On 21 and 22 March Amy Dickson gives the Spanish premiere of Peter Sculthorpe’s Island Songs (2012) for saxophone - both soprano and alto - strings and percussion with the Orquesta Real Filharmonia de Galicia, conducted by Jessica Cottis.

The 18-minute work is cast in two movements. ‘Song of Home’ has a nostalgic, dreamlike character, drawing on a popular song from Thursday Island, and grows to an ecstatic melodic release from the soloist accompanied by imitations of seagulls in the cellos. The song reappears in the following movement ‘Lament and Yearning’, a sustained a meditative elegy. It also draws on a lament from Elcho Island, passed to Sculthorpe many years ago by a local tribal elder, as well as the Djilile chant that has been used by Sculthorpe as the basis of a series of works under that title for numerous instrumental configurations – including a version for saxophone recorded by Dickson. As with many of Sculthorpe’s pieces, Island Songs expresses both regret at humanity’s plight in the face of climate catastrophe, alongside tentative hopes for a more stable and sustainable future.

Amy Dickson premiered the work at the Presteigne Festival in 2012 with George Vass; the piece lends its title to Dickson’s 2016 Sony Classical album, where she recorded the piece with Benjamin Northey and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Dickson gave the first Australian performance of the piece with Ensemble Offspring at the Canberra International Music Festival in 2015; she also performed it with the Camerata of St. John’s at that year’s Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, QLD. Cottis previously conducted the first movement of Island Songs at the BBC Proms in 2017, with Jess Gillam as soloist alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Island Songs was dedicated to composer David Matthews and his wife Jenifer Wakelyn; Sculthorpe and Matthews collaborated on numerous projects since meeting in 1972, including music-theatre work Rites of Passage and Cantares for guitars (electric and acoustic) and string quartet; Matthews has called Sculthorpe “my best teacher”.