Polished guitar music from Poland, New Zealand and Japan from St Andrews

Wednesday Lunchtime Concerts

Jane Curry and Owen Moriarty (guitars)

Works for guitar duo by Marek Pasieczny, Maria Grenfell and Anthony Ritchie

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 24 August 2016, 12.15pm

Jane Curry introduced this recital by making generous remarks about the dedication and hard work by the year-round organisers of these important lunchtime concerts, Marjan van Waardenberg and the church’s administrator, David Medland.

Having a couple of highly competent guitarists performing means relaxing, knowing that even complex music will be reproduced faithfully, sensitively and accurately.  In this case, the programme consisted of innovative, recent compositions.

The first, Sakura No Hana Variations took its melody and inspiration from Japan, but was written by a Polish composer, who has been to New Zealand.  Many different sounds of a percussive nature were produced from the instruments, not only knocking on the wooden body.  Based on the pentatonic scale, the music brought out the melody well.  It was soothing in character, yet stimulating in places.  The variations involved not only the plucked melodies and percussive sounds, but also strumming.  Mostly, the music was quiet.  The variations introduced distinct melodies, related to, but not the same as, the main melody played at the beginning.

One of the ‘extended’ techniques employed was plucking the strings above where the fingers of the left hand were depressing the strings to produce notes.  The scope of the composition was surprising, given the limitations of the pentatonic (five-note) scale.

Dunedin composer Anthony Ritchie has written music in a great many different genres.  The Pas de Deux was written in 1992, and consists of a series of five dances.  The first movement, ‘Prelude’ was a lovely alternation between loud and soft passages, with a final note splendidly sustained.  I had some difficulty establishing where the break between this movement and the next was, or was it between II and III?  My colleague confessed to the same problem when I consulted him.

However, what appeared to me to be the second movement ‘Au revoir’ was dreamy and gentle.  What may have been ‘Jeux’, the third movement, was a loud, twanging interlude, while the ‘Waltz triste’ (‘Valse’, surely?) was quite playful right from the start, with brief melodies that fell one on top of the other.  The final movement, ‘Epilogue’, (if I am correct) began rather dolefully, concentrating on a few low-pitched strings, before becoming smooth and flowing.  All in all, the music was attractive and interesting, and played absolutely superbly.

Maria Grenfell is a New Zealand composer currently resident in Australia where she teaches at the Conservatorium of Music of the University of Tasmania.  Her piece was titled Di Primavera.  She arranged it from the earlier version for guitar and marimba, specifically for Curry and Moriarty.  Curry took the part written originally for marimba, while Moriarty played the guitar part.  On a rather cold day, it was a hopeful sign to be thinking about spring.

The first movement was lively and rapid, while the second was overall more gentle, but spiky, too.  The final one was bouncy, alternating in mood and between the players, with a wide dynamic range, and a sudden chord to end.

The concert was rather too long; the Grenfell work ended at 1pm, the usual time for the close of the lunchtime concert.  Quite a number of audience members had to leave at this point.

However, we then met Marek Pasieczny again, in his Polish Sketches, the work being based on Polish folk music.  The first piece, titled ‘Majestically’ and inspired by the Polish dance the mazurka, was rhythmic and attractive.  ‘Stealthily’, like its predecessor, employed a variety of techniques, including rhythmic drumming on the instrument.  It ended with an exclamation.

‘Lively’ was indeed that; one could hear clearly the song melody on which it was based., along with its rhythmic accompaniment.  ‘Joyfully with blustering’ was inspired by a ‘furious polka’; it gave a snappy ending to a delightful sequence.

To end, we heard Pasieczny’s arrangement of ‘Pokarekare Ana’.  It was a charming iteration of the well-loved melody.  Interesting harmonies made one listen; the endings of phrases of the melody disappeared into these unexpected harmonies.

Here was a recital by highly skilled performers in complete unanimity with each other and with their instruments.



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