Friday, 23 December 2011

John Carmichael: Sleigh Ride To Thredbo

I am delighted that this small piece has caught the imagination of presenters and listeners at Classic FM. I must admit that when I first heard this tiny tone poem, I imagined that it was ‘set’ somewhere in Scandinavia – somehow Thredbo seemed to suggest Finland or Lapland or even a place in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. However the truth is that it is a major ski resort in New South Wales, Australia. On the other hand, the CD liner notes do point out that the music ‘reflects snow sports and alpine (my italics) scenery as the ride takes in winter slopes.’ So there is a European as well as an Antipodean feel to this music.

The Sleigh Ride is the last movement of the Thredbo Suite which was originally conceived for pianoforte. It was composed in 1980. The other two movements are entitled ‘Air from the High Mountain’ and a Nocturne. The work was orchestrated by Philip Lane.
It is quite definitely a miniature -lasting just under two minutes however it is packed full of interesting things. The listener should look out for an ‘echoing horn and trumpet figures’ in the frosty air. Dominy Clement on MusicWeb International has suggested that the work, ‘while less overtly jingly-jangly (no bells) as that of Mozart’s dad, provides a fun ride nonetheless – full of descriptive whoops and whistling.’ 

As other reviewers have noted it makes a good foil to Leopold Mozart’s effort from some two centuries previously. I have added it to my list of ‘sleigh’ pieces to listen to over the Christmas Season. These include Delius’ Sleigh ride, Leroy Anderson’s similarly entitled work and Prokofiev’s Troika.

The piece can be heard on NAXOS 8.570331 

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