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Chamber music


Australian music for mixed chamber ensembles


The ‘mixed’, Pierrot lunaire-type ensemble saved contemporary instrumental music in the post-war years: cheaper than an orchestra and with (usually) more dedicated personnel, it still offered a range of colour and contrast and became a preferred medium for composers. Important works by Richard Meale and Nigel Butterley date from the 1960s, but the 1970s saw the establishment of funded ensembles (which have come and mostly gone) – ACME, Synergy, the Seymour Group and Flederman, with others like Elision, Nova and Libra following. Some of these actively associated themselves with a small number of specific composers – much of Liza Lim’s work has been composed for Elision, for instance.

In addition, the Australia Ensemble at Sydney’s University of NSW, the Australian Chamber Soloists in Melbourne and the Australian Piano Quartet in Perth were formed to play a range of music including, but not only, new work. There is therefore a large repertoire for mixed ensemble ranging from works for traditional genres (the piano quartet, for instance) through to purpose-built groups like the David Chesworth Ensemble.

Representative works

  Work Notes
Concertino da camera (1946) by Peggy Glanville-Hicksan early neoclassical masterpiece for flute, clarinet, bassoon and piano.
Vertigo (1986) by Riccardo FormosaVertigo for flute (piccolo), oboe, clarinet and piano is another short masterpiece from this composer.
Refractions at Summer Cloud Bay (1989) by Nigel Westlakescored for alto flute/piccolo, bass clarinet, violin, viola and violoncello, this is one of many works commissioned by the Australia Ensemble.
Lottery in Babylon (1995) by Raffæle Marcellinothis work for flute/bass flute, clarinet/soprano saxophone, violin, violoncello and piano glimpses a Borgesian labyrinth.
Trace elements (2003) by Damien Ricketsoncan be played by any two wind and string instruments with the score written in tablature; the possibilities are almost endless.
Digital sheet music sample Las Alboradas (1963) by Richard Mealethis work for flute, violin, horn, and piano staked an early claim at the leading edge of modernism.

Broader categories of Chamber music