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Margaret Brandman – a Musical Life.
By Benita Rainer
Love Brings Change
Adagio for Strings
This work is reflective of positive changes in the composer’s life’s journey that brought about new directions in her life and music. The melody and rich harmonic palette woven into this work express joy, contentment and elation.
Click here to view Love Brings Change performed by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Piano and String Orchestra
The composer’s aim in writing Lyric Fantasy was to write a contemporary yet easily accessible piece. Margaret Brandman believes there is too much tension in the world today, and therefore, music which makes the listener feel relaxed and happy is a good counter-balance to everyday stress. The two movements are in contrasting keys and moods, at times lyrical and flowing and at other moments more vigorous and dynamic.
Lucie writes: Dear Margaret - "It was my pleasure to work with you. I like your pieces very much! I will remember it a long long time, because it happens not often, I can play so nice and lovely music for recording..."; Kind regards - Lucie Kaucká
Click here to view Czech pianist Lucie Kaucká rehearsing Lyric Fantasy in Olomouc
Margaret sought to portray the wave movements of the ocean on the eastern seaboard of Australia, near which she was born and is currently living.
The first movement is a theme and variations based on a poignant adagio theme, while the second movement is more animated. It begins with a section of rhythmic hocket and then introduces ostinato, over which the melody lines float as elegantly as sail boats on the waves.
Comment on Undulations by Benita Rainer.
Mellifluous, floating, peaceful, serene – these are the words that best describe the opening of this work which is then followed by a leisurely unveiling of measured sound and a lively decorative violin obligato. Then the parts are woven together in an intricate contrapuntal section, leading to the final heartfelt melody in triple time.
The second movement begins with pizzicato strings, setting a new underlying framework to the restless tidal nuances of sound. The pulsating rhythmic ostinati, like waves in the deep ocean, support the flowing melodies which float above, rising to a climax. Then, with a return to the heartfelt theme from the first movement, the work ends with the suggestion of a tidal ebb.
This is a programmatic work, which depicts the atmosphere and the composer’s emotions during the summers of 1993-94 and 2001 during which time she and her family fought a fire that had taken hold of their house in the forested Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
The first movement portrays the searing summer heat on a still day, with the only sound being that of the plaintive monotone birdcall of the Eastern Spinebill, followed by sharp gusts of wind carrying dangerous red-hot embers from the eucalypt trees. It is these embers which cause widespread outbreaks of fires. As the wind picks up, the piercing cries of the cockatoos fleeing the fires is heard, signifying the danger ahead. The dramatic sections in this movement capture the fear and tension of the animals and people living in the path of the oncoming fire.
The second movement begins with the sound of three bells tolling as heard in the memorial service for the victims of the fires. It depicts the sorrow and reflection of the nation after the devastation of the fires, which, in the 1993-4 fire season, for the first time, affected even suburban areas of Sydney, where several lives were lost and many people lost their homes. The nation reels back, stunned by the ferocity of the fires. Yet through the tears there are signs of renewal and a sense that life must go on.
The final movement reflects the renewal of the bush, with new green shoots of the resilient gum trees appearing after the fires and the rebuilding of lives affected by the tragedy. This effect is achieved by the use of lively cross rhythms and quartal harmony, lending a feeling of vigour and brightness to the piece.
Comment on Firestorm Symphony by Benita Rainer. The entire work is a faithful audio depiction of the chilling experience of a ferocious Australian bushfire, followed by devastation and later regeneration of the forests.
In the first movement, the music captures the brooding stillness in the air, and the shimmering heat along with the plaintive monotone call of the Eastern Spinebill Bird. Then we hear the wind begin to blow, gradual scufflings of the animals and cries of the cockatoos, culminating in the desperate fleeing of all wildlife and people from the oncoming flames. The music then depicts the gigantic, terrifying flare-ups as the flames crown in the crests of the gum trees and embers leap from tree to tree, sometimes 60 feet overhead, while sheer walls of flames devour the grass and the Eucalypt embers move on ahead like advancing soldiers.
Firestorm Symphony was orchestrated by Margaret Brandman together with Mark Saliba.
VIOLIN AND PIANO Chamber WORKS
The three Violin and Piano works on this album were superbly performed by Czech Instrumentalists:
Vit Mužík (violin) Lucie Kaucká (piano)
Binna Burra Dreaming
‘Binna Burra’ is the aboriginal place name for ‘where the Beech Tree grows’. ‘Dreaming’ refers to the Aboriginal Dream-time stories. Binna Burra is a world-heritage site among the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia, located near the Gold Coast in the Australian state of Queensland. Local aborigines used the place for shelter and cooking.
In this work the composer incorporates effects which suggest the Australian Aboriginal musical instrument the Didjeridoo, and wind gently flowing through the branches of the trees of the Gondwana forest.
As the themes are explored and developed, the listener is taken on a musical journey through the ancient forest, with slow and delicate sections using ethereal sounds, conjuring up the ancient spirits, to bravura sections and lively sections with contemporary rhythms, suggesting the myriad of plant and animal life in the forest area.
Comment on this work by Benita Rainer
This work incorporates elements of Australian Aboriginal music and sounds heard in the Australian landscape. It begins with a digeridoo rhythm in the piano, which precedes the violin theme, After each statement of the theme, the piano responds with gentle chords suggesting the breeze blowing through the trees.
The piano plays a supportive role, defining the gentle cascading of the violin lines which it then echoes. The rhythm of the piano supports the violin theme, which is reminiscent of birds chattering at the billabong in the Australian bush. The violin’s delicate harmonics then invoke the aching, somnolent slumber of the Australian bush on a hot summer’s afternoon. Therein, bush creatures and all else are slowing down, meltingly accepting of the Eucalypt engendered drowsiness.
The Eastern Spinebill and the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos
Herald a Blue Mountains Bush Fire
This programmatic piece is a reduction of the first movement of Firestorm Symphony for violin and piano.
In this work the composer includes cries of Australian native birds, the Cockatoos and the Eastern Spinebill, which she often heard whilst living in the forested Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. The piece also incorporates eerie wind effects and the rhythms of aboriginal clap sticks.
Autumn Rhapsody was composed during the Autumn months in Australia, for inclusion in a programme of original works performed by the composer, at the World Forum concert, held at Oxford University (UK) in August 2012.
The work is both impressionistic and lyrical, featuring rich contemporary harmonies. The free rhapsodic sections are counter-balanced by rhythmic sections. The writing incorporates the wide compass of the piano, while the dynamic range and sonorities help to create a meditative mood.
Dr Adrienne Wiley, Professor of Piano and performer from Central Michigan University USA commented after hearing a recording of the work:
"It is awesome! Such beautiful, pianistic, sensitive writing! I am so very, very grateful to hear such quality music! You have a devoted listener, musician/pianist and fan of your music and writing!”
Quote from the review of Rhapsodies to Rhumbas by Artie J. Brown:
"The highlight of the night was Margaret Brandman herself performing several of her works for piano. Of particular note was her performance of her solo work, Autumn Rhapsody. This work demonstrated Brandman's affinity with jazz and solo piano writing, as well as her skills in performing classical piano. This piece was infused with virtuosic writing, as well as syncopated rhythms which had the audience tapping their feet."
Jucaro Rhumba D’Amor
Over the years, Margaret as composer/pianist has performed as a soloist or with many ensembles playing many styles of music from Classical to Jazz and
She has always loved the Latin-American rhythms and sought to explore this genre with her delicate violin melody superimposed over the Rhumba Rhythm established in the piano part.
Comment on Jucaro Rhumba D’Amor performed by Duo Deconet in 2014. “It was a unique experience to listen to this beautiful piece you have composed for violin and piano, last Thursday 9 October at ANU School of Music for the Department of Latin Studies. The standing ovation of the audience to you said it all. Your composition is delicate and luminous, with melodies that caress the spirit.”
Ambassador of Ecuador
for two pianos
Spirit Visions was composed after a professional meeting in 2002 between the composer, Margaret Brandman and Sydney organist and clairvoyant Robert Goode who was performing at Sydney Town Hall at the time and for whom Margaret had done a musical arrangement.
This expansive melody harmonised with resonant chords was originally inspired by the tone colours of the magnificent Sydney Town Hall organ, on which Robert Goode regularly performed, and upon which, Margaret, through this fortuitous meeting, was given an opportunity to improvise, thereby channelling the inspiration for this piece. By arranging the work for two pianos, Margaret was able to create a fuller sound replicating the sounds of the organ.
Beginning with the maestoso theme in a major key underpinned by organ pedal notes, several variations in mood are created by changes in the treatment of the theme. Textural and harmonic changes in addition to changes of key, tempo and rhythmic feel, create a dynamic listening experience.
The momentum builds as the lively Latin-American segments take hold, before the restatement of the original majestic theme in the tonic major key and the final joyous, uplifting ending.
The performers on this recording are Margaret Brandman and Australian pianist, Marcello Maio.
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