New Zealand School of Music Te Koki
David Popper: Requiem
Handel, arr. Claude Kenneson: Adagio and Allegro from Organ Concerto in G minor, Op.4 no 3
Elgar: Salut d’amour, Op.12, arr. Kenneson
Kreisler: Liebesleid, arr. Kenneson
Piazzola: Libertango, arr. Alvin Ware
Adam Concert Room, Victoria University of Wellington
Saturday, 20 February 2016, 6.30pm
Cellophonia consists of a day of rehearsals for cellists, followed by a concert. This was the fifth such event. While organised by the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University of Wellington, it includes mature cellists from amateur orchestras as well as students of various ages. Tutors were Inbal Megiddo (cello soloist and NZSM Senior Lecturer) and Andrew Joyce (Principal Cellist of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra). There was no printed programme; I am grateful to Brigid O’Meeghan for supplying the details.
There were other highly experienced, indeed expert, cellists participating. I saw Rolf Gjelsten, Brigid O’Meeghan and Lucy Gijsbers; there may have been other top-line cellists also.
A good-sized audience heard the short programme (approx. 40 minutes) from the 23 cellists, of whom between one-half and two-thirds were female.
Before the concert commenced, Inbal Megiddo paid tribute to the late Wellington cellist and luthier, Ian Lyons, who died suddenly, recently. The first item, written for multiple cellos and piano (Jian Liu), appropriately, was dedicated to his memory. The work was suitably sombre. There was strong tone from Megiddo and Joyce against a background of the other cellos. Soon the piano joined in. The music was solemn, even portentous; the players created a big sound, playing without a conductor, but carefully following the two tutors’ head, bow and eye signals. However, I sometimes found the volume too much in this rather small auditorium.
The piano made a considerable contrast, with its higher pitch and different timbre. This was an effective work, and being written for this instrumentation, made a greater musical impression than did the arrangements that followed.
Some rearrangement of the players took place for the Handel piece. Two groupings of two cellists each provided the concerto effect: Megiddo and Joyce; Gijsbers and another young woman whom I have seen and heard before. They played more-or-less alternate concerto sections of the score.
Not every other player was in tune all the time, but all made a solid contribution. The allegro in particular sounded odd after the familiarity of the organ original. The playing was a little too insistent, with the harmonic variation being rather swamped. However, there were lovely solo, duet and quartet passages from the four leaders.
The Elgar piece was not sufficiently ingratiating, with all that low grumbling below the solo part, played by Megiddo and Joyce. Others got a chance to carry parts of the melody, but the playing of the remainder of the band was insufficiently delicate. The polished wooden floor is responsible for a lot of this sound; the cello, unlike nearly all other instruments, has direct contact with the floor.
The two cello tutors swapped places for the Fritz Kreisler piece. Joyce’s playing of the melody was mellow and gorgeous, and the accompaniment was nicely varied with not so much deep grumbling here. Some harmonies were pitched above the melody, which made for variety.
Astor Piazzolla’s brief tango “Libertango’ was played by some of the group with great aplomb; by others more cautiously. It ended with a great flourish.
I am sure that those of the players who are not under regular tuition at NZSM would have got a lot out of their day’s workshop; the final concert was by no means a compromise of quality, with its variety of pieces.