Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.
Legendary Australian guitarist Brett Garsed serves up a big helping of solo delights on "Big Sky," his latest musical offering. On a large canvas fitting for a grand Monet, Garsed once again paints a musical landscape using large and brilliant brushstrokes highlighted by subtle colors and fine detail. Fittingly titled "Big Sky," the new album satisfies as it delivers extraordinary playing from the trio of Garsed, Ric Fierabracci (bass) and Toss Panos (drums). The trio's versatility is aptly demonstrated across the CD's ten tracks of melody-infused instrumental rock music. Rich textures are combined with bursts of sound and other-worldly playing, lending credence to the album's title.