Australian politics, society & culture

Classical Masterpiece

James Ledger - 'Chronicles', 2009

James Ledger. © Bridget Elliot.

Andrew Ford

Short read300 words
October 2011
Art Gallery of NSW - 24 September 2011 to 5 February 2012
Meeting Mary Finsterer
Girls’s 'Father, Son, Holy Ghost'
Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter and Anh Hung Tran’s Norwegian Wood
Meeting Andrew Fraser
John Bell’s 'On Shakespeare'
Alice Neel and Louise Bourgeois
A Correspondence with Clive James
Meeting Meow Meow

It has been a good start to the twenty-first century for Australian composers and correspondingly hard to pick a single masterpiece. Anyway, how do you compare Ross Edwards’ Clarinet Concerto to Liza Lim’s Cy Twombly–inspired piano suite The Four Seasons? Or the public ritual of Peter Sculthorpe’s Requiem and the private whimsy of Richard Mills’s fourth string quartet, Glimpses from My Book of Dada? But James Ledger’s orchestral work Chronicles seems to do everything right. The beginning is slow, taking its time to establish tone and mood as it draws its listeners into an intensely personal expressive world. Once in that world, everything changes. It is as though we are being confronted by the sonic equivalent of distorting mirrors. The music becomes bolder, lurching between gestures that are by turns surprising, alluring, rhetorical, majestic and reassuring. Chronicles may last only 20 minutes, but partly because the pacing is so assured it seems like music on a grand scale. It is a piece of emotional extremes in which everything is in balance. By the end, even the surprises seem to have been inevitable. Chronicles was first performed in 2009 by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra under its principal conductor, Paul Daniel.

—Andrew Ford

Andrew Ford

Andrew Ford is an award-winning composer, writer and broadcaster. His books include The Sound of Pictures: Listening to the Movies from Hitchcock to High Fidelity and In Defence of Classical Music.
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