Pieces by Reinecke, Demersseman, Rachmaninov, John Elmsly, Mozart, Marlcolm Arnold, Poulenc and Jindřich Feld
NZSM Woodwind students: Lena Taylor (flute), Emma Hayes-Smith (alto saxophone), David McGregor (clarinet), Andreea Junc (flute), Hannah Sellars (clarinet), Reuben Chin (soprano saxophone) and NZSM Saxophone Quartet (Chin, Hayes-Smith, Katherine Macieszac (tenor sax)and Sam Jones(baritone sax))
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday, 1 August 2012, 12.15pm
From one point of view, this was the best presentation yet by NZSM at St. Andrew’s: they made their introductions to the pieces to be played using the microphone, so every word could be heard – hooray!
It was a pity not to have any oboe or bassoon students performing, but those who played had secure techniques and obvious musical sensibilities. All the accompanied pieces had Kirsten Simpson as piano accompanist; she performed her role impeccably, playing with appropriate refinement and panache as required, and never drowning her colleagues.
Most of the pieces were written for the instruments that played them, the exceptions being Rachmaninov’s famous Vocalise (written for voice) and the Poulenc work, which was an extract from a sonata for oboe and piano, played here on the soprano saxophone. The Mozart work had piano substituting for orchestra.
Carl Reinecke(1824-1910) is heard quite often on radio, but I seldom hear his work played live. His Ballade for flute and piano performed by Lena Taylor was quite enchanting in both the flute and the piano parts. The playing was very competent, and the players produced lovely variety of tone.
The Fantaisie for alto saxophone and piano by Jules Demersseman was introduced rather too rapidly (for a large venue) by Emma Hayes-Smith. From Wikipedia I learn that the Belgian composer lived from 1833 to 1866; Emma informed us that the piece was one of the first to be written for saxophone. The playing demonstrated how much more dynamic variation can be achieved on the saxophone than on the flute. The very flexible performance brought out all the elements in what was quite a show piece.
The famous Vocalise sounded fine on the clarinet. No name of an arranger was given. David McGregor played well, and gave a very musical rendering of the popular piece, though his breathing was a little noisy.
Andreea Junc played a New Zealand composition: ‘Light and Shade’ from Three Doubles for solo flute, by John Elmsly. This short piece used various modern techniques of flute-playing, and was very well played, following a very good spoken introduction.
A Mozart Andante for flute and piano was introduced by Natasha Taler as an alternative movement for the composer’s flute concerto in G; it appears(with orchestra)on my recording of the two flute concertos. The soloist produced a lovely sound, and employed fine phrasing. Perhaps the performance was a little pedantic and strict, and the piano did not make all the trills that are in the orchestral version I have. Nevertheless, it was an admirable realisation.
Back to clarinet, with Hannah Sellars playing a movement by Malcolm Arnold. This was a lively and spiky piece for both performers, with strong rhythm. Its quirky ending finished an excellent performance.
Poulenc’s writing for winds is always delightful. Reuben Chin’s somewhat quiet introduction to ‘Trés Calme’ from his Sonata for oboe and piano was very informative; apparently the sonata was commissioned by Prokofiev. Just as Chin described it, the work was sombre and eloquent. The contrast between the upper and lower registers was strong, and the range of dynamics large. The playing was beautifully smooth. There was a winsome tone in the high register, while the soft passages were most attractively played.
The last piece was a saxophone quartet by Jindřich Feld (the only composer honoured with a first name in the printed programme). He was a Czech composer who was born in 1925 and died in 2007. The final movement from his Quatuor de Saxophones was modern and unpredictable in style, yet melodic too. There was always a lot going on, at considerable speed. There were jazzy passages, plenty of light and shade, different moods, and variable dynamics. Beautiful quiet chords at the end contributed to this being an excellent work with which to finish the concert.
A little information about the composers would have enhanced the printed programme, but it was good to see some notes from the Head of Woodwind, Deborah Rawson.