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Ringing The Strings

Melbourne's Concordia Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra present this new recording, including music by Sculthorpe, Faure and the ensemble's own Michelle Nelson.


Concordia Mandolin and Guitar Ensemble

Formed in 1978, the Concordia comprises approximately 24 members playing mandolins, mandolas, guitars, mandocello, Double bass and piano accordion.

Press quote

“components of this rather brief disc (47 minutes) are Sculthorpe’s Little Suite for Strings, A travers la Hongrie (Hungarian Journey) by French master-mandolinist Francois Menichetti, and East-West, the first movement of Sydney composer Steven Lalor’s World Music Suite. In all, the CD has 16 tracks, which works out to about 3 minutes each; so the emphasis is on instant impact and congenial melody.

You get this right from the opening Kangarella where Nelson tries an Italian/Australian fusion, giving the spotlight to piano accordionist Juliette Maxwell for a catchy dance putting a neat chromatic-flavoured tune inside the 6/8 tarantella rhythm. Faure’s miniature has gained an extra two bars of harmless introduction and then lost much of its original torso.

It’s hard to object to the arrangement of Satie’s defenceless Waltz-ballet; Maxwell’s accordion has a starring role, which only reinforces the highly suggestive La Ronde atmospherics, and the additions at start and end are undisturbingly cosmetic. The CD’s title work by Nelson is the previously mentioned and amiable tripartite suite: an Allegretto where the Concordia guitars and mandolins generally treat the straightforward plain-speaking material together; Barcarolle and Waltz, probably more latter than former, and somewhat tedious because the main rhythmic cell is repeated over-conscientiously in the movement’s first section; a Rondo conclusion showing some moments of awkward negotiation in its initial allegro pages, while the central grazioso lives up to its title with some fetching tremolo work even though some of the bridging modulations int he last section are clumsy in construction. Nelson binds the suite together by making her final movement’s main melody a variant of that which dominates the opening Allegretto.

Sculthorpe’s 1983 suite – another Nelson arrangement – suits the Concordia personnel remarkably well, right from the opening Sea Chant with its simple folksy tune treated with calm discretion, through the appealing and whimsical Little Serenade that makes a virtue of the mildest of syncopations, to the most well-known of these pieces, the Left Bank Waltz – slightly asymmetric in phrasing and, in its scene-setting owing so much to Satie, Auric and Monsieur Hulot. It might have something to do with the arranger’s skill but this trio of pieces sounds idiomatic in this performing context and very deftly carried off, even in the last pages of the Waltz where inspiration flags.

Nelson’s Bagatelles open with A Foggy Morn, which is actually a placid waltz-rhythm piece that sets up the English bucolic backdrop that inspired this cycle. Strawberry Fair is a jig with a perfectly proportioned central theme at its start and finish with some harmless central padding. In Bullocks may graze safely, you’d expect a Bach reference or two, but the atmosphere is one of noon-time torpor and a slow-moving melodic arch that doesn’t go very far and moves in simple steps. A Midsummer Dance gives a fairly good imitation of a 6/8 country frolic; again, the tune is simplicity itself, as is the harmonic vocabulary. Midsummer Nocturne, the longest of the five pieces in the set, is more of a lullaby with some gently rocking underpinning and welcome interludes from the ensemble’s guitars.

To conclude come two showpieces. Menichetti’s Hungarian frolic begins with a nicely calculated lassu before making the inevitable turn to fast 2/4-Liszt Rhapsody motion. In later pages, the piece reproduces so many tropes of Zigeuner compositions that the listener feels quite at home with what is basically Central European kitsch, especially when the tempo moves into a fast waltz, then the necessary friska coda. Lalor’s piece features the solo mandolin of Michelle Wright and is suggestive of much music you hear on both sides of Aegean, with a powerful suggestion of massed bouzoukia and a more diatonic-than-usual use of the oud, the band operating in a modally inflected D minor framework at the score’s centre before reverting to the opening major optimism.

Concordia’s musical director Basil Dean has a dedicated band of performers to work with and the music heard on this CD is fairly well carried out by them all, if some tracks seem more stolid than exhilarating. Here is a good deal of easy listening, the works selected for their charm and felicitous adaptability to the mandolin/guitar forces available. While there are no Schoenbergian shocks, this CD is amiably honest in its prime intention of entertaining.”

Read full review

— Clive O'Connell, O'Connell the Music

Track Listing

  1. Kangarella (The Aussie Tarantella) Michelle Nelson
  2. Berceuse Gabriel Fauré Arr: Michelle Nelson
  3. Valse Ballet Erik Satie Arr: Michelle Nelson
  4. Ringing The Strings Michelle Nelson

  5. Allegretto
  6. Barcarolle and Waltz
  7. Rondo; allegro-grazioso-allegro
  8. Little Suite for Strings Peter Sculthorpe Arr: Michelle Nelson

  9. Sea Chant
  10. Little Serenade
  11. Left Bank Waltz
  12. Midsummer Bagatelles Michelle Nelson

  13. A Foggy Morn
  14. Strawberry Fair
  15. Bullocks my graze safely
  16. A Midsummer Dance
  17. Midsummer Noctorue
  18. Hungarian Journey Francois Menichetti
  19. East-West Stephen Lalor



Michelle Nelson

Michelle Nelson is a composer, guitarist and creative educator committed to developing instrumental works that are contemporary but also draw inspiration from traditional composition practice.

Michelle Nelson

Michelle Nelson is a composer, guitarist and creative educator committed to developing instrumental works that are contemporary but also draw inspiration from traditional composition practice.

Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Urbain Fauré was a French composer, pianist, organist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his era, and his musical style influenced many 20th century composers.

Peter Sculthorpe

Born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1929 and passing away in 2014, Peter Sculthorpe was one of Australia's best-known composers and a fine pianist. Recordings of Sculthorpe's orchestral works and music for strings have won a number of Australian Record Industry Awards (ARIA).

Where to buy

Ringing The Strings is available for download from the iTunes Music Store.
It's available for streaming through Apple Music.

Ringing The Strings is available as as CD. It can be purchased online through Buywell Music or the Australian Music Centre which both offer secure online ordering.

Move CDs can be ordered through music retailers across Australia including Readings.

Product details

List price
$25.00 AUD
Release date
© 2016 Concordia
℗ 2016 Move Records
Catalogue number
MCD 557
Alternate catalogue number
EAN 9314574055726