucky – Volume 3 might redress the balance.