Well-presented concert from NZSM’s Young Musicians’ Programme

Young Musicians’ Programme of the New Zealand School of Music

Students of voice, piano, flute, violin, clarinet and guitar

St Andrew’s on the Terrace

Wednesday 8 August, 12.15pm

Pre-university music students can seek to study in the Young Musicians’ Programme of the New Zealand School of Music, in preparation for tackling the real thing when they matriculate later.

There are various opportunities to hear music students at the secondary stage of their education, such as at concerts by the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir, the Wellington and the National Youth Choirs and Orchestras (the Wellington Youth Orchestra plays this Sunday, 12 August at the Town Hall), and at events like the ‘Big Sing’ of the National Choral Festival, the Final stage of which can be heard at the Town Hall on Saturday 18 August, and the Schools Chamber Music Contest.

For a decade, a very special concert was staged annually by the Michael Monaghan Trust at which young instrumental players played concerto movements with an orchestra of players from the NZSO; that was wound up last year with the promise that the NZSO itself would pick it up and run something similar: what has happened?

At all these events, it is normal to hear performances that are astonishingly skilled and musically insightful.

The lunchtime audience at St Andrew’s enjoyed such an experience on Wednesday.

Eight young students played and sang, each introduced clearly by the programme director Shannon Digby. One of the most talented opened the concert with a short bracket of piano pieces: by 17th century Italian composer Bernardo Pasquini and Brahms. Nicole Ting played two movements of the Pasquini suite with a rare sensitivity and a surprisingly developed instinct for the music’s style and spirit, her ornaments were tasteful and charming, and her playing fluent and accurate. Though she had a wee lapse at the start of Brahms’s Intermezzo (in F minor, Op 118 No 4) here too she showed a maturity of understanding that took me by surprise.

Rosalie Willis on the flute may not have demonstrated quite that level of technical polish or fluency but her playing of a Fantasie in E minor by Telemann, showed care with phrasing and dynamics; the rhythmically testing last movement, Allegro, she managed very nicely.

Sophie Smyth has an as-yet softish soprano voice. She sang Der Lindenbaum from Winterreise, capturing its heart-broken mood with singing that was charming and accurate, and with accompaniment from Buz Bryant-Greene that gave sensitive support, though it’s not always easy to hold the voice and piano together, and he rarely overtopped her quiet delivery. Her second song was Jenny McLeod’s ‘I have no name’, from her collection Through the World, a small masterpiece that I’m humbled to say I hadn’t heard before. Sophie did it real justice.

Amber Madriaga is a guitarist already exhibiting surprising facility; her playing of Roland Dyens Tango en Skai gave off an air of confidence and considerable accomplishment in the repeated whirlwind flourishes, and occasionally almost too much dynamic subtlety.

There followed the Romance movement from Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata from the already well advanced player Emily Evers, moving through its big range smoothly though her top was given to some shrillness. Emily later joined with tutor Karlo Margetic and oboist Ashley Mowbray in a fellow student’s composition, Subversion by Sean Pearless. It was musically interesting and treated each instrument with considerable understanding.

The only contribution from a jazz student was from Alex Ware, singing Butterfly, with a vibrato that might need watching later, though with confidence and an ease of delivery essential to the idiom; and then a scat-style concoction based on Summertime which perhaps suffered a little on account of her striving for innovation; yet there was no mistaking her fluency and an attractive vocal quality. Both were accompanied idiomatically by Daniel Millward.

Buz Bryant-Greene returned to accompany Allanah Avalon in He Moemoe (‘A Dream’), a rather beguiling song by Anthony Ritchie. Here there were moments when the two seemed not to be in perfect balance; her voice is attractive though a bit more attention is perhaps needed on projecting her lines.

Such was the pleasure of the concert that I was surprised my watch showed 12.50pm when I felt it was only half way through.

These young musicians will be interesting to watch.


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