Graeme Koehne is quite an accomplished Australian composer, well known for his orchestral and ballet scores. He trained under Richard Meale, and his earlier works were highly influenced by the works of Boulez, Takemitsu, Debussy and Ravel. However, soon after, he developed a much more distinctive and idiosyncratic style, for which he is best known today: an approach grounded in the musical vernacular, aiming to draw classical music closer to the elements and highly varied styles of popular music.
The titular work on this album, Powerhouse (1993) is a perpetuum mobile built on a rhumba as its rhythmic base. The work celebrates the music of Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott, creators of the soundtracks for the famous 1940s and 50s Warner Brothers cartoons. He very cleverly blends into his sophisticated palate the middlebrow music of the 1950s (think Xavier Cugat and Henry Mancini, for example), but without heavy-handed irony.
A companion piece to this work, Unchained Melody (1991), also on this disc, gives expression to the composer’s own feeling of hard-won liberation from the constraints of modernist thinking, and draws upon the rhythmic and melodic materials of contemporary popular music.
The disc also features Three Poems of Byron (1993) with Elizabeth Campbell, mezzo-soprano; Capriccio (1987) with Clemens Lekse, piano; and Two Nocturnes (1987). The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, led by David Porcelijn and Janos Furst are resplendent on this recording. These works have a real life to them, and are incredibly sophisticated, defiantly modernist in flavour, and are great fun to listen to. A fascinating disc of iconic works by one of our greatest composers.
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Graeme Koehne (b.1956)
1. Powerhouse – Rhumba for Orchestra Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn
Three Poems of Byron 2. I. Stanzas for Music 3. II. To Woman 4. III. She Walks in Beauty Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Janos Furst
Capriccio 5. I. Caprice 6. II. Rounds 7. III. Scherzo Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Janos Furst
Two Nocturnes 8. I. Twilight 9. II. Interlude (Delius near the Alhambra) Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Janos Furst
10. Unchained Melody Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, David Porcelijn