In 2024 Carl Vine celebrates his 70th birthday. One of Australia’s most accomplished composers, Vine is internationally recognised for a body of work that encompasses large-scale orchestral works – including eight symphonies and concertos for piano (two and four hands), violin, cello, and oboe – and a large body of chamber work, in which his writing for piano - Vine’s own instrument – is especially revered.
Vine’s style sees complex rhythms built into rich, kinetic textures and set alongside an austere lyricism, deeply affecting in its restraint. Vine was Artistic Director of Musica Viva Australia for twenty years, from 2000-2019. His music has been performed and recorded by leading conductors, orchestras and ensembles, including Steven Isserlis, Edo de Waart, the Takács Quartet, Daniel Harding, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and Stephen Cleobury.
Projects for 2024 include the premiere Endless for guitar and string orchestra in Brisbane from Karin Schaupp and Camerata Queensland in May. The 16 ½-minute piece, cast in one movement, is an arrangement of the work premiered in February 2023 by Schaupp and the Flinders Quartet, debuting at the City Recital Hall, Sydney, with a subsequent Australian tour presented by Musica Viva.
Vine writes of Endless,
This work celebrates the life of Jennifer Bates, a professional architect, project manager and dedicated environmentalist whose life was tragically cut short by a rogue motorist. Jen and her husband travelled widely, working for a year in Bhutan as international volunteers for the Australian government. There Jen became inspired by Buddhist symbolism and especially the "endless knot" - the emblem of this score - signifying the interconnectedness of all things.
This composition evinces the positivity and commitment to community contribution that Jen displayed throughout her life. At its heart is a reflective elegy, followed by a celebratory dance inspired by Jen's much-loved salsa. Endless was commissioned by her mother, Kathryn Bennett, as a living legacy for a precious life that ended too soon.
Alongside a performance of Vine’s String Quartet No.5 at the Adelaide Festival from the Goldner Quartet, March 2024 also sees the Nexas Quartet perform Vine’s Sawtooth at the Orange Chamber Music Festival in New South Wales at restaurant TONIC, as part of an imaginative pairing of music and food from chef Tony Worland. The group premiered the saxophone quartet at The Neilson, Pier 2/3, Sydney in November 2023.
The 10-minute work is Vine’s first for the saxophone family, its title taken from the ‘sawtooth’ waveform produced by the instrument. The shape is that of a gentle undulation is one direction, and a sharp, acute one in the other – “one that can cut steel”, as Vine puts it. “The sound is at once rough and smooth”, he notes, “and I wanted to dig into both ends of that tactile spectrum, from smooth subtlety through to gruff impactful energy.” As it unfolds, the piece takes the rough with the smooth in alternating sections of spiky, dancelike material with cantabile solos for each instrument.
Later in the year in Julian Smiles and Andrea Lam perform Vine’s Strutt Sonata for cello and piano as part of the Australia Ensemble in October at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. The 15-minute work was commissioned by Musica Viva Australia. The work premiered with Smiles and pianist Ian Munro at the Huntington Estate Music Festival in 2017.
It represents the strength of Vine’s relationship with Huntington, commissioned by Josephine Strutt for her husband John – both dedicated patrons of the Festival. It is cast in one movement with three distinct parts; the second opens with a lyrical aria which then returns in a darkly-mirrored form, before a joyous presto finale and a final reprise of the central aria.
And on 19 May the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra will perform Vine’s Choral Symphony (No 6) in Melbourne Town Hall. The Choral Symphony is one of Vine’s most dramatic works, taking as its inspiration ancient Babylonian creation myths and bolstering the already sizeable forces with a prominent part for organ.