‘Bundanon’ – a musical landscape by Phillip Wilcher

bundanonWhen I sat down to listen to ‘Bundanon’, the new CD recording of music by Australian composer Phillip Wilcher I had the distinct feeling, once again, that anything was possible. I am an unabashed admirer of his music but that is not to say I always know what to expect – I only know that I am never disappointed.

In 2008 I reviewed the CD ‘Into His Countenance’ which was a collection of selected works released to celebrate his 50th birthday, one year later I have found that ‘Bundanon’ gives an even greater understanding of the composer and with this comes a deeper appreciation of his music. The pieces are performed by pianist Jeanell Carrigan who has given great attention and context to each piece; it seems impossible to imagine Phillip’s music without the name ‘Carrigan’ being involved. For the listener it is often a challenge to decide if the beauty comes from the composition or the performance itself…I have come to the conclusion that it is a combination of both – it has to be – what is a song without a voice to sing it?

‘Bundanon’ is a work comprising 22 tracks and named for the piece that Phillip composed and dedicated to his friend pianist Alexander Boyd, grandson of famed Australian landscape artist Arthur Boyd. The recording is very much a collection of ‘gifts’ from the composer with each piece having been written for the many friends who inspire him both personally and artistically.

The series of movements, ‘Aaron’s Eight’, is a work of eight short pieces written in gratitude to the brilliant young Australian pianist Aaron McMillan whose life was tragically cut short by cancer in May 2007. Each piece is a sweet treasure brought to life by Jeanell Carrigan’s playing. This work, though not intended at the time it was composed, stands as a fitting tribute to the life of the 30 year old Aaron whose spirit seems to breath through each note – the moderato especially conveying the exhuberance and optimism of youth. It is to Aaron McMillan that Phillip Wilcher has dedicated this CD.

This recording feels very much like a journey through the composer’s thoughts and feelings about the people and influences that surround him; in continuing this ‘Bacchante’ takes in a series of ten Preludes composed for performance by Australian pianist Simon Tedeschi. The composer’s love of Bach is clearly felt in his breathless Toccata – the con moto urging a nervously manic staccato from the pianist and I was left with the tantalising image of the late Glenn Gould getting hold of this piece. Shades of demonic thought pervade throughout; dare we hope for a fugue as well…? the Preludes, composed as an homage to Wanda Landowska, present dazzling varieties of form – the pretty little vivace I particularly enjoyed; it reminded me of the smile you only have when remembering something from your childhood.

bundanon2The title piece ‘Bundanon’ was composed for Alexander Boyd but is a piece that Jeanell Carrigan seems to have been born to play. Phillip’s music, as beautifully evocative as ever, captures a landscape that I personally know so well. As artist Arthur Boyd once stated ” you cannot own a landscape “, but you certainly can hold claim to the effect it has on you. Phillip ‘paints’ a musical vision of the land that surrounds ‘Bundanon’ and transforms it into a piece that is inherently Australian. The lush bushland of the Shoalhaven has inspired poets and artists alike and in this piece Phillip Wilcher has captured the timeless beauty of a part of Australia that is Arthur Boyd’s legacy to us all. Phillip’s ‘Bundanon’ reminds us that the only mark to be left here by the hand of man should continue to be simply the stroke of a brush, the written word or the music it inspires.

The pensive and lovely ‘Prelude for the Right Hand’ – dedicated to Jennifer and Lionel King – will invoke thoughts of Debussy; a little dream-piece, it has a searching quality throughout before coming to a gentle, if unanswered, conclusion. This contrasts starkly with the recording’s showcase piece of bravura – ‘Rhapsody – Casa de los Cloisters’ – dedicated to the composer’s friend John Martin. Jeanell Carrigan is given full rein to convey the flamboyant and ‘Las Vegas’ style of playing that is reminiscent of Liberace.

The deeply introspective ‘The Sorrow of Angels’ demonstrates clearly how this composer’s music can say as much in between the notes as through them. This deeply felt piece is a work which feels as though the composer is sharing something which cannot be expressed in mere words; the beauty is in the understatement – one feels as though the composer has chosen this form to express some long held inner pain. Interestingly this is the only piece on the recording not to be dedicated to someone – in that it has the personal stamp of approval from the great Miriam Hyde I think that actually says more than enough…

The one thread running through this collection of relatively recent works is that of ‘friendship’ and recognition of such. There is no doubt that each person who is remembered here with gratitude by the composer has played their own unique part in his life and contributed to his work as a composer. Of course no product achieves such a high quality without the very best team available to ensure it; the ever supportive publishers of the music of Australian composers, Wirripang, no doubt play the most important role in the life of a composer after those who play his/her music.

Renowned violinist Goetz Richter has combined behind the scenes with his duo partner Jeanell Carrigan in editing and mastering the tracks of this CD – along with Kerry Joyner, recording engineer at 2MBS-FM Studios, they have produced a recording of excellent quality. The CD cover features the design and photography of Anne Keats giving the overall theme a uniquely and very inviting Australian flavour.

phillipwilcherThroughout this recording the composer, Phillip Wilcher, pays tribute to those people who have touched his life; those who remain in his life today and those whose presence and influence is still deeply felt though through their spirit. These new works signify a recognition of life, friendship and inspiration. I feel that in doing this Phillip Wilcher has also, unconciously but quite deservedly, paid tribute not only to himself but the artist within.

10 Responses to “‘Bundanon’ – a musical landscape by Phillip Wilcher”

  1. Lewis says:

    I can only agree with all the above comments – good music that feeds the heart and soul as well as the mind these days is hard to find. I have come across Phillip’s music on youtube and yes, it is something you take with you. Nice to see this article.

  2. Green Guru Landscaping says:

    I’d never heard of Phillip until a few months ago and his music just blew me away. Although I’m not an experienced veteran like you and Margaret seem to be, I plan to become one. It’s uplifting to hear and feel so much talent.

  3. alan says:

    Hi again Wendy, I read your article about the cd Into His Countenance from last year and you now have a convert on your hands after I had a few listens to the excerpt clip, it is very ‘balletic’ don’t you think and that is from a person who knows nothing about ballet! australian composers seem to be a certain breed, must be the sea and sun. The musicians playing the music are excellent and also australian I assume?

    • author says:

      I have to admit I am more into the music of the ballet rather than the actual dancing, there are some exquisite pieces from the world of ballet and you don’t have to buy into a whole production you can get cd’s with tracks from a variety of ballets. You have no idea how many tunes make their way into tv commercials and even into modern pop songs – you have probably hummed many and not realised it was from Spartacus or Romeo and Juliet!

      ‘Countenance’ does conjure up the image of two dancers and it is very beautiful – that piece has a future in that area believe me 🙂 I know you are keen for a taste of more Wilcher-wonders so I have sent you a private message regarding this. Don’t leave it so long between visits !!!

  4. alan says:

    This made for very nice reading. I have been following other topics here for a while and to see an article about a musician and music is very welcome! I have been to Australia but did not know about Bundanon even though I am familiar with the art of Arthur Boyd so this was a small revelation Wendy – the music of the composer here sounds an even bigger revelation, I take it his works are readily available?
    Forgive my ignorance but I am working on building my knowledge of good music. Thankyou all the same.

    • Wendy says:

      If you are interested in building on your music knowledge and collection then Phillip is the composer to include. Of course the old masters (Bach, Mozart et al) are standards but music did not stop when Beethoven died! I could turn this reply into a whole article talking about Phillip but first I suggest you visit his site – the link is in his name – then visit Wirripang where his works are listed. It will be well worth the time 🙂

  5. Margaret says:

    I am enjoying Phillip’s latest CD immensely! You’ve written of it as ‘very much like a journey’, Wendy, and it is such an enriching one, filled with a variety of melodies, moods, people and places. Right from Track 1 – the first of the delightful ‘Aaron’s Eight’ – we are taken into another beautiful world. I love the ‘Bacchante’ preludes: at the moment I would say track 15 – the 1:09 minute sparkling ‘Allegretto’ gem – is my favourite! But I also love the quietness and sadness of ‘The Sorrow of Angels’, because it touches the soul so deeply. I feel as if I’ve still only explored a tiny part of this musical journey, and already I feel its beauty has enriched my soul!

    • author says:

      I have been out and about in the car the past few days and have had the CD playing constantly; Phillip has created a new experience with each of these pieces which I find very uplifting and fresh. They are simply pure joy to listen to – I very much anticipate what he has in store musically in the years ahead. I too feel he is very much on a journey as an artist, it is wonderful that we can share that with him.

  6. Wendy says:

    Hi Paola and thankyou.
    Follow the Wirripang link and you will get info on where to purchase the CD. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. paola says:

    You write so glowingly about this music that I feel I must discover it for myself. Australia produces so much talent, I would love to go there sometime.

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