Violin Concerto No. 1 (“Australian Postcards”) (2000)

for violin (slight amplification desirable) and orchestra (3333 4331 Timp 2Perc Harp Strings)

duration: 27 minutes

Faber Music publishing details


Audio Excerpts

Opening of third movement (Violin and Piano reduction)

Middle of third movement (Violin and Orchestra)


Programme Notes

1. Wind Turbine at Kooragang Island
2. Westaway
3. Grand Final Day

Commissioned by Ars Musica Australis through its founder, Fr. Arthur Bridge.

One of the guiding principles that Fr. Arthur Bridge outlined when commissioning this piece was that it reflect in some way “the Spirit in Australia”. Amongst the 17 violin concertos lodged at the Australian Music Centre are Ross Edwards Maninyas and Peter Sculthorpe’s Irkanda IV, both of which have similar intent.

The approach that I implemented in this piece was that of “Australian Postcards” – i.e. a set of movements that in some way reflected some Australian place or outlook. I decided that each of the “postcards” would portray contemporary rather than historical Australian culture.

There are three separate movements in this work. The first of these is based upon a physical object, the wind turbine at Kooragang Island, near Newcastle. This is a enormous windmill-type object that has been constructed by Energy Australia as a showcase of the possibilities of wind-generated electricity. There are three enormous prongs on this turbine that move at tremendous speed. When standing underneath this turbine, it seems hard to believe that the whole thing won’t come apart and decapitate everyone nearby, such is its power and speed.

The turbine has been portrayed programmatically as well as metaphorically in this movement. The sense of momentum is fast and seemingly never-ending. The solo violin part must perform some death-defying leaps and string crossings. On the metaphorical level, different musical elements have been composed according to relationships of the number three, as there are three prongs to the turbine. (This however is not essential to the appreciation of the movement).

In 1998, whilst on a visit to Tasmania, my fiancee Christine and I had the opportunity to tour some of the smaller towns in Tasmania. One of these, Westaway, is a village near Mt. Field National Park. Sometimes it would seem to be an idyllic existence living in a country town – no traffic or parking hassles, a clean environment with a strong sense of community amongst its residents. However unemployment and a general atmosphere of boredom are possibly closer to the everyday reality. In Westaway it seemed that every house had a “For Sale” sign on it. Since the closure or scaling back of logging operations, there were no jobs and high unemployment. Services such as banks were removed, causing further dislocation and disillusionment amongst residents.

This movement is then a tribute and portrayal of such small towns and communities in rural and regional Australia. The mood is hardly doom and gloom, but largely a reflection upon “better times” and an optimistic outcome that can be achieved in the long run through creative thinking and innovative solutions.

Sport is an integral part of Australian life for most people, and one of the greatest celebrations in the yearly calendar is Grand Final Day. The Grand Final in whatever sport is hyped up to be the greatest game of the year, a day of high emotions and high drama, of acrobatic feats and legendary skills. Parades are held before and after the great match. The thrill of your team winning the greatest prize of the year is unsurpassed. (Of course the depression of backing the losing team is palpable as I well know, barracking for the Geelong Football Team). The final siren sounds, the club song is sung, all-night parties ensue and life is really worth celebrating!

The approximate duration of the Violin Concerto is 26 minutes.

This piece was partly composed whilst I was composer-in-residence at the Peggy Glanville-Hicks House, Paddington.

notes by Matthew Hindson


Reviews

“Hindson’s Violin Concerto afforded Naoko Miyamoto, who premiered the work in March, a wealth of opportunities to display her virtuosity and lyrical skill. While not abrogating the more turbulent segments of his muse in this piece, Hindson also exposes his soothing side – particularly in the rather gentle second movement, entitled Westaway. The opening, entitled Wind Turbine at Kooragang Island, admirably reflects the turbulence implicit in its title, and the finale, Grand Final Day, also gives us the sort of the energetic persona I have come to think of as the trademark of this young composer. ”

David Gyger, Opera-Opera, August 2001, page 284.17

“After hearing Lara St. John’s West Coast premiere of the Violin Concerto No. 1 “Australian Postcards” by Matthew Hindson, I did something I rarely do upon hearing something for the very first time: I ran out at intermission and bought the recording.
I liked it, and I wanted to hear it again… I found Hindson’s concerto both familiar and challenging; in a musical language that I understand, yet full of new thoughts and ideas. Certainly it sounds modern, but sometimes it’s modern like a movie score, and other times it’s modern like an edgy new symphony.” – Laurie Niles, Violinist.com, 14 Nov 2011.

“The concerto, which was written in 2000, is a showpiece. A prominent figure and power broker on the Australian music scene, Hindson meant his three movements to be musical postcards of his homeland, supplying Australia with a conventional “three places” symphonic triptych as so many other composers have done for their countries… First, a wind turbine on Kooragang Island roars away, offering Hindson a chance to stir up a lot of instrumental dust, and he does so with appealing relish. “Westaway” is pastoral and moody, representing a village in Tasmania where natural beauty and poverty are found. “Grand Final Day” is a speedy, spirited spectacle of sport… Hindson’s musical descriptions are straightforward and sometimes clever. But his talent here is for a contagious pop sensibility that occasionally takes over the concerto. Were he to turn to scoring for Hollywood, I think things would look up at the movies. Mark Swed, LA Times, 14 November 2011.


CD Recording Available?

A recording of this piece is available on Ancalogon Records, recorded by Lara St. John with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Sarah Ionannides. Available via iTunes, Amazon etc. etc. etc.


Other Information

The second movement of this piece featured in the Sydney Dance Company’s performance of Ellipse, choreographed by Graeme Murphy.

The second and third movements of this piece are on the Australian Music Examinations Board syllabus for the Licentiate Diploma.

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