Sculthorpe: Compete String Quartets with Didjeridu

Peter Sculthorpe’s music captures the Australian character as completely as Aaron Copland’s does the American. In his compositions for string quartet and didjeridu, Sculthorpe highlights the tensions between the indigenous aborigines of Australia and the encroachment of Western settlers.

The string quartet is a distinctively European invention, the didjeridu an Australian. And yet Sculthorpe skillfully combines them to create a variety of sounds and textures that effectively convey his intended meanings.

The didjeridu is more than just a simple bamboo tube. Through it, a skilled musicians (such as Stephen Kent in this recording), can be an epxressive instrument, one that transforms the human voice into something that can be ethereal, gutteral, intimate, or transcendant. At times instrument sounds like a bank of electronics, other times it sound distinctively human.

The Del Sol Quartet have long embraced contemporary music, and in this recording they excel. Their performances are tight, disciplined, and blend in interesting ways with the didjeridu. Sometimes unusual instruments can sound as if they were grafted onto a standard ensemble. Not here. Scuthorpe fully integrates all the instruments in his music, and that’s just how this band of five talented musicians performed it.

I highly recommend listening to the Blu-ray recording. The didjeridu is capable of very subtle inflections that aren’t fully audible in the CD or download versions.

Peter Sculthorpe: Compete String Quartets with Didjeridu
Quartets Nos. 12 “From Ubirr,” 14 “Quamby,” 16, and 18
Del Sol Quartet
Stephen Kent, didjeridu
Sono Luminus
2CD set and Audio Blu-ray

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