Bryant-Greene and Atkins give enjoyable recital of New Zealand piano music

Anthony Ritchie: Olveston Suite
Jenny McLeod: Tone Clock Pieces XIX. Moon, Night Birds, Dark Pools
Douglas Lilburn: Sonatina no.1
John Ritchie: Three Caricatures

Buz Bryant-Greene (piano) and Andrew Atkins (piano)

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

28 November 2012, 12.15pm

It was refreshing to have a programme entirely of New Zealand compositions.  It made for a most enjoyable concert, in fact more so than numbers of piano recitals I have attended.

One infrequently hears music by father and son of the same family (perhaps occasionally the Mozarts, Leopold and Wolfgang), so it was a distinct pleasure to hear music by both John and Anthony Ritchie.  The geniality of the writing of both points to a happy family life.

The son’s suite was charming, and evocative for anyone who has visited the beautifully preserved Theomin home in Dunedin.  I have – and even played the piano there, choosing Sibelius, as a contemporary of the Theomins.
I had never heard this music before, and was thoroughly enchanted.

The first movement ‘Great Hall’, appropriately began with grand chords and lofty notes.  It was followed by ‘Kitchen and Scullery’.  Here, the music was suitably busy, but cheerful, not stressed – this was a large room, so people would not be falling over each other.  In ‘Dining Room’, it was easy to hear the happy, conversational sequences, with some voices declamatory (male?) and some higher and softer (female?).   ‘Writing Room, Edwardian Room’ contained more contemplative, thoughtful tones, befitting for family members sitting down to write letters.

The final movement, ‘Billiard Room, Persian Room’ (which room I recall distinctly) featured music that was lively, with uneven rhythms (perhaps revealing unequal skill or luck), with running – rolling? – passages.  Did the player pot the ball at the end?

‘Great Hall’ was then played again by Buz Bryant-Greene, revealing some insecurities – not of the pianist, but perhaps of the guests, entering the hall.  It was a very satisfying performance, the skill of the player allowing the audience to concentrate on the music and what it was depicting, rather than the playing.

Following this, the pianist spoke to the audience about the programme.

Jenny McLeod has now written many Tone Clock Pieces, the first appearing in 1988.  These are based on the harmonic theory originated by Dutch composer Peter Schat (b. 1935).  The darkly mysterious piece was played with sympathy, subtlety and finesse.  The atmosphere of night was gentle, but full of surprises.

Douglas Lilburn’s Sonatina (of similar length to many sonatas) was introduced and played by Andrew Atkins, whose speaking had much greater clarity than was shown by his colleague, despite his use of the microphone.  He used the score, as was the case with all these pieces – but the programme had been a late substitution for what had been originally planned.

The Sonatina was written in 1946, and received an excellent reading at the hands of Atkins, who proved to have a lovely touch in the soft passages.  The vivace first movement began pianissimo, with Lilburn’s typical dotted rhythm on repeated notes in evidence.  The second movement was marked poco adagio, espressivo, but much of the movement was robust and strong, with great dynamic variety; the espressivo instruction was followed to the full.  The allegro was a difficult final movement, but was played with assurance and skill.  Altogether, it was a fine performance.

Buz Bryant-Greene returned to play John Ritchie’s humorous music.  The opening Toccatina was fun; much of it sounded like the birds and the bees, but it was quite demanding.  The Sarabande was a thoughtful slow dance that contained lovely piano writing, and some fast passages.  The Jig finale featured a no-nonsense opening, then bouncy elves rolled out (this being “Hobbit Day”) to jig around our ears (pointedly?).  It all made up to another fine performance.



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