New Zealand School of Music Young Musicians Programme
Classical Classes Final Concert 1
Adam Concert Room, NZSM, Victoria University
Saturday 10 September 2016, 2pm
It is inevitable in a concert of this sort that there will be a great variance in skill levels, and in musicianship. This time, there were fewer really young students than I have heard in previous concerts of this type; nearly all would be intermediate or secondary school students, I would guess. The comments below are made not to criticise the individual players, but hopefully to assist them to make their musicianship even better.
The concert opened with a guitar quartet playing two short pieces, very competently. Not all the players had full-sized guitars, and this may have contributed to the low volume. Like all the items, the pieces were introduced by the players. The two gentle pieces, ‘The Water is Wide’ and ‘Waterfalls’ had their attributions in the printed programme reversed – the former is traditional and the latter by Australian Peter de Monchaux. Vaughan Austin played solo lines very well. This was not all easy music; off-beat rhythms in the second piece were handled very well.
Robert Evers played two short pieces by Prokofiev, and gave his introduction very clearly and confidently s indeed was his playing. The first piece, ‘Regret’ was perhaps a little loud for such a sentiment. ‘Tarantelle’ was the expected fast dance. No pedal was used, and there was little subtlety but certainly excitement.
Ishta Khor (violin) and Elliot Baguley (cello) were younger performers, and I thought the tone, resulting from difficulties in tuning and bow technique, rather harsh, particularly with the violin. The cello parts were easier, and sounded better. The two pieces were by New Zealand composers: ‘A Book of Dreams’ by Barry Anderson and ‘Ghosts’ by Ronald Tremain.
Ryan In played from memory the Praeambulum from Partita no.5 in G (BWV 829) by J.S. Bach. This was superb pianism, Ryan’s phrasing and staccato passages were excellent. He varied the dynamics beautifully, and showed great digital facility for someone of his age.
He was followed by a piano trio: an excerpt (I assume the first movement) from Haydn’s piano trio no.22 in A. This was impressive playing, from Tee Hao-Aickin (violin), Liam Anderson (cello) and Vanessa O’Neill (piano). Their interpretation was convincing, the playing showed subtlety, there was good balance, and although intonation was not perfect, it was mainly very good, as was the players’ tone.
A change to singing: an all-female vocal ensemble of Hannah Collier (no relation), Hunter Meek, Brooke Raitt, Greta Healy-Melhuish, Cassandra Bahr and Lily Jones, accompanied by an excellent but unidentified pianist (later identified in another item as ‘Danny’) sang Frederick Keel’s setting of Shakespeare’s ‘You Spotted Snakes’ followed by ‘It was a Lover and his Lass’ by Vaughan Williams.
The voices and intonation were on the whole good, but there was insufficient variation of tone or dynamics. In the second song, these aspects improved, but sometimes the singing was just under the note, especially in the notorious seventh note of the scale when descending.
Vanessa O’Neill played the Prelude from Grieg’s Holberg Suite. The work was written for piano, although the composer’s arrangement for string orchestra is more well-known. Vanessa is a very able pianist. She knows what she is doing; fast passages were very accurately performed, and where the melody was in the bass, it was brought out well. This was a very enjoyable performance.
Brooke Raitt (voice) sang ‘Dream Valley’ by Roger Quilter. While she still has a child’s voice, this was very accurate singing, and William Blake’s words were well articulated. She just needs to develop greater warmth of tone. ‘Danny’ accompanied.
Stella Lu, piano, played Sonatina Op.13 no.1 by Kabalevsky. She played this fast piece (first movement) confidently and capably.
Tee Hao-Aickin returned, along with her pianist sister, Danielle, to play the allegro first movement of Beethoven’s wonderful ‘Spring’ sonata. This sublime work always makes me smile with pleasure. The players demonstrated lovely tone; these are promising young musicians. Intonation was not perfect, but very good from Tee. Perhaps the timing, phrasing and dynamics were a little too strict, especially in the piano part – there should be phrasing within phrases as well as between them. Otherwise, this ambitious item was most enjoyable.
A piano trio ‘Oblivion’ by Piazzolla from Jim Zhu (violin), Willoughby Benn (cello) and Ryan In (piano) I found rather dreary (was the composer’s idea to put the audience into oblivion?), but admittedly it warmed up a little during its course. These players were younger than the previous ones, and therefore not so skilled, but they did well. The cellist appeared younger than her colleagues, but held up her part well.
Hunter Meek, who had already sung in the vocal ensemble, sang Michael Head’s ‘Ships of Arcady’. I remember this song being popular in the 1960s; I have not heard it for a long time. Hunter sings well, but swallows her words somewhat. Her voice needs more projection, and she needs to keep her mouth open more in quiet passages. However, it was a pleasing performance, and it was good to hear her acknowledge Danny, still unnamed in the printed programme.
The final item was from pianists Stella Lu and Danielle Hao-Aickin, playing three short piano duet preludes by George Gershwin. The second, andante con moto e poco rubato, had more subtlety than its preceding allegro yet it also had cheekiness. The final allegro ben ritmato e deciso was a lively and attractive movement, played very well, making an upbeat end to the concert.
All these young players should be encouraged, whatever their age and level. A little top: when you bow, do look at the audience! The work of those who administer, arrange, teach and encourage young musicians deserve thanks.