Penelope Thwaites Chamber Music Deeply Personal

This release presents eight world recording premieres by Australian composer Penelope Thwaites. Thwaites has a solid career both as a pianist and a composer. The selections on this release are all deeply personal. 

Thwaites writes in an accessible, tonal style that effectively conveys emotion. And emotion is what her works are about. 

“For Irana” is a poignant portrait played by the Tippett Quartet. Irana Ratushinskaya was condemned to a Soviet gulag for refusing to conform her poetry to party lines. Thwaites met her after her release. 

The work encapsulates the wasteland of the gulag, as well as the steely resolve of Ratushinskaya. It’s a powerful portrait expertly drawn in sound. 

On the other end of the emotional spectrum is “The Selfish Giant.” Thwaite turned her ballet score for Oscar Wilde’s story into a suite for two pianos. Thwaite and Benjamin Frith perform well together, delivering good-humored performances. 

“Vijay’s Fable” is another ballet score, this time performed with piano, violin, and cello. The work was a collaboration with Indian dancer Vijaylakshmi Subramaniam. It’s Indian music filtered through Western classical music. but it’s done in a natural, organic fashion far removed from cliched Orientalism.

This collection provides an excellent overview of Thwaite’s work, both as a composer and a performer. SOMM has released a collection of Thwaite’s choral music. On the strength of this release, I’ll be seeking that out next.

Penelope Thwaites: Gardens, Fables, Prisons, Dreams
Penelope Thwaites, Benjamin Frith piano;
Laurence Ungless double bass; Tippett Quartet
Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0672

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