‘Bundanon’ – a musical landscape by Phillip Wilcher

May 19th, 2009

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.

The priceless legacy of Arthur and Yvonne Boyd: Bundanon

May 19th, 2009

arthurboydA great artist is one that is connected in both mind and spirit with the environment they are inspired to paint. Arthur Boyd was one of Australia’s most ‘connected’ artists in this respect – he captured the unique beauty of Australia’s pastoral landscapes as well as being influential in expanding and exploring new heights of creativity.

Arthur Boyd and his wife Yvonne both felt deeply that encouraging creative thought and and the ability to be inspired was something which all artists should share in. In furthering this they gifted their beloved property of  ‘Bundanon’ to the Australian people in the hope that it’s beauty would inspire others as it had themselves.

riversdale‘Bundanon’ is a landscape of pristine bushland and green pastures situated south of Sydney on the Shoalhaven River near Nowra. The estate comprises the Bundanon Homestead and the Riversdale property; further to this generous legacy was added the Boyd Collections.

Today the Australian Govt oversees the Bundanon Trust  which offers those from the artistic communities the chance to gather at Bundanon and experience a wide range of educational and artistic activities and projects.

Arthur Boyd was famous for saying “You cannot own a landscape” – it was in this spirit that he gave Bundanon to the people. Now it magic is shared and enjoyed by everyone.

Legacy Prize 2009 awarded to Simon Tedeschi

April 2nd, 2009

“Benjamin Franklin’s Legacy is the symbolic link from extraordinarily creative Laureates, who explain and inspire creativity, to those curious, innovative and motivated individuals at the start of their careers who deserve greater recognition, encouragement and mentoring.”

This is the Mission Statement of the distinguished and coveted award named in memory, and honour, of the great American Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin holds a place in history which has been equalled by few. Not only the Father of Electricity he was Statesman, inventor, writer, philosopher; he stood at the helm of the Age of Enlightenment overseeing the advancement of innovations and principals that today still affect and impact our lives.

His Mission for the new age was that creative youth be encouraged to fulfill their potential and, deriving from a codicil in Franklin’s will of 1789, his Legacy sought to award and inspire those who excel in their chosen disciplines. The Legacy first awarded recognition in 1793 and continues to do so today.

This year the Creativity Foundation has named internationally acclaimed Australian pianist Simon Tedeschi as winner of the Legacy Prize 2009.

Simon, currently resident in the United States, is a musician of rare and exceptional skill with a brilliant repertoire seamlessly spanning Gershwin through to Brubeck effortlessly through to the classics of Debussey, Bach and Shostakovich.

His collaborations with the leading artists from various genres of music, both in Australia and around the world, make for a repertoire which is diverse and adventurous – a true musician who is not bound by category.

It is fantastic to see a fellow Australian receive such an esteemed honour as the Legacy Prize and particularly one so deserving as Simon. Well done!

Related Link: Simon Tedeschi website.