Tonic Continent (2000)
"Tonic Continent by Andrew Schultz, brought influences of the Australian landscape once more to the fore. Written in 2000, his piece, opened with a triadic lyrical line, which expanded into a broad anthem-like texture."
"Tonic Continent, by Australian Andrew Schultz, conjured up images of vastness... rumbling piano delineating the space between echoing strings. The piece was most effective, too, when there was a keyboard backdrop."
"Tonic Continent (played by the Griffith Trio) is a work full of the richest lyricism, warm and vibrant."
Ash Fire – Contrapunctus IX (2000) (back to top)
“In altri casi la transcrizione é diventata una vera rielaborazione, spunto per operazioni autonome. Andrew Schultz ha cercato una interpretazione del Contrapunctus IX nella chiave del Concerto gross. Louis Andriessen ha proposto una soluzioe concettuale, lasciando quais intatto il Contrapunctus I, realizzato dal l’arpicordo, e solo preceduto da una esposizione del totale cromatico, poi sporcato da altri suoni; mentre Luis De Pablo ha tentato una contaminazione fra il Contrapunctus II e una pagina del 1626 di Francisco Correa de Arauxo. Luciano Berio si é riservato (dedicandolo alla memoria di Giuseppe Sinopoli) l’ultimo Contrapunctus, quello lasciato incompiuto da Bach, a cui ha donato una polifonia olimpica, e una rapida, elettrizzante conclusione; una sorta di firm per la responsabilita di una serata ricca di grandi stimoli.” [Arrigo Quattrocchi, Il Manifesto, 3 June 2001.]
“Andrew Schultz nannte die Nummer IX “Ash Fire” und transkribierte so unbekümmert vital und effektvoll wie Andrew Lloyd Webber in seinen besseren Zeiten.” [Hans-Eberhard Dentler, Frankfürter Allgemeine, 7 June 2001]
“schließlich verwies der Australier Andrew Schultz bei Contrapunctus 9 darauf, dass auch der strenge Satz der strenge Satz der “Kunst der Fuge” von dahinstürmedndem Concerto-Geist getragen sein kann. Ob Berio da Faden gezogen hat?” [Reinhard Schulz, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 18 June 2001.]
I am black (2001) (back to top)
Going Into Shadows (2001) (back to top)
“Australian composer Andrew Schultz and his sister, librettist Julianne Schultz, have written a powerful modern drama that is both sharp, thought-provoking and relevant…. The composition is very carefully crafted to provide just the right mix of dramatic intensity to underscore the work and lead us to the next part of the story. This is as fine a piece of modern composition as you could wish to hear, not only written well for the voice but with strong and well-scored orchestration – lush and lyrical string sounds, a haunting wind section and some powerful brass and percussion as the story unfolds.” [Suzannah Conway, “Classical Terror,” The Courier Mail, 11/9/2001]
“Going Into Shadows is full of musical and dramatic effects: on-stage string quartet and violin/viola/honkytonk trio, off-stage chorus. Novel clarinet and trombone writing, a fully choreographed chorus, live/recorded video projected onto fabric – the list goes on…. The London premiere was fascinating. The many effects and colours in the piece are used brilliantly to highlight the psychological motivation and the cultural background of the characters. The audience very clearly identified with the plot and the themes of betrayal raised in the story, and they responded well to the lush but contemporary harmony. . . . a fine new addition to the operatic repertoire.” [Dominic Sewell, “Shadow Play”, Opera Now, Sept/Oct 2001.]
“Pedal tones anchor each scene and setting, and the ravishing orchestration is suffused more with modal fear than minimalist sumptuousness…Festival directors and opera impresarios should be clamouring to see it.” [Vincent Plush, The Australian, 14/9/2001]
“The future for opera is in productions such as Andrew Schultz’s Going Into Shadows. This is what the world is about, rightly or wrongly. The 19th and 18th century operas will never disappear because people like good tunes, but we need a genre of our own country of our own time.” [James Christiansen, “Out on a bold note”, The Courier Mail, 2/10/2001]
“For as long as I live I will not forget the second performance of Andrew Schultz and his sister Julianne’s Going into Shadows. The memory of sitting through three hours of this incisive essay centred on the way terrorism affects lives and then arriving home to the telecast of the horrendous attack on the World Trade Centre towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington will never fade. Somehow it gave the artistic experience of the preceding three hours a terrifying relevance and added an alarming depth to the many layers Schultz worked into his opera. He could never have foreseen the confluence of his art with reality in such a graphic, trenchant way. Can the world be the same again? Can his work of art return to its past tense innocence? I don’t think so. You don’t come from the theatre humming tunes, but you do come out shaken by the opera’s confronting concepts. There is so much to the music, the text, the themes and the multi-media techniques employed, that it is almost impossible to absorb it all at one sitting….life is not always just froth and bubble and great art, which I believe this opera is, reflects and drives home some tough human truths.” [Patricia Kelly, “Opera in Review – Brisbane,” Opera-Opera, October 2001, 286.17]
"The Australian-British collaboration involves students from the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane: Australian singers and instrumentalists are over for the London performances this month, while Guildhall students will reciprocate by taking part in performances in Brisbane in September.
Another antipodean element is the opera's composer, Andrew Schultz, who hails from Adelaide. Head of composition and music studies at the Guildhall, he has written Going into Shadows with his librettist (and sister) Julianne Schultz. Schultz, who has an extensive compositional career under his belt, is pleased that he had no need to compromise his idiom because he was writing for students. "I have written what I wanted to write." He says. "The quality of the students on the opera course is fantastic. The chorus already seems on a par with a professional chorus. I didn't see this as a student work, I saw it as a work that happened to be performed by students. They are relatively inexperienced, but they have great voices and a great deal of enthusiasm."
The plot of Going into Shadows combines terrorism, idealism, betrayal and the sometimes unhelpful role of the media, which is explored in the opera using live and prerecorded video supplied by students from the National Film and Television School. One of the chief characters is the sinister journalist Jack Johns, who tempts a young woman into denouncing her terrorist fiancé by promising a large sum of money.
Julianne Schultz, herself a journalist and academic, has had plenty of opportunity to observe the seamier side of journalism, as she outlines in a booklet prepared for the production. "With chequebooks waiting, contracts ready to sign, the lure of fame and fortune neatly wrapped in a package of the public's right to know, journalists descend on the unwitting victims of random acts of violence, fortune or survival. Having spent most of my professional life in the media. I am sympathetic to the professional values that Jack holds dear. But I, like an increasing number of my colleagues, recognize their limits and am dismayed by the costs. Would the story have been different if money did not change hands? Did the deception distort the story? The media's distortion of notions of belief and belonging is central to our times and an important sub-theme of this work."
Whatever its impact on the wider community, the most immediate effect of Going into Shadows, will be on those students actually involved in staging the opera. One such is Barry Martin, from Trinidad, who ended up on Guildhalls opera course by change when he came to London to earn money to study in Holland. Martin is one of several final-year opera studies students taking a lead role. With a job lined up at the English National Opera in the autumn, he is grateful for the experience of taking part in what will be his fourth Guildhall opera. "The rehearsal period mirrors exactly what you would experience on the outside, at an opera company." He says. "The directors are from outside, people who do productions with big opera companies, and sometimes the conductors also. We get the same type of treatment we would get if we were professional."
Sarah Redgwick, who recently won the Guildhall Gold Medal for singers, will sing the role of Jasmine, the daughter of Tarik the terrorist and his susceptible fiancé Bernadette, who after her mother's death in a car crash attempts to wreak a horrible revenge on her father. "In the past I've done a lot of comedy and innocent characters," she says, "so to have a scheming, bitter character to play is very different dramatically."
Singing the role of Bernadette is Katarina Jovanovic, who left her native Serbia after the Nato bombing of Belgrade in 1999. "I had a choice between La Scala in Milan, the Paris Opera and Guildhall," she says. "I wanted something organized and well run, completely different from my own culture. Guildhall, people say, is the best opera course in the world right now."'
[Christopher Wood, "A multicultural message in a terrorist guise," The Times Higher, 01/06/01)]
Journey to Horseshoe Bend (2002-03) (back to top)
“The hour-long work sprawls as vast and languidly as the continent of its setting. Whispered voices and snatches of Aranda chants and Bach chorales recreate the miasma of delirious thoughts in the head of the dying pastor. When both cultures sing their version of Bach’s Wachet auf! – in the Aranda hymnal, it is simply known as No. 309, Kaarrerrai worlanparinya … - a great cultural divide, a cultural chasm centuries long seems to have been breached.
The capacity audiences in the two Opera House performances greeted the new work with sustained ovations.” visit article
[Vincent Plush, “New work bridges Australian cultural divide,”
Gramophone, June 12, 2003]
“It is good. Whether occupying centre stage with its cinematic, heart-warming swells of emotion, or underscoring the narrative with minutely observed timbral and rhyhmic detail, Schultz’s score serves the occasion well.
He and Williams share a fascination with cultural contradictions and, as in previous works, Schultz uses his broad vocabulary of musical icons deftly. So when Nataria Ladies Choir break into a seemingly spontaneous rendition of a Bach cantata, the unique vowel sounds of the Central Auustralian language Arrernte cut across the Central European tradition of hymn-singing.
Similarly, the classically trained purity of a boy soprano’s voice (David Bruce, as the young Theo) makes for a poignant dialogue with heavily accented words of Theo’s companion, Njitiaka (played by Aaron Pederson). The unwieldy array of orchestral and vocal forces – more than 150 performers on stage, with multiple conductors, a barrage of percussion and two choirs – is perhaps a little indulgent on the part of the composer, but he creates from this huge palette of sounds some genuinely original gestures and effects.
Indeed, it is an important work on two levels: it is a moving hymn to
the transformative power of the Australian landscape, and beyond that,
it is an impressive demonstration of the physical power of music to convey
a feeling beyond words. This is a work which has clearly touched many
lives during its creation and will continue to do so whenever it is performed.”
"This cantata contains some of the most touching music I have heard in an Australian work.
It is based on the mythologising novel of the same name by T.G.H. (Theodor) Strehlow, passionate chronicler of the Aranda people, among whom he was brought up on the Hermannsburg Mission in central Australia. Weaving together the unlikely cultural mix of Hermannsburg - German Lutheranism, settler secularism and ancient Aranda mythology - it is a vast woven fabric of cultural collision: awkward, complex, yet hugely life-affirming.
The story is that of the missionary Carl Strehlow, as told by his son, Theodor, mortally ill and travelling with his family and Aranda folk towards medical assistance he never reaches. As a rich symbol of cultural difference, Schultz interweaves the famous Lutheran chorale from Bach's Cantata No. 40, Wachet Auf (Sleepers, Wake), which Strehlow the elder had translated into the Aranda language, and which, according to the book, was sung by the mission people as he was lifted onto a buggy for his final ride.
The Ntaria Ladies Choir from Hermannsburg sing it in Aranda with a distinctly focused nasal sound, rich with harmonics, and it recurs throughout the work as a symbol of cultural difference and coming together.
Structurally, the cantata has a form similar to that of a Bach cantata. Symbolically, the sound of the Aboriginal women's voices highlights cultural estrangement and awkwardness; German Lutheran traditions in the Australian desert. At the end of scene two, there is a wonderfully touching passage as chorale phrases sung by Ntaria women are interwoven with polyphony from the Philharmonia choir, encapsulating a sense of hesitant awkwardness and hope among whites and cultural groundedness and placidity among the Aranda.
T.G.H. Strehlow's part is sung with beautifully pure, vulnerable sound by the boy soprano David Bruce, while John Stanton commands the firm authority of a documentary voice-over as the narrator. Aaron Pedersen, in the spoken part of Njitiaka, gives colourful examples of the rhythmic lilt and flow of the Aranda language, while Rodney Macann, as the dying father, brings convincing European expressiveness into the cultural mix.
The orchestral part (Sydney Symphony), under David Porcelijn, is built up from the musical language of the chorale and adds another cultural element: that of the stirring, Hollywood "voyage" style, which is at odds with everything else, yet strangely effective in drawing it all together.
The epic and forward-moving musical narrative tone is broken at key moments such as the climactic death scene, in which the music becomes fierce while the text mixes biblical references with images of fire. The text selected by Gordon Williams is concise and to the point, maintaining a forward-moving narrative direction and underlining the journey metaphor at several levels: the personal mercy dash, the journey towards enlightenment and death which we all make, and the journey of two cultures towards uneasy understanding.
Schultz and Williams have constructed a vivid and bold work that goes straight to a raw point of contemporary Australian society."
[Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, 5/2/2005]
"This disc brings a new dimension to Journey to Horseshoe Bend, Theodor Strehlow's story of his father, German Lutheran pastor Carl Strehlow, who served in the central Australian Hermannsburg Mission from 1894 to 1922. His final journey to reach medical help in Adelaide is the basis of this cantata composed by Andrew Schultz to Gordon Kalton Williams' libretto. It gives a strong sense of the role of the Strehlow family in Australia's centre. The searing heat, the centre's majestic red mountains and the vibrancy of the indigenous culture all meld in this vital treasure of a work. Theodor's story, sung by David Bruce and narrated by John Stanton and Aaron Pedersen, with baritone Rodney Macann, the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir, the Sydney Symphony conducted by David Porcelijn and the Ntaria Ladies Choir of Hermannsburg, is a reconciliation journey if ever there was one."
[Patricia Kelly , The Courier Mail, 5/2/2005]
"The story of Australia since European settlement is partly one of cultures meeting and interacting. This new cantata from composer Andrew Schultz and librettist Gordon Kalton Williams provides a fascinating insight into one of those meetings. Based on an autobiographical novel by TGH Strehlow, it tells the story of how, in 1922, his dying father (Carl) set out along the dry bed of the Finke River towards the railway at Oodnadatta, only to die on the way at Horseshoe Bend. For 28 years Carl had been the pastor at a Lutheran mission in Hermannsburg where his and the local Aranda people's culture had freely intermingled. This cultural mixing is reflected in the cantata. It is sung in three different languages (German, Aranda and English) using the cantata form that Bach (himself a Lutheran) favoured. It also uses one of Bach's most famous tunes (Wachet Auf!) as its musical base. This recording uses the same cast as the premiere performance with John Stanton and Aaron Pedersen (narrators), Rodney Macann (bass-baritone), David Bruce (boy soprano), the Ntaria Ladies Choir, the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir and the Sydney Symphony, all under the direction of David Porcelijn. The undoubted star of this disc is the Ntaria Ladies Choir, which was formed by Carl Strehlow during his time at Hermannsburg. They perform a chorus from Wachet Auf in the Aranda language as translated by Carl Strehlow. John Stanton (TGH Strehlow as an older man) narrates with authority. Aaron Pederson, himself an Aranda man, is perfectly cast as Njitiaka - one of their companions on the journey. Rodney Macann (bass-baritone) brings gravity to the role of the dying preacher. David Bruce (boy soprano) is splendid as the young TGH, while the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir handles their various tasks with ease. This is an excellent recording of an important new Australian work that can hopefully earn a large audience."
[Andrew Fraser, Music Australia Guide, 1 March 2005]
"This is a monumental work in the mould of Michael Tippet's A Child of Our Time. It tells the story, as seen through the eyes of his 14 year old son Theo, of the desperate journey in 1922 of a mortally-ill Carl Strehlow, the Lutheran pastor and superintendent of the Hermannsburg Aboriginal mission. Seeking medical help in Adelaide, they travel by horse and buggy for the train at Oodnadatta down the dry bed of the Finke River - the journey ended tragically at Horseshoe Bend.
Rich with symbols and allusions, the music and the text both draw from many sources. Representing the mingling of Christian theology and the beliefs of the local Aranda people, the J.S.Bach chorale Wachet Auf is never far from the surface. It is set in the Aranda language and is sung by the Ntaria Ladies Choir from Hermannsburg; the chorale also runs like the dry riverbed through the instrumental forces of the work.
The text draws from three languages - Aranda, English and German; however the musical language is mostly Euro-centric. Some elements of Aboriginal and culture make their way into the music, but the instrumentation is orchestral. A strong emphasis on brass and the use of simple pitch constructions evokes comparison to Copland. The use of familiar music, the Bach chorale with its usual associations, conveys a particular emotional message. As the party leaves on its journey to an uncertain end, the chorale in its strong major homophony is an uplifting and positive farewell, sharply contrasting with accompanying wailing and an answering chorus of the Lord's Prayer in German in a very dark setting. Such conflicting emotional states, used at various points throughout, strongly portray a sense of impending doom.
Schultz employs spatial displacement of instrumental groups, with brass and percussion forming impenetrable walls around a string concertino - representing the walls of the gorge at Horseshoe Bend - and giving a nod to baroque use of antiphonal groupings."
[Anthony Linden Jones, MCA Music Forum August-October 2005]
"We hear less from Oz than we should. The two-night launch of Andrew Schultz's Journey to Horseshoe Bend at Sydney Opera House in 2003 touched Australian hearts. There were sold-out houses and standing ovations.
This 50-minute cantata depicts the swansong journey of German missionary Pastor Strehlow (sung splendidly by New Zealander Rodney Macann) through the Finke River, central Australia, in 1922 as witnessed by his son Theo (boy soprano David Bruce). English language is interspersed with many sections in German and Aboriginal Australian.
Choral writing is uplifting. The Ntaria Ladies Choir, brought down from central Australia's outback, sing snatches of Bach's Wachet auf harshly in Aboriginal just as Strehlow would have taught them. The Sydney Philharmonic Motet Choir sing mostly the German and English language sections, such as the moving "Try to get through the sand hills at night".
Schultz uses the full resources of the Sydney Symphony excitingly, especially in the climactic scene six where a large, scorching dissonance heralds the arrival at the searing heat and red cliffs of Horseshoe Bend. Schultz's stunning evocation of the harsh outback is one of the many strong points in this rich and diverse work."
[Ian Dando, New Zealand Listener, June 18-24, 2005 Vol 199 No 3397]
"This cantata by Andrew Schultz, with libretto by Gordon Kalton Williams, is based on T.G.H. Strehlow's autobiographical novel describing the fruitless journey by his dying father, Pastor Carl Strehlow, through Central Australia in 1922 to seek medical help. It is a curious half-spoken, half-sung musical beast. Much of the music, conducted by David Porcelijn, is evocative and descriptive, with flowing string phrases, imposing brass chords, swelling orchestral climaxes and a wide range of percussion instruments to represent the forces of nature. . The Wachet auf chorale in the final scene, combining the throaty-voiced Ntaria Ladies Choir with the more polished Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir, is powerfully affecting and musically intriguing."
[Murray Black, The Weekend Australian, 29/1/2005]
Sleepers Wake - Karalananga (2003) (back to top)
"Sleepers Wake – Karalananga for piano (played by Bernard Lanskey) is a meditation on two themes from his cantata Journey to Horseshoe Bend – Wachet auf (the Lutheran chorale) and a Karalananga melody which is heard between phrases of the hymn. It has a sustained beauty which is truly memorable."
Song of Songs (2004) (back to top)
Andrew Schultz's Song of Songs, a setting of a modern recrafting by the Melbourne poet Barry Hill of the original biblical text, succeeds in creating something new in the world of choral sound.
Not new in concept to be sure, since close miking, multi-tracking and careful focusing of the balance to add a rich, sometimes acerbic edge to the colour are the everyday tools of many contemporary styles, particularly in the cinema.
Yet the particular 18-voiced mix here - six live voices, slightly to the fore, each with two prerecorded partners, set at a slight acoustic distance - was originally conceived, and its use over an extended five-part cycle for about 45 minutes, was original and absorbing.
Hill has arranged the love songs in the Song of Songs into five movements with a quasi narrative progression through attraction, consummation, loss and rediscovery. Using the image of love near a city wall, he creates a dichotomy between inner desire and fecundity and outer threat and decay, the fire of love and coldness of alienation.
Schultz's textures vary from the iridescent, closely voiced tonal harmonies of the first song, Enchantment, to antiphonal dialogues between the live voices and their shadows to the words "feed me" in the third movement, Feasting, to florid decoration over static harmonies as though in a static transcendent mind-state and tumbling erotic climaxes.
Though the work had clarity of sound and structure, it relied heavily
on the superb professionalism of the Song Company, under Roland Peelman,
not only for the stamina of concentration and musicianship required,
but also for the deep experience of each player in balancing their vocal
sound against a complex vocal web.” visit article
"Song of Songs by composer Andrew Schultz and writer Barry Hill represents one mythical erotic encounter after another, each outstripping the previous in sensuous luxuriance. Schultz uses the six voices of the Song Company (directed by Roland Peelman) recorded against each other twice to make 18 parts, mixing in resonant piano and percussion strokes to create a soaring, richly woven and effusive sound fabric."
"Although the textual springboard for the new Andrew Schultz CD released by the Song Company is biblical, there’s nothing conventionally religious about it. Musically too it is decidedly unconventional: despite being a seven-part excursion into Schultz’s compositional world which is almost entirely vocal, it contains almost no comprehensible words.
Rather, Schultz uses his texts as musical building blocks, combining them into highly evocative, not to mention ingratiating, dollops of ensemble sounds from which only the odd word or phrase leaps into the realms of comprehensibility…Drawing for inspiration on the biblical fountainhead itself, … this work uses vivid imagery and mock-dialogue to equip the work with considerable inbuilt drama …
The whole CD is ... a delicious hour of wallowing in the voluptuousness of amorous verse impeccably sung. ... It deserves a very wide listenership indeed.”
“The Meaning of Water follows…seamlessly, with simple melodic fragments tossed around on rippling, surging figurations.”
[Rob Barnett, Music Web International, October 2011.]
“Once Upon a Time ... is Schultz’s reaction to the wonder of musical storytelling through the magical realm of the orchestra. The original was composed for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra with triple winds but for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra he has revised it down to double winds for the smaller orchestra.”
Wild Flower (2007) (back to top)
"Wild Flower deals with the harshness of birth in a richly voiced chordal style with moments of florid ecstasy."
After Nina (2007) (back to top)
“Andrew Schultz's After Nina is inspired by Nina Simone's version of Billie Holliday's Strange Fruit. After Selby read the first stanza of the original poem, ''black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze'', it was hard to hear anything but tragedy in Schultz's eloquent, spare writing.”
Endling (2007) (back to top)
Conductor Andreas Delfs, economical with the baton, saving his gestures for when they were really needed, maximised the intensity of Endling. Mozart’s Symphony no 41 in C major, known as Jupiter, was the perfect choice to follow Endling. Survival of the fittest, to be sure… The subtlety of Schultz and Mozart was all the more telling after the romantic extravaganzas of the first half of the concert… After most ASO concerts, the foyer chat is about the concerto soloist. This time, people wanted to talk about Endling.”
“Upon hearing the work, I felt immediately drawn to this piece, which has a sense of stillness and loneliness that is emotionally (and sometimes harmonically) akin to the music of Bruckner and Sibelius…a work of communicative power and concentration.”
"Schultz's magnetic pull is towards the pensive, steadily glowing and leaning towards the whisper… Endling means the last surviving individual of a species or plant. Schultz's piece specifies two horns, timps and strings. It's a tonal piece, tender and with a tendency to sorrow and introspection. The music is elegiac with fine pastels touched in by the horns and fragile yet at times intense strings. A parallel might be Finzi but more astringent and strange yet not dissonant.”
“Endling … thematizes the loss of nature and the diversity of species on our planet and the disappearance of beauty in a completely exploited and spiritually vacuous world. This pain is, however, not articulated via atonality and harsh dissonances, rather with an almost transcendental harmony in which the melancholy regarding all that is irretrievable assumes the form of a beauty that takes leave of this world and yet remains facing toward it. Precisely in its serenity and inner calm, this music has something both heartbreaking and deeply moving.”
“For much of his career, Andrew Schultz has sought a maximum of depth from simple and even constricted means – the telling chord change, the crucial use of silence. His larger works - choral cantatas and full-length operas – may deal with weighty issues: isolation, the sea, deaths at sea, deaths in custody, death on a desert journey, terrorism. But the purely-instrumental, shorter, chamber works are no less profound. So it is with Endling this 15-minute work for an orchestra of two horns, timpani and strings…
Schultz might in this sense be considered Australia’s most Beethovenian composer. His incremental style of development however also guarantees that the first-time listener will be able to follow and, more importantly, feel what he is saying. No wonder 2007’s Endling has made such a deep impression…
For Schultz music-making as a communal activity relates to the sense of communal ecstasy that religious experience must once have provided. That sense may also explain the strongly-positive responses audiences have felt to this work ostensibly about extinction. Perhaps Endling is best thought of therefore, for more reasons than one, as a maximizing of significance even from a minimizing of possibilities.”
The Children's Bach (2008) (back
Athena (Kathryn Grey) and Dexter (Andrea Carcassi) are happily married, their lives tinged with sadness by a profoundly autistic son, Billy (James Christensen). By contrast, Elizabeth (Dimity Shepherd) and Philip (James Egglestone) are loose-living bohemians. When the couples converge, Athena and Philip embark on a mad fling that cannot last.
Schultz and Perry's opera faithfully recreates the novel's inner- suburban world and its central romantic collision. The score plays on the book's musical references while remaining utterly original. It employs everything from jazz-inspired riffs to fugal structure to accompany the progression of romantic entanglements. A wild arrangement for marimba evokes the disorienting jungle of Billy's mind. In a striking scene straight from the book, Elizabeth's sister Vicki (Tess Duddy) sings the Skye Boat Song while Billy hums wordlessly along. And the novel's conclusion is sung, effectively, as a rising, speculative duet...
The production is imaginatively staged…and succeeds in creating the sort of intricate interiority (a difficult thing to do in opera) that ultimately does justice to the book."
"For those unfamiliar with Helen Garner's novella, this review shall not spoil the details of the story as retold in this operatic adaptation. Not that plot is so much a driving force in this tale, but the developments of the fragile relationships depicted are an essential part of its dramatic strength. In essence, it is a tale about emotional isolation in suburbia, the loneliness and disappointments within relationships, and the escape and damage of seeking solace or excitement outside of them.
As Dexter (Andrea Carcassi), one of the main characters, keeps pondering, is this "modern life"? Is this all it amounts to? What kind of abstraction is love in the face of seemingly far more potent pain and disaffection? Needless to say, this is not a particularly cheerful piece, but whether it is actively depressing or alienating depends very much on the temperament (and experiences) of the audience members themselves. Mercifully avoiding high angst, The Children’s Bach is a slow-burn exploration of some of the less dramatic or glamorous facets of "modern life".
The score is certainly quite beautiful, powerful and oftentimes even rather haunting. A rich, surprising and complex piece of composition, the music alone is worth the price of admission, and Andrew Schultz is to be congratulated. Librettist Glenn Perry has taken on the challenging task of adapting Garner's often quite prosaic words into something compatible with the operatic voice, while never betraying the essential flavour of the suburban doldrums. All this may seem "a bit too modern" for more traditionalist opera patrons, and any of those still suffering from a bit of Cultural Cringe may have trouble accepting such fine singers passionately intoning lines about Hills Hoists and Video Hits.
The cast is uniformly of a high standard, as much a well-rehearsed ensemble as the excellent musicians who back them. Although each of the performers got some shining moments, the most cumulatively prominent role was that of Athena, powerfully portrayed by Kathryn Grey. An engaging performer, Grey was both powerful and understated, emoting a range from disaffection to despair while never seeming for a moment to be extravagant. Indeed, for a character who could come across as fairly unsympathetic, Grey, rather than attempt to make the role more likable, has the confidence to simply be compelling enough that any such judgmental perceptions quickly slide away.
One aspect of this production that particularly stood out was the set design, with no walls or boundaries in the large empty space afforded it in the Merlyn Theatre, but rather... islands. Islands of furniture, little set-pieces (literally) as though individual rooms reduced to their barest essentials of function. A television and a couch. A dining table. A bed and wardrobe. A rabbit cage. All these little nuggets of naturalistic living spaces plopped down in the dark, featureless landscape of the theatre made them seem almost as though suspended in space and time. It served as a tremendously effective visual metaphor, perhaps, for the isolation and emotional distance between the characters, and even the compartmentalisation of different parts of each individual's life. Many have used a similar approach to set design before, but have rarely achieved it so evocatively. If anything, it seemed that the sprawling set was under-utilised, but perhaps the extra "settings" that were not really used provided a visual purpose as much as a practical one, as though to suggest that this isolation spreads on forever.
While it has the potential to leave some viewers cold, others may well find this new opera to be a very compelling and moving experience. The Children's Bach might be exploring the seemingly mundane, but in many respects it is within reaching distance of the sublime."
"Schultz's songs however often catch the ear, almost at times like a musical, ... as when Philip sings to Poppy about his beloved Paradise Bar, or Dexter about 'lerv.' While the score is not accessible in the manner of Glass or Adams or, more conventionally, Golijov, nor is it the jagged modernism of an earlier Schultz opera, Black River (1989, film 1993). The composer's score is lyrical and pervasively melancholic, save a joyous, dancing, unsung passage and the opera's baroqu-ish duet coda. Not surprisingly it's the Bach-ian texturing and pulsing of the score that gives the work warmth and drive. Each of Poppy's readings from her 'Children's Bach' seem to trigger the requisite realisation of the theory from the orchestra, driving the opera on but also adding to the sense of moment, a certain thoughtfulness, a musical reflectiveness. Schultz's score sings, muses and dances and is superbly realised by the onstage conductor (Nicholas Carter alternating with music director Brett Kelly) and fine instrumentalists on piano, cello, clarinet, double bass, marimba, vibraphone and violin."
Four Inventions (2008) (back to top)
The concert opened with Barcarole and Sleepers Wake, two delicate pieces by Andrew Schultz …the first … was open and light in texture, yet featured heavily, internally dampened low bass notes, giving an unusual percussive pedal note effect below the gentle melodic line.
…Four Inventions by Andrew Schultz is music taken from his opera The Children’s Bach and the four contrasting sections gave an opportunity for Gray to exhibit more of his technical skill and considered interpretation.”
Beach Burial (2009) (back to top)
Schultz’s new work Beach Burial is a setting of Kenneth Slessor’s eponymous poem. Schultz divided Slessor’s understated text into four broad sections, starting with a soft, pained opening semitone on the violins with spare texture that gradually fills out leading to a more strife-torn emphatic passage with brass. This ends suddenly, and the final section is like an irregular hymn. The Philharmonia, under Brett Weymark, sung it with sympathetic intensity.”
"…Schultz’s Beach Burial, which was commissioned by Philharmonia: a setting of a text by Kenneth Slessor which began introspectively and developed into impassioned intensity.”
To the evening star (2009) (back to top)
“One of two highlights of the concert was Andrew Schultz’s To the Evening Star (2009; Best Song Cycle, Paul Lowin Awards), a reflection, writes the composer, on the inner creative life, responding to poems by Yeats, Hopkins, Longfellow, WH Davis and Blake. Yeats dreams lyrically of rural escape while the busy piano suggests both the “bee-loud glade” and “the roadway…the pavements gray.” For Hopkins’ Pied Beauty, Schultz and singer, Alison Morgan, hit the syllables hard and rapidly, evoking excitement at the density of natural riches. Longfellow’s anxiety about a creative life only half fulfilled is rendered emotionally, a soaring complaint, the piano thundering in empathy, while Davies’ Money, O! contrastively celebrates being poor but happy in a vigorous folksy, music theatre idiom. Finally, Blake’s To the Evening Star is a gloriously sung prayer for divine protection framed by piano scoring that seems to embrace the whole of the world, the playing constantly pushing out to the bottom and top-most notes simultaneously until at rest.”
Stille Sprache (back to top)
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