St. Andrews on the Terrace Lunchtime Concert:
New Zealand School of Music Wind Students
Wednesday 24th July 2013
This concert featured students from the N.Z. School of Music’s Woodwind Department, which is headed by Deborah Rawson, longtime backbone of so much creative wind and saxophone activity in Wellington. The recital was presented by four highly competent and musical students who amply demonstrated that they are blossoming under Deborah’s oversight.
The programme opened with clarinetist David McGregor and pianist Kirsten Simpson playing two Romances from R. Schumann’s Op.94. The Nicht Schnell item showed sensitive cantabile phrasing, and a good dynamic range, though the forte climaxes were actually too assertive for the romantic mood of this piece. The Einfach innig was equally competent and musical, but the central section needed cleaner enunciation of the sharply syncopated clarinet rhythms that compete so dramatically with the piano.
David’s Three Pieces for unaccompanied clarinet by Stravinsky captured their varied moods and textures very effectively. The third frenetic, dance-like movement was delivered with exceptional facility and panache, but it would have been even more striking if given some variation in the unrelieved forte dynamic.
Next Ashleigh Mowbray played three contrasting pieces from the Six Metamorphoses after Ovid written for unaccompanied oboe by Benjamin Britten. Her rendition of Pan beautifully captured a reed pipe timbre, but would have been even more haunting with a wider dynamic range. The imagery of Phaeton rushing across the sky in Apollo’s chariot was easy to appreciate from Ashleigh’s ebullient delivery in the second piece, where her technical competence was clearly showcased. The final lamentation of Niobe was particularly sensitive in its phrasing, though again it would have been enhanced even more by a wider dynamic range.
Clarinetist Patrick Hayes and pianist Kirsten Simpson then presented Debussy’s Premier Rhapsody, and the Movement 3 lullaby from Tedesco’s Sonata Op.128. Both items demonstrated a very competent technique, clear rhythms, and sensitive melodic playing. The varied moods were captured with a good dynamic range, though the tone of some lyrical lines did become forced and piercing when delivered forte at the top of the register. It would be great for both clarinetists in today’s recital to track down recordings by the great New Zealand clarinetist Jack McCaw, whose rich warmth of tone was never comprised in even the strongest forte sections. His playing was totally free of any forced, edgy timbre, no matter what the dynamic or register.
The final two works featured Reuben Chin on alto sax with pianist Kirsten Simpson. They opened with the Andantino from Henri Tomasi’s Ballade for Saxophone and Orchestra. The modal tonalities of the outer sections were enhanced by very sensitive dynamics, perfectly tailored to a beautiful conclusion. The final work, Desinvolte from Ida Gotkovsky’s Brilliance, was a complete contrast. The musicians’ wide dynamic range and complete technical mastery captured the wonderfully puckish mood and exuberant rhythms of the piece, and provided an exhilarating finish to an excellent concert. Kirsten Simpson’s musical talents and technical skill were a great asset to this recital – one where the lusty health of the Woodwind Department was amply demonstrated.
It was a concert that deserved a better audience.