Last year, when Sydney Chamber Choir and percussion ensemble Synergy performed a tribute concert to mark composer Ross Edwards’ 75th birthday, he thanked them with typical modesty: “I’m a person who puts dots on paper and I am slightly bedazzled by all this attention.” Those “dots” have brought an enormous amount of pleasure over five decades with music inspired by the flora and fauna of the Pacific Rim, full of catchy melodies and rhythms but with a deep sense of ritual and spirituality. To celebrate one of our best-loved and most-performed composers, ABC Classic has released a double CD mixing previously released material with four unrecorded works – the irresistible suite Animisms, which gets the collection off to a bubbling start, the Second String quartet, and two solo works for cor anglais and shakuhachi.

This is a generous birthday tribute, coming in at more than two-and-a-half hours and featuring the cream of Australia’s chamber musicians, including the Goldner String Quartet, Australia Ensemble, pianist Bernadette Harvey (twice, with the Piano Sonata and short and very sweet Sea Star Fantasy) and Bridget Bolliger’s New Sydney Wind Quintet (Incantations and The Laughing Moon). Sydney Symphony Orchestra followers will find many familiar names in the credits, including Alexandre Oguey, whose sinuous cor anglais features in the evocative Water Spirit Song.

Two substantial works underpin this collection. The string quartet Shekina Fantasy, commissioned by Kenneth Tribe for Musica Viva, is performed live by the Goldners, who gave its premiere, and this recording shows that it stands alongside the quartets of Peter Sculthorpe. And the Piano Trio, dedicated to his wife Helen, is Edwards’ most performed work since it was commissioned as a test piece for the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. Guaranteed to lift your spirits, this collection will have you humming, and probably dancing, along.

Composer: Ross Edwards
Catalogue Number: ABC Classic 4817683