Fair, fresh winds from home

NZ Music for Woodwind

Music by Edwin Carr, Dylan Lardelli, Alex Taylor, Gareth Farr, Ken Wilson, Anthony Young.

Ben Hoadley (bassoon), Madeline Sakofsky (oboe and cor anglais), Emma Sayers (piano), Duo Solaris: Debbie Rawson and Donald Nicholls (clarinets)
New Zealand Clarinet Quartet: David McGregor (E flat clarinet), Hayden Sinclair (B flat clarinet), Nick Walshe (A clarinet), Debbie Rawson (bass clarinet)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A concert featuring two world premières is not a common event in New Zealand.  However, this was the case on Wednesday.

The concert began, though, with a work from 1977, of Edwin Carr.  It was titled Two Mansfield Poems, and the two beautiful poems by Katherine Mansfield were included with the printed programme: ‘Sanary’ (1916) and ‘Sleeping Together’ (1908).  The first piece echoed the sunny day of the first poem.  The latter was a recollection of children sleeping in the same bed, whispering to each other.

Carr’s settings for cor anglais and piano were quite lovely.  How seldom one hears the cor anglais apart from in an orchestra! The cor anglais proved to be an apt instrument to reflect the sultry sun described in the second poem; the music was wonderfully pensive, while the playing had a gorgeous timbre.  Some of the music was dance-like, and the whole represented a great gift of delightful writing for cor anglais players.

A world première of One Body, a shortish piece by Dylan Lardelli failed to move me.  It was written for clarinet quartet.  It seemed to me suitable for accompanying a video or film about music of the spheres, or something spooky on the galaxies; or for a modern dance performance, my companion suggested.  It was all sound effects, including puffing notelessly through the instruments.  I could not find any music in it.  Given the title, I wondered if it was meant to portray the workings of the human body.

The second world premiere was of loose knots for bassoon, by Alex Taylor, a young Auckland composer.  It was certainly extending for Ben Hoadley; it was good to hear this instrument, too, in a solo capacity.  Some lovely tones emerged in a piece that incorporated microtones, and flutter tongue technique.  The piece was in three movements, and was rhythmically lively.  Hoadley commissioned it (with funding from Creative New Zealand, who also funded the  Lardelli and the Farr works) to play at a world double-reed convention he is to attend in California next month.

Gareth Farr’s Five Little Monologues was written in 2006 for the players we heard here.  The first opened with quiet ripples that moved from fast to very shrill.  Number two was an angular piece with shrieking all over the place, mainly staccato.  It was an effective little piece, and incorporated fleet-footed melodies, and became jokey at the end.

The third piece was legato with trills, while the fourth featured staccato playing again, like little sprites running all over the place, with another humorous ending.  The final piece had the instruments running quickly everywhere, high-pitched phrases alternating with low ones.  This was very accomplished writing with plenty of interest.  The work employed very musical language and phrasing.  Another quirky ending completed the set.

Ken Wilson’s Duo for two clarinets from 2002 was jolly and laughing.  The playing was preceded by some words from Debbie Rawson about Ken and his music, in which she said he was known as ‘Fingers’ Wilson.  Certainly this piece required dexterity.  It was vigorous, sprightly and jaunty; thoroughly enjoyable.  I hope Debbie Rawson will fulfil her promise to play more of Ken Wilson’s music.

Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano of Anthony Young, was written in 2011, and like the Ken Wilson piece, was a Wellington première.  The piece was inspired by baroque sonata form – four movements: slow, fast, slow, fast.  After a pensive opening, the intertwining of the parts was grateful on the ear.  The second movement had lots going on for all three instruments, Emma Sayers at times conducting with her head for entries.

The third movement featured ponderous piano and bassoon, the oboe’s melody thoughtful, even questing, with the bassoon following in like vein.  The final movement began fast, especially for the piano.  There were contemplative moments for all instruments; in fact the work explored the instruments’ capabilities, and provided plenty of variety.  A hearty ending section with a sudden full-stop completed this well-crafted work.

The whole concert was notable for extremely fine playing throughout; although the concert was overly long for a lunchtime one, it was very rewarding to hear such a range of accomplished wind music from our own country’s composers.

2 thoughts on “Fair, fresh winds from home

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