From the Hungry Waiting Country

Review by Vincent Plush, The Australian, December 2018

CD review

For the past 20 years, Halcyon has commissioned and recorded an array of music from composers at the edgy end of the spectrum. Among the Sydney-based ensemble’s recent releases are pieces by Elliott Gyger, who has had a luminous career in Sydney, Boston and, since 2008, at Melbourne University. Hailing from a literary family, Gyger brings an acute sense and understanding of text, its meanings and sonic nuances. These qualities illuminate the works on this album, three of the six he has written for Halcyon. The first work on this intriguing disc, giving voice (2012) emerges as an intimate song cycle on the theme of childhood, and the acquisition of speech as a symbol of emerging identity. In this recording, it is the virtuosic playing of an instrumental quintet which carries the 26-minute work to its somewhat equivocal conclusion. Settings of that notorious spoof poet Ern Malley for two female voices and piano, Petit Testament (2008), meander for nearly 10 minutes. But it is the final work and title track which lifts the spirits. Scored for four female voices with harp accompaniment, the 30-minute piece from 2006 reflects on the devastating effects of climate change on this continent. Hardly surprising for the composer of the acclaimed chamber opera version of David Malouf’s Fly Away Peter (2015), this album presents some of the most virtuosic and uplifting vocal music ever created by an Australian composer.

Vincent Plush, The Australian 29 December 2018