Review by: Will Yeoman
Melbourne composer Stuart Greenbaum’s chamber works, like all the best art, is in the world but not of the world – qualities which are sympathetically brought out in these performances by one of New Zealand’s leading chamber ensembles, NZTrio.
Head of Composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium, Greenbaum has written opera, choral, orchestral, chamber and solo instrumental music. This new recording features eight works exploring the latter two genres from between 1999 and 2011. The title work, 800 Million Heartbeats, takes the nominal number of heartbeats in a human life as a metaphor for life’s journey. Falling by Degrees explores gravity and falling in seven miniatures. Equator Loops and Lunar Orbit are for solo piano and cello respectively, while The Lake and the Hinterland and Scarborough Variations combine both instruments. The Year Without A Summer takes the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora as its subject.
Greenbaum says his music “aims to evoke an atmosphere apart from the routine of modern life”. But by drawing on familiar styles such as blues, pop and jazz, his music celebrates modern life in all its forms. It simply jettisons the routine. Thus 800 Million Heartbeats tells the story of our lives through soaring string melodies singing over the steady pulse of piano figurations. In Falling by Degrees, ghostly harmonics, agitated pizzicatos and deliberately naïve descending scales through up images as diverse as snow, parachutes, anchors and the Stock Market through expressive abstraction.
NZTrio’s passionate interest in contemporary and world music makes them the ideal interpreters for Greenbaum’s eclectic music. They don’t disappoint in a series of works which deftly juggle particulars and universals.
Will Yeoman – Limelight Magazine, 7 November 2013
Limelight Magazine, Australia