Flute and piano duo feature composers languishing in the shadows of the greats

St Andrew’s lunchtime recital

Christy and Nick Hunter – flute and piano

Johann Joachim Quantz: a flute concerto in G
Rachmaninov: Prelude in E flat, Op 23/6
Nick Hunter: …and the mountain looms in the falling light
Jules Mouquet: La flute de Pan

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 30 November, 12:15 pm

Here were two names that were slightly familiar to me but which I couldn’t really offer biographical information about. Both studied in Wellington: Nick at the Conservatorium of Music at Massey University, Christy at Victoria University. Palmerston North has featured in the lives of both, but the birth-place of neither was disclosed. They are married and have quite a range of performance history both together and separately.

It was a varied programme with nothing that was there to arrest or challenge the audience. Both the first and the last were composers who hovered in the shadows of much more famous figures: J S Bach and the Debussy-Ravel impressionist scene.

Johann Quantz’s claim to fame tends to be through his working around J S Bach and his son C P E; for Quantz was a favrouite musician in the court of Frederick the Great in the mid 18th century where C P E became court chamber musician. When, late in life, Bach went to Berlin through his son’s intermediation, it was clear that the King suffered J S with some indifference if not discourtesy (yet Bach responded by composing the Musical Offering for Frederick, based on the inhospitable tune that he was offered on which to improvise fugally). C P E Bach felt in the shadow of Quantz whose advantage was as a fine player of the king’s favourite instrument; he became court composer, ahead of Bach.

You don’t hear much of his music these days, unless you’re a flutist or flute groupie. Here, however was a nice chance. This, one of around 300 flute concertos, began with a chirpy tune on the piano (and you could sense its better fit with the harpsichord); the flute part was much embellished, light in spirit and enjoyed a cadenza towards the end. The same spirit really ruled the calmer middle movement where one became aware of Quantz’s pleasure in using widely spaced pitches in his tunes. The final movement, Allegro Vivace, certainly afforded Christy Hunter excellent opportunity to demonstrate her prowess and dexterity; here a melodic kinship with Handel rather than Bach struck me.

Nick then played one of Rachmaninov’s Preludes, from the first set, Op 23; though the programme note described it as almost contrapuntal, it’s character as essentially a set of variations was perhaps more evident. It was a polished and idiomatic performance.

Then he played his own solo piano piece inspired by twilight on Mount Ruapehu. It put me in mind of the famous passage in Lilburn’s essay A Search for Tradition (or was it the Search for a Language?) where he describes the experience of looking at the mountain as the night express from Wellington to Auckland passed in the moonlight (I have deep, nostalgic memories of that and many other evocative train journeys, now all gone, in our impoverished country), and he was awakened to the awareness of the remoteness of the European cultural world from New Zealand, and the need to create our own (though I have long felt the concern with cultural nationalism to be unhelpful).

However this was a most effective, impressionistic piece, suggesting not merely the jagged mountain peak but possibly an eruption.

Finally the two players returned to play one of those pieces that define the ‘one-hit-wonder’ composer: Jules Mouquet’s La flute de Pan. Born about half way between Debussy and Ravel he was winner of the Prix de Rome a couple of years after Debussy. Mouquet’s music is cast in a language in which those sounds are pretty inescapable, but it doesn’t diminish the effectiveness and originality of this three movement piece – a mini flute concerto. The refinement and colour of the playing by both flute and piano placed it clearly in the warm and luxuriant turn of the century era, unsullied as yet by Schoenbergian disturbances or world war a decade later. Both instruments exploited interesting ideas, moving about each other, always in balance and affording space for every detail be heard.

It was not a big audience but an appreciative one, and I hope the pair will accept another invitation to play in this splendid series.

Interestingly presented, varied programme of works on organ of St James Church

Douglas Mews (organ)
(St. James’s Church and Wellington Organists Association)
Advent Sunday Concert

Buxtehude: Praeludium in D minor, Bux WV 140
Passacaglia in D minor, Bux WV 161
J.S. Bach: Three settings of Advent Hymn ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ (from the Eighteen Chorale Preludes), BWV 659-661
Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 547
Grieg: Prayer and Temple Dance from Olav Trygvason (opera)
Jehan Alain: Choral Dorien
Franck: Chorale in E

St. James’s Church, Lower Hutt

Sunday, 27 November 2016, 3pm

A rather more healthily-sized audience greeted this recital compared with that for the previous recital in the series, which was held on a Saturday night.

Preliminary remarks from representatives of both St. James’s Church and the Wellington Organists Association mentioned that there had been some damage to the organ in the 7.8 earthquake two weeks ago, but the effect was not great.  Following this, Douglas Mews gave introductory remarks to the works about to be played; this he did before each group of items.  These were informative, insightful, clear and sometimes humorous.  The use of  microphone made every word audible.

The opening work by Dietrich Buxtehude was bright and fast, with the appropriate level of detachment between notes for this early baroque music.  Most of the piece was played on the Great manual, with some fancy pedal footwork in the final section.

The Passacaglia was quite a contrast, much of it being played using flute stops on the Choir manual.

It being the beginning of the season of Advent, we heard three settings by Bach of the Advent Hymn ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ (Now comes the Saviour of the Gentiles).  The stately and calmly beautiful theme resounded through the three chorale preludes, despite their quite different settings.  Douglas Mews’s impeccable technique and interpretation gave maximum character to each one.

The first featured a steady rhythm known as a ‘walking bass’; much of the music was played on the Choir manual, with solo on the Great.  The second was unusual in having two bass parts, one for the left hand and the other for the pedals, thus, a trio.  There was a reed solo on the Swell manual, which created considerable contrast.  The combination made for interesting listening.

The third chorale prelude was fast and pungent, where the previous one was plangent.  The fugue section brought polyphony to the fore.

Still with Bach, we heard a Prelude and Fugue that Mews described as appropriate for Christmas (this being the last recital in the series for 2016), because of the bell-like theme to be heard in each part.  The fugue had the peal of bells in the pedals, twice as slowly as on its previous appearances.  The fugue was declamatory and confident; the whole work sounded rousing and celebratory.

Grieg’s two pieces from his never-completed opera have been arranged for various instruments, by both the composer and others.  Olav Trygvason was the Norwegian king who brought Christianity to his country.  The Prayer (to pagan gods) was brisk and, well, pagan, with a slower, more thoughtful middle section, while the dance was very spirited with a fiery ending.  Altogether, a very effective and colourful organ work.

Jehan Alain, the composer older brother of famed organist Marie-Claire Alain, had his life cut tragically short at the beginning of World War II (I was incensed some years ago when the great organist visited New Zealand, to read a programme biography describing her in terms of her brother!).  His vignette Choral Dorien was made up of repeated melody fragments.  It provided a pleasant meditative interlude between two more substantial works.

Franck’s Chorale in E was the first of the three Chorales that were his last compositions.  I have to admit to harbouring no great affection for this composer.  I have heard this piece many times, but still find it prosaic, bordering on dull and predictable, except for the middle section.  However, Douglas Mews’s registrations made it more appealing than usual.  It completed an excellent recital, admirably played and introduced.


Big lunchtime audience for interesting programme from professional musicians

Kiwa String Quartet: Malavika Gopal (violin), Alan Molina (violin), Sophia Acheson (viola), Ken Ichinose (cello),
And friends: Carolyn Mills (harp), Bridget Douglas (flute), Yuka Eguchi (violin), Victoria Jaenecke (viola)

Ginastera: Impresiones de la Puna
Celtic pieces for solo harp
Beethoven: String quartet in B flat Op.18 no.6 (2 movts.)
John Adams: ‘Toot nipple’ from John’s Book of Alleged Dances
Arnold Bax: Quintet for harp and strings

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 23 November 2016, 12.15 pm

A large audience greeted a wonderfully varied line-up of professional musicians – and of music.  The opening work immediately grabbed one’s attention; Ginastera’s work was delightful and full of subtle animation.  Especially notable was the floating, uprising flute part.  The programme note describing its ‘gentle, romantic, quasi-impressionist harmonies’ was apt indeed.  Which leads me to comment how excellent was the acknowledgement at the end of the printed programme of the sources, including those to be found on the internet.  How rare this is, even for those, unlike the writers of these notes, who take theirs word-for-word from such sources.

The three sections of this work for flute and strings provided lovely contrasts, but each was felicitous in its musical language.

Just as the previous work had traditional Argentinean links, so the next two pieces were of folk music character or origin: Farewell to music by Tulough O’Carolan (1670-1738, arr. A. O’Farrell), and the traditional She moved through the fair, arranged by Carolyn Mills.  Though played on the orchestral harp, these Celtic pieces were performed in a simple manner befitting their origins.  They were both gracious and mournful.  The second, based on an Irish folk-song, was familiar to me with different words (the Scottish ballad Lord Randal).

A big change again, to the first and second movements of Beethoven’s quartet.  It was wonderful to hear this great work played at a lunchtime concert. It was a spirited performance, with much subtlety as well as elan.  The quartet overflows with wonderful melodic motifs.  The slow movement was serene and graceful with sonorous harmonic changes.  Each instrument spoke its part clearly and unostentatiously, always as a part of the whole.  The audience sat soundlessly attentive.  How fortunate we are to hear such timeless music from skilled professional musicians at a free lunchtime concert!  This was a superb performance.

The next surprise was the Adams piece: a short jokey piece from a set for string quartet and ‘recorded prepared piano’ (which I could not hear).  The programme notes stated that the composer said the dances were alleged because “the steps for them had yet to be invented”.

Finally we heard an unfamiliar but major work by Arnold Bax; his quintet for harp and strings,  returning to the Irish theme of earlier in the concert.  I found it full of mellow enjoyment; it was a pleasurable discovery.  The plucked sound of the harp was beautifully set off by the smooth legato of the other strings.   A quiet section of the one-movement work had a dreamy character.  Then lilting phrases alternated with curious agitations below, followed by minor key utterances and an excited swelling of sound with harp arpeggios and flourishes, over muted violins.  Finally, there was a meditative ending.

The harp was an integral part of the whole quintet, not an add-on for occasional solos or special effects.

It was good to hear a concert combining some music that was familiar with some that was not.  The enthusiastic audience response was more than fully deserved.



Circa rumbles and dances with Roger Hall’s Jack and the Beanstalk

Circa Theatre Presents:
Roger Hall’s JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – The Pantomime
Songs by Paul Jenden and Michael Nicholas Williams

Musical Direction by Michael Nicholas Williams
Directed by Susan Wilson

Cast: Hilda Hardup (Jack’s mother)/Aunty Pam – Gavin Rutherford
Jack – Barnaby Olson
Betsy the Cow/Goosey the Goose – Bronwyn Turei
Butcher Bob/Immigration Officer – Andrew Laing
Mrs Virus/Gertie Grabber – Emma Kinane
Claude Back/Postman – Jonathan Morgan
Smiley Virus – Jessica Old
The Giant – Himself
Freedom Campers – The Cast

Production: Ian Harman (set design), Jennifer Lal (lighting)
Sheila Horton (costumes), Leigh Evans (musical staging)

Circa Theatre, Wellington

Tuesday 22nd November, 2016
(running until December 20th)

Pantomime is surely one of the most life-enhancing experiences theatre can offer, and Circa Theatre’s current Jack and the Beanstalk production ticks all the boxes that matter in the genre – it wasn’t long after the show’s beginning before the harshest, most vocal critics in the audience were soon caught up in it all, making manifest their involvement in the tale’s twists and turns, to the added delight, I might say, of their rather less demonstrative, though still appreciative, older companions.

Though Roger Hall’s script had some occasional over-worn moments, it was enlivened by the unflagging energy and interactive spark of the characters, buoyed up by frequent topical references to circumstances in the “real world”, some of which of course made the stage goings-on seem eminently sane by comparison! Indigenous touches like the chorus’s opening song making references to early-morning tuis and moreporks gradually became politicised by Jack’s Mother, Hilda Hardup (Gavin Rutherford’s a superbly-sustained portrayal throughout) in her following song about the depressed state of village life – “miserable and sad”, mercilessly tagging the family’s location as “Lesterville, until recently Wade-Browntown”.

Sensibilities of all ages were further tickled by the uneasy thrill of occasional seismic “noises-off” emanating from different regions, and explanations related to the same, an audience favourite being “Gerry Brownlee suffering from a nasty bout of liquefaction” (I actually became fearful for the well-being of the person sitting next to me over THAT one!). And almost, but not quite, in the league of a “strip-o-gram” was NZ Post’s outlandish “go-go-dancer” delivery of a parcel to Mother, whose self-confessed response to social privation was to become an on-line shop-a-holic!

The age-old storytelling theme of poverty and the business of trying to make ends meet has, of course become more of a reality for a good many New Zealanders in recent times – the frequent appearances of “Claude Back” the repossession man (Jonathan Morgan a kind of surreal “trickster”, his aspect and stage movements beautifully Chaplin-esque), the nouveau-riche landlady Mrs Virus, (Emma Kinane, elegantly chirruping her personal wealth-creation agenda) and Butcher Bob, merely wanting his money for sausages (Andrew Laing, adroitly fusing touches of a “mad-butcher” manner with more pressing very real small-business concerns) entertained our sensibilities with their actions, while bringing home to us the plight of their “victims” such as Jack and his Mother, the people whom the capitalist system regards as “losers”.

Speaking of our eponymous hero, Jack embodied all the archetypal fairy-tale qualities of a young, self-effacing, lovable, if somewhat indolent and disorganised lad-about-town – someone upon whom fortune will surely and deservedly come to shine! Here, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow, Barnaby Olson’s artlessly engaging portrayal winning our hearts on all the above fronts, and engaging our sympathies in his quest to secure the affections of his would-be sweetheart, the self-regarding Smiley Virus, with actress Jessica Old’s “bouncing bimbo” selfies-saturated entrance as Smiley almost worthy of a 1930s Hollywood talkies spectacular!

Besides his mother and Smiley, Jack’s other meaningful relationship is with Betsy the Cow, here given a virtuoso performance by Bronwyn Turei which transformed the beast’s normally passive character into a wannabe starlet, desperate for her gifts to be recognised – the cow’s almost erogenous response to being milked by Jack produced great amusement as well as a surprising end-result! Later in the story Turei again made something theatrically distinctive of Betsy’s stratospheric “mirror-image”, Goosey, the Giant’s source of wealth as the producer of the famed Golden Eggs – all most enjoyable!

Throughout the action the energies, the zany characterisations and the outlandish one-liners kept our attentions stoked, with the songs and their stage realisations providing the requisite contrast with the stand-and-deliver pronouncements of the script, Leigh Evans’ on-the-spot choreography and Michael Nicholas Williams’ unflagging musical zest giving the performers’ trajectories surety and purpose. And, corny though some of the pronouncements were, the performers made both context and surprise work to the ideas’ advantage time and time again, as when the glamorous Smiley arrived to give Betsy the Cow a “makeover” in preparation for the Market – (whoops! – “show”!), with the throwaway line, “keeping up with the Cowdashians!”.

Important, too that the local environs were utilised in this process, enabling that all-important phenomenon of a group of people laughing at themselves and registering life’s basic absurdities – the second-half ascent to the Giant’s upper realms simply but most effectively realised , with mists and strange, evocative lighting employed to create a sense of “the heights” – one of the characters summed up the transformation with the words “it’s other worldly! – a bit like Stokes Valley!”

Ultimately, the show’s success depended upon palpable engagement with the audience – and this was achieved throughout most heart-warmingly, and nowhere more so than at the beginning of the second half, when the audience’s children were invited onto the stage for a kind of “rumble”, singing and dancing to the song “It’s a pantomime world”, which went down well on both sides of the footlights.

Elsewhere I enjoyed the creative inspiration, communication skills and technical know-how on show, brought out ahead of impressive spectacle and wow-factor jiggery-pokery, thus requiring we in the audience to be actively engaged rather than passively observing. Still remembering how open-mouthedly magical theatrical performance of any kind was for me as a child, I thought Susan Wilson’s direction of the revamped classic tale similarly and successfully engaged its youthful clientele, and took people such as myself back some of the way to those same realms of delight and wonderment.

Politically coloured vocal contest settles the score between baritones and bass-baritones

St Andrew’s lunchtime concert
The First Annual Battle for the Barithrone, presented by S-Crew

Contestants: James Henare and Joe Haddow (bass-baritones) and Will King and William McElwee (baritones)
Heather Easting (piano)

Songs and arias by: Jerome Kern, trad., Sullivan, Sondheim, Cilea, Verdi and Mozart

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 16 November, 12:15 pm

Both Rosemary Collier and I found ourselves at what turned out to be an unexpectedly amusing recital. We were both held up by late trains and non-functioning lifts and so missed whatever introductory remarks might have illuminated the nature of the ‘contest’. So disadvantaged, we decided to pool our impressions in the hope of making some sense of the unusual scenario that was being enacted.

However, the four biographical notes gave some clues about the issues dominating it.

Former tenor William McElwee was attempting to defeat ruling baritone title-holder Will King while bass-baritones Jamie Henare and Joe Haddow were competing as master and pupil.

An uncredited Simon Christie (disguised as ‘S-Crew’) acted as commentator and, on occasion, referee and conciliator in the vicious struggles for ascendancy.

The only candidate properly dressed for the occasion was McElwee – black tie in the noon-day sun (and rain). Others trusted to their talents, best described as ‘barihunkishness’.

There were four rounds: Spirituals, Alliances, Comic Duets and Arias

Will and William sang, competitively, though equally committed, ‘Old man river’, demonstrating the challenging nature of McElwee’s elevation (or descent) from tenor to baritone.

Another river ruled the two bass-baritones, as Joe Haddow and Jamie Henare dreamed of freedom across the ‘Deep River’; the latter singer displayed some evidence of miscasting – is he in fact a bass?

Three of the contestants entered into an obscure G&S triple-alliance, ‘With wily brain’, for the two baritones and a solitary bass-baritone – Haddow. The words might have been a travesty of the text in Utopia Limited: the penultimate collaboration between increasingly antagonistic librettist and composer. It’s a pretty odd subject for an opera of any kind – a satire on the recent enactment of a law creating the limited liability company – the triumph of free-market capitalism and laissez-faire.

Sullivan featured again in the Comic Duets class, with ‘Kind Captain’ from HMS Pinafore engaging the two bass-baritones. It might have been a role for the confused by-stander to award the laurel.

Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods provided the arena for the contest between baritones William and Will in ‘Agony reprise’; the voices blended excellently well, not, presumably, what the venomous contestants intended.

In the Arias round William McElwee explored obscure opera again with an aria from Cilea’s ‘other opera’, not Adriana Lecouvreur, but L’arlesiana’ (the opera version of the Daudet play that Bizet wrote wonderful music for). The black tie was clearly designed to sway the judges, though his fine voice might have been enough, in spite of its tenorial traces. Was his rendition perhaps a little too loud for the fine acoustic of St Andrew’s? However, his high notes and phrasing were exemplary.

Jamie Henare remained with Italian in ‘Il lacerate spirto’ from Simon Boccanegra, the great opera that the Festival bravely mounted in 2000, with a splendid Vladimir Vaneev singing Henare’s vengeful role of Fiesco. A promising Verdian here, especially with an attractive voice of such natural bass character. His words were well articulated and he brought emotional colour to his voice; his deeper notes were thrilling.

Baritone Will King, now vying for the crown as King Will, accepted here the lesser nobility of Mozart’s Count, determined to beat Figaro in a final round to get the first go, as it were, at Susanna. Will’s voice carried the steel though his demeanour could have expressed greater determination. His singing and his Italian were outstanding, especially considering the fast tempo.

And then Joe Haddow, again in Mozart, with a great robust voice, leafs through Leporello’s Catalogue, allowing his voice to dim slightly, with fine natural acting. He used his resonant voice dramatically in an accomplished manner with plenty of light and shade; a fine Leporello!

Unscheduled, all then sang the ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’, in Russian, heavy in Jamie’s splendid bass solo but with lighter colours from the higher baritone registers of Will and William.

But remember, this is a contest, like the one across the Pacific a week ago. Referee Christie was on the phone to the invisible judges and announced the election (er… singing contest) result, generally approved, but a few seconds later another call came in, overturning the popular vote and confirming a shocking upset result from the Singing Electoral College: William McElwee the winner, Jamie second, and Joe and Will 3rd equal: Chaos!!!

Regardless of result, we were delighted hear four fine voices, all different. Heather Easting’s accompaniments were classy and conspicuously supportive.

Capital Choir reveals musical values with fine performance of Donizetti’s Requiem

Donizetti: Messa da Requiem

Capital Choir, conducted by Sue Robinson, with Pasquale Orchard (soprano), Maaike Christie-Beekman (mezzo), Jamie Young (tenor), Simon Christie (bass-baritone), Rhys Cocker (bass), Belinda Behle (piano)

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Sunday, 13 November  2016, 3pm

For an ‘all-comers’ choir, Capital Choir has achieved an enviable level of expertise, adventurousness and commitment.

Under Sue Robinson, the choir demonstrated a considerable range of choral skills and abilities.  The various parts all made a good sound most of the time.  There were many quiet passages in which the choir exhibited a lovely tone.  But there were others where things threatened almost to fall apart, especially among the men, and others where the high soprano tone was too screechy.  Tenors were strong, with pleasing tone.

Throughout, the choir showed its variety and control of dynamics; words were for the most part clear.  The main problem was the tendency, not uncommon in amateur choirs, to sing slightly under the note much of the time, especially when singing in higher registers.  Another common fault was rushing to the letter ‘s’ at the ends of words, and not giving the preceding vowels their full value.  However, timing and rhythm were both strong attributes.

The work is not well-known nor widely performed.  The internet informs me that “Donizetti wrote this piece for chorus, orchestra and five soloists, with the male singers getting the bulk of the work. Though Donizetti includes distinct arias, such as the tenor’s Ingemisco, he also alternates chorus and solo voices in a very operatic manner. Also operatic is his use of the soloists in ensemble.”

These comments were certainly borne out.  The Requiem was unlike that of Verdi, in that there were few long choruses, and there were many solos and ensembles interspersed.  However, the many dramatic passages put one in mind of the later composer.

After the opening movements, the ‘Tuba mirum’ revealed signs of strain from the choir, however, the splendid soloists then gave them a rest. The male trio in this movement included difficult chromatic music, but it was mainly steady, and the voices were strong.  The following ‘Judex ergo’ featured bass and tenor.  Their voices were well matched, making for a very pleasing duet. ‘Rex tremendae’ was very operatic, while in ‘Recordare’, the featured solo soprano was Pasquale Orchard (quite a challenge after her splendid solo singing in the Orpheus Choir’s concert the previous evening.  She was later joined by chorus and solo bass.

The tenor solo in ‘Ingemisco’ was very fine.  Subsequent movements made for pleasant, if not riveting, listening, interspersed as they were with solos and chorus singing, much of an operatic character.  The pace of ‘Praeces meae’ was not managed very well, but this movement again featured superb solo singing.

Rhys Cocker had the largest solo role throughout the work, but all the soloists acquitted themselves well.  Maaike Christie-Beekman was superb, as ever.  Pasquale Orchard had a relatively small role, and performed it well; Jamie Young’s tenor was strong, and he infused his singing with fervour and drama.  Simon Christie had less to do, and much of that was in ensembles.  Cocker’s singing was at times very expressive, and he had some gorgeous sustained notes, although there were other times when he needed to vary the colours in the voice more.

The ‘Libera me Domine’ was rather weak – perhaps the choir was tiring by this time, although the entire concert was less than an hour-and-a-half long.  It ended strongly with final chorus and solos in ‘Kyrie eleison’.

It was a shame not to have the sound-colours that an orchestra would have brought to the performance.  Cost would preclude this, but use of the organ would have been a good substitute; while Belinda Behle’s work on the piano was immaculate, it did not contribute the desirable variety.

One could not say that the work was an undiscovered masterpiece, but it has many splendid and beautiful moments.  My companion and I decided it was probably one of those works that was more fun to sing than to listen to.  The church was well-filled with an appreciative audience.

Highly diverting Orpheus Choir mixes seasonal Haydn with animals and cloudbursts

The Orpheus Choir conducted by Brent Stewart with Thomas Nikora (piano) and Michael Fletcher (organ) 
A concert aimed to take full advantage of the Cathedral’s acoustic.

Programme included: Kondalilla by Stephen Leek
Selections from Haydn’s The Seasons
and Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitacre
Dirait-on by Morten Lauridsen (in place of the earlier announced Missa Gaia {Mass for the Earth} by Libby Larsen)

Wellington Cathedral of Saint Paul

Saturday 12 November, 7:30 pm

What is detailed above, as well as a statement that further details would be announced, is the information about this concert we had received and had filed in our Coming Events, but no ‘further details’ arrived: no soloists named, no organist or piano accompanist; not even the name of the conductor, though one knew that.

As we entered, we were handed a folded A4 page with the greeting – “just the words” and adding, “there is no programme”. That was a rather unfortunate omission; there may have been a sound reason for it, such as the imminence of a major earthquake, or the recent election in the Northern Hemisphere, but….

Not only am I a strong advocate of printed programmes, preferably of modest, non-luxurious design and cost, but I also think it’s important that they are free, as the notes in a programme are one of the few means by which a now poorly musically-educated public can improve their ability to recognise the difference between Palestrina and Puccini.

Conductor Brent Stewart did speak about the music and the performers, but without proper amplification, much of what he said was hard to grasp, especially beyond about six rows from the front (there was a pretty full cathedral).

However, the concert began propitiously, men streaming in to stand across the front of the Choir while women filed up the north aisle to the west end. One became aware of a low murmur, initially mistaken for the heavy rain, but slowly growing to create the expectant sound of a big audience awaiting the start of an exciting performance. That was the way it worked for me, and I forgot the no-programme matter, to be won over by this ‘special occasion’ atmosphere.

Stephen Leek’s Kondalilla depicts the spirit of a waterfall in south-eastern Queensland. There was an arresting multiplicity of motifs, harmonies, chaotic or inchoate from the men, mainly, which slowly died away on a rising fourth. Then a new feminine sound arrived, birds, the sounds of wind instruments.

Lighting was an important element, mainly trained on the pillars on either side of the choir.

Haydn’s The Seasons
Lighting was used to characterise the seasons in the following performance of selections from Haydn’s oratorio on that subject. The Spring cantata was celebrated with a lightish pink which echoed the charming, dotted rhythms of the first Chorus of Country People.

Though Haydn had set the German text, we heard an English translation by Margaret Bosden and Barbara Cook; English has some claim on the work as Baron von Swieten (probably a friend of Mozart more than Haydn) based his text on James Thomson’s poem, The Seasons, and after Haydn’s composition was finished he did a translation back into English as the composer wanted it to be accessible in both languages.

The work was of course composed for the normal classical orchestra, but here the cathedral organ stood in; though Michael Fletcher (Director of Music at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart) handled the registrations imaginatively, the fact that the work employs colourful orchestral sounds to accompany the moods of the seasons, seemed to make rather special demands. Demands that, it seemed to me, are more easily met by many human beings on many instruments than through the fairly inflexible mechanical sounds from an organ, no matter how versatile it or the player is.

The big choir was well balanced and produced sounds of vitality and elasticity, dividing between men and women, occasional duets, while the soprano soloist here, and at various later stages, produced luminous and interesting seasonal portrayal. In the Summer cantata light became a warm white for the word painting of a summer landscape and a joyous trio of voices created a sense of peace; until the organ interrupted with a lightning flash of a descending scale announcing a summer electrical storm in which the choir and conductor generated plenty of visual and sonic drama.

Other singers took a variety of solo roles; without names I could not identify them, but these were the names of the Orpheus Scholars that I was given later: Alex Gandionco, Alexandra Woodhouse-Appleby, Karishma Thanawala, Pasquale Orchard, plus a non-Orpheus Scholar bass, Minto Fung.

After a solo and chorus from Autumn and the chilly, drifting Introduction and recitative from Winter, the choir returned to Spring for a suitably apostrophe to God.

After the interval, the music returned to pieces by prominent American choral composers, Eric Whitacre (again) and Morten Lauridsen.

Lauridsen’s ‘Dirait-on’, the poem, one of the five of Rilke’s Les Chansons des Roses.  (Did Rilke write much in French?). The setting is one of the signs of the growing rejection of abrasive, alienating music that has driven audiences away in recent decades: there are curious sounds of pop styles, sentimental but not cheap. And the performance sustained those characteristics with enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Whitacre’s Lux aurumque and Animal Crackers
First Lux aurumque (‘light and gold’), which Edward Esch had written in English. When he showed it to Whitacre, the latter asked Charles Silvestri to translate it into Latin as Whitacre likes the sounds of Latin (so do I). Inevitably, Latinists have criticised it for not being quite the way Virgil or Horace would have written it.

The choir split up allowing the soprano voices slowly to fill the big space, pinned by a long-held soprano ‘pedal’ note (if that’s not a sort of oxymoron). Very evocative, emotionally involving, accompanied by Thomas Nikora on the piano.

Eric Whitacre returned with his famous Animal Crackers to Ogden Nash’s Carnival of the Animals-style verses E.g. ‘The cow is of the bovine ilk / One end is moo, the other milk’. There was laughter.

And the concert ended with another Whitacre venture into foreign language – Spanish poet Octavio Paz’ El cantaro roto (‘The broken water-jar’), which Whitacre called ‘Cloudburst’. Programme notes might well have explained some of these matters. Distinguished Mexican poet, Paz, by the way, is characterised in Wikipedia: “He is considered by many as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets of all time.” Quite a statement!

There were long-held pedal notes, prolonged, underlying murmuring, dense harmonic clusters, sprechstimme interventions,  heavy breathing, little chimes from hand-bells, accompanied later by enigmatic revolving and gesturing hand movements, finger-clicking by the choir members; bass drum, other percussive effects and some piano offerings as the music dies away. One can understand how it and Whitacre’s music in general has swept the choral world!

Camerata – graceful and high-spirited music-making at St.Peter’s Church, Willis St.

Camerata presents:  HAYDN IN THE CHURCH

PIERNÉ – Serenade for Strings Op.7
ELGAR – Serenade for Strings in E Minor  Op.20
HAYDN – Symphony No.3 in G Major Hob.1:3

Anne Loeser (leader)
Sarah Marten, Vivian Stephens, Emily Wilby (Ist violins)
HyeWon Kim, Liz Pritchett, Alix Schultze, Catherine Ireland (2nd violins)
Victoria Jaenecke, Hywel Williams (violas)
Jane Brown, Bethany Angus (‘cellos)
Lesley Hooson (d.bass)
Calvin Scott, Jane Bulpin (oboes)
Peter Lamb (bassoon)
Gregory Hill, Vivien Reid (horns)

St.Peter’s Anglican Church, Willis St.,

Friday, 11th November, 2016

Camerata violinist Liz Pritchett opened proceedings by welcoming us to St.Peter’s Church, introducing the ensemble’s leader Anne Loeser and the rest of the Camerata players, and bidding us enjoy the music we were about to hear.  First up was something of a concert rarity, a Serenade by the French composer Gabriel Pierné, whose music I’d seldom heard, apart from a Piano Concerto which I’d encountered in a “Romantic Piano Concerti” series on the Hyperion CD label. After reading several thumbnail biographies of the composer, I’m left wondering why it is that his music isn’t better-known today, as it seems to have been highly-regarded in his lifetime.

I did think the programme note writer(s)’ description of the Serenade as a “charming piece of fluff” a tad dismissive – the music seemed to be beautifully crafted, the line airborne and light as gossamer, with some lovely interactive passages in thirds, and concluding with a wistful ascending valedictory sigh. In places I was reminded of a similar charmer, English composer Anthony Collins’ Vanity Fair, another piece whose simplicity evokes a world of treasurable lyrical expression. I thought the playing “caught” a good deal of this strain, the melodic line beautifully, but not overly-phrased, nor too heavily perfumed, the touch remaining admirably light to the end.

Having said all of this it was obvious within a few measures of the Elgar work that here was a far deeper and profounder vein of feeling being recreated for us, at once a sense of some private longing being held and nursed and carried with great dignity – those sturdy strides, so characteristic of the composer, grew in confidence and purpose as the lyrical lines of the work ascended and intensified, the solo violin taking the lead in places for the ensembled group to follow, phrase by phrase, layer upon layer, here achieving expressive frisson with great simplicity and lack of sentimentality. If for me the impulsive surges still seemed a shade understated here, it was all still sensitively played and shaped, right to the music’s conclusion.

How beautifully the ensemble “held” the slow movement’s first note, delicately accenting the highest note of the phrase, and making each sequence afterwards like a sigh! The melody was then given simply and unaffectedly, perhaps to a fault – I could imagine a deeper sense of “hurt” in places – but the minor-key sequences were coloured with a properly plaintive elegiac quality, the cellos articulating a lovely answering phrase at one point, and the upper strings holding back their descending tones in preparation for the opening’s reprise. At first judiciously “contained” by the players, the melody was allowed to expand, the players building up the intensities with each ascent, and then going with the music’s “dying fall” – a lovely moment was the upper strings’ rejoiner of the opening theme over throbbing accompaniments, the tones then trailing off into rapt silences.

The finale’s opening, wind-blown phrases were here beautifully brushed in, with the occasional “open-string” sound filling-out the spaces and taking the music well-and-truly outdoors. How the players enjoyed the great ascending phrases of the main theme, the music having come into its own and claimed its territories with wonderful surety. And how magically it all seemed to change mid-course, and hearken back to the first movement with a mixture of regret, resignation and after-glow, the music’s “stride” confidently returning and leading the music home to where the heart is. I thought the striding passages wanted a touch more girth and earthiness here, but the music’s “envoy” aspect was well-served at the end, with the last few chords so resonantly sounded and left to linger in the memory.

After this, we were given notice of the youthful genius of Joseph Haydn, hearing his Symphony No.3, no less, written around 1760-62 during his period of service with the Esterházy family at their various residences in rural Austria and Hungary. This was one of the first four-movement symphonies, and the addition of a dance-movement (Minuet) and something called a “Trio” (named thus because it was a sequence often played by three instruments only), would probably have intrigued those who bothered to actually LISTEN to the music at the time! Interestingly, I found a website which “ranked” all 104 Haydn Symphonies, and which contentiously relegated some reasonably high-numbered ones to the doldrums (No.85 “La Reine” comes in 97th, for example!) – while this evening’s cheery, quirky effort performed creditably in 79th place – all, of course, a matter of opinion, and, as one might imagine, occasioning numerous on-line responses of the “what lame performances were you listening to?” variety…..

Camerata’s playing, I thought, served the music’s cause splendidly – I enjoyed the crackling energy at the work’s beginning, the lines bristling with ideas, horns and oboes adding colour, and bassoon and double bass propelling the argument forward with gusto. The ensemble’s modest numbers kept the music in a kind of “authentic” scale, while the phrasing of the strings and their tonal production enhanced the argument’s clarity though keeping an ambient warmth and flexibility, and avoiding the horrid nasal acerbity of some “period” realisations I’ve encountered. The second movement’s strings-only Andante moderato brought a touch of minor-key melancholy to the proceedings, the composer’s invention beautifully conveying the music’s depth of feeling, realised here with a sure sense of character.

The new-fangled Minuet conveyed both ceremony and sentiment, the horns adding to the splendour, while the Trio sequence featured a playful, tumbling three-way interaction between strings, winds and horns, leading to a reprise of the opening dance, whose poise and elegance contrasted beautifully with the finale’s “running” opening. Though the horns momentarily “blooped” at the beginning (they were to make amends), they contributed in no uncertain terms to the remainder’s energy and bustle. Fugal in character, the music reminded me a good deal of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony (though as Brahms would have doubtless pointed out, “Any jackass could have seen that!”).

Leader Anne Loeser, after thanking us for coming to the concert at the music’s first-time conclusion, then announced that the ensemble would repeat the finale of the symphony, to make up for the paucity of repeats in the movement. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy all over again the young Haydn’s contrapuntal skills, and allowed the horns to show us what they could really do with their opening phrases, securing their notes this time round with flying colours!

Bravo, Camerata – let us hear a good deal more of you!

Impressive Kristallnacht commemoration in concert by Holocaust Centre and NZ School of Music

Kristallnacht Holocaust Commemoration Concert

Music by Herbert Zipper, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Lori Laitman, Boris Pigovat, Viktor Ullman, Laurence Sherr, Richard Fuchs and Gideon Klein

St James Theatre, upstairs foyer

Wednesday 9 November, 7 pm

Two days short of the marking of the World War I armistice, on 11 November 1918, another event took place in the country that had accepted an armistice, but not defeat, and whose sense of humiliation found expression 15 years later with the take-over of Germany by Hitler and the Nazis.

Evidence of a policy of violence against the Jews arose within days of the Nazis taking power in 1933, and the Röhm Putsch or Night of the Long Knives in June-July 1934 against the SA which Hitler felt had gained too much autonomy, demonstrated his proclivity for murdering perceived rivals. It presaged the wholesale attack on Jews and their homes, synagogues and businesses in November 1938, given the curious title Kristallnacht.

This concert was organised by New Zealand’s Holocaust Centre with its headquarters in the Jewish Centre on Webb Street, Wellington. Its chief aim is to educate children and the public about the Holocaust in particular and genocide wherever it happens, in general. This was the fourth of the planned annual concerts devoted to this subject.

Professor Donald Maurice and Inbal Megiddo of the New Zealand School of Music organised and introduced the concert. It began with the audience being rehearsed to sing the chorus of a Dachaulied, composed for fellow prisoners to sing, by one Herbert Zipper. He had been picked up after the Nazis arrived in Vienna on 12 March 1938 (the Anschluss), and miraculously survived through Dachau, then Buchenwald, and was finally released only soon to fall into Japanese hands, surviving and eventually reaching the United States, where he died in 1997, aged 93.

The song was led by Cantoris under Thomas Nikora and there was some participation by the audience.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg was born in Warsaw in 1919 and he was persecuted by the Nazis but escaped to Minsk during the war; his life changed after he sent his first symphony to Shostakovich who took him under his wing. His early years in the Soviet Union looked promising but increasing anti-semitism through the later 1940s virtually cut off his chances of becoming a professional musician. Only Stalin’s death in 1953 probably saved his life. He remained in the Soviet Union where his works began to be performed by leading musicans such as  Gilels, Leonid Kogan, Kondrashin , Rostropovich and Kurt and Thomas Sanderling.

He died in 1996. By the 1980s some of his works were being performed in other countries – The Portrait in 1983 at the Janácek State Theatre in Brno and at the Bregenz Festival in 2010; by Opera North and at Nancy in 2011.

The Idiot in Mannheim in 2013.

My first awakening to him was through reviews in British and French opera magazines of The Passenger, in 2010, at the Bregenz Festival where it was videoed and released on DVD. The same production was presented in Warsaw by Polish National Opera in 2010, and its UK première, in 2011, was at the English National Opera, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. In 2013, its first German performance was at Karlsruhe; in 2014 in Houston and in 2015 in Chicago and Frankfurt.

In addition, much of his orchestral, piano and chamber music has been recorded.

So now, he is far from neglected. For a sample of recordings of his music, look at the Naxos catalogue: http://www.naxos.com/person/Mieczyslaw_Weinberg/18538.htm

Here Lucy Gijsbers, accompanied by Nikora played Weinberg’s Cello Sonata No 2 – the first movement. In spite of a certain meandering melodic obscurity, there was palpable emotional energy, momentum and a powerful sense of direction.

Three songs from Vedem, an oratorio by well-known American vocal composer, Lori Laitman, followed; it’s called a Holocaust opera. The songs were sung by Margaret Medlyn with Deborah Rawson on the clarinet and Jian Liu at the piano. Vedem means ‘We lead’ in Czech and it was the name of a magazine written by boys imprisoned at Terezin; the manuscripts were buried and retrieved after the war. Broadly tonal in character, the words and clarinet wove around one another, creating varied emotional experiences: unease, peacefulness, panic.

Boris Pigovat’s name is familiar in New Zealand through Donald Maurice’s friendship with the composer whose Holocaust Requiem for viola and orchestra got its second performance (world-wide) in 2008 in Wellington, from Orchestra Wellington and Maurice on the viola, cementing Maurice’s friendship with the composer. Atoll Records recorded it.

His Strings of Love was written specifically for Archi d’amore Zelanda, which consists of viola d’amore (Maurice), guitar (Jane Curry) and cello (Inbal Megiddo) – all principal tutors of their instruments at the New Zealand School of Music. The viola d’amore is a 14-string violin-sized instrument with seven playing strings and seven sympathetic resonating strings. Pigovat does himself a favour by writing in unpretentious, tonal language, in which the viola carried a big, aching melody, while guitar and cello move meditatively alongside, each instrument thus playing music that is idiomatic and natural to its character.

One of the concentration camp works that has had a notable, almost mainstream life is Viktor Ullman’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis oder Die Tod-Verweigerung (‘The Emperor of Atlantis or Death’s disobedience’); for example, there’s a production at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna in January. It was written in Teresienstadt; a biting caricature of Hitler, widely thought to have been composed in the full awareness that it would bring about Ullman’s murder. Four singers performed the Finale, a brief cynical deal struck between Death and the Emperor which allow the suffering people to be released through death. Truncated as it was, and involving the acerbic style characteristic of Weimar Germany, it was probably unrewarding for the singers (Shayna Tweed, Margaret Medlyn, Declan Cudd and Roger Wilson), as it was for the audience. In a complete, staged performance it presumably makes its impact.

Laurence Sherr’s Cello Sonata brought Megiddo and Liu back to play a piece based on Holocaust songs, at least two evidently from the Vilnius ghetto.

(Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was grabbed by Poland in the fractious Russian-Lithuanian-Polish struggles after WW1 and so while Lithuania gained independence, with Kaunas the capital, Vilnius remained Polish till taken by the Soviet Union under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. In 1941 the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Lithuania again fell under German control, but with the final Soviet victory, Lithuania regained its integrity but it became a Soviet republic along with the other Baltic states, till 1991. Those traumas involved the almost complete massacre of Vilnius’s large Jewish population {around 1900 they comprised about 40% of the population}.)

The first movement echoed German music of the turn of the century, the second, overtly emotional, hinting at Bruch’s Kol Nidrei. A third movement was a set of variations: lyrical, energetic, ferocious, a martial episode, optimistic… Attractive music, splendidly performed.

Richard Fuchs lived from 1887 to 1947, was imprisoned in Dachau after Kristallnacht, but released, remarkably, after obtaining a visa to come to New Zealand: he travelled in 1939. Typically, he was interned by the New Zealand authorities as an enemy alien. His song, a setting of T S Eliot’s poem, A Song for Simeon, was composed in 1938 (even though Fuchs knew that Eliot was an anti-semite). It was the world premiere, typically revealing the disregard of Fuchs as a composer. The song had an air of high competence, of a composer of consequence, and baritone James Clayton and pianist Gabriela Grapska delivered a stunningly committed performance.

Finally, another Nazi victim, Gideon Klein’s String Trio, written just weeks before his transfer to Auschwitz and death. Klein was a Czech whose musical studies in Prague showed high talent, and Wikipedia shows an impressive number of compositions, several of which were written in Terezin where he was imprisoned from 1941. The trio was played by three NZSO principals: violinist Yuri Gezentsvey, violist Peter Barber and cellist David Chickering.  The trio had a strong folk music flavour, which seemed variously risky and untroubled, fateful, sombre, though the last movement offered little evidence of the time and place where it was composed. The performance was highly accomplished, appearing to reveal at certain moments, an unease, moments of hesitancy, but overall a determination to retain a degree of optimism.

This might have been an uneven concert in terms of real musical strength, though none was without merit. It achieved its purpose nevertheless, of marking one of the 20th century’s worst atrocities, through music produced by composers of rare talent and human resilience.


Enlightening, themed concert at hands of skilled, insightful musicians

Anne Loesser (violin), Jane Young (cello), Martin Ryman (harpsichord)

Music by composers who influenced J S Bach by
Georg Muffat: Ciacona in G major
Johan Jakob Froberger: Suite No. XII in C major
Georg Philipp Telemann: Cello Sonata in D major TWV 41:D6

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 9 November, 12:15 pm

It was either this interestingly promoted programme of music that influenced Bach, or the nice weather that broke out at lunchtime that brought a somewhat larger than average audience to this concert.

The programme pushed a couple of useful buttons. The names of the performers, players in the NZSO and/or Orchestra Wellington, and a keyboardist whose name rang bells, and some kind of guarantee of musical worth, inasmuch as it implied that Bach would have admired the music chosen.

Those qualities proved themselves.

Muffat was of the generation before Bach, contemporary of Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Purcell, Marin Marais, Biber, Corelli, and not long after Lully and Charpentier. It’s from a collection called Apparatus musico-organisticus, mostly of toccatas, evidently designed for the organ, though here it was played on the harpsichord, and sounded fine.

Muffat, of Scottish descent, was born in 1653 in Savoy, in the French Alps, educated in Paris (perhaps with Lully), went to Prague and then to Italy to study further and finally became Kapellmeister to the bishop of Passau (on the Danube, on what is today on the German/Austrian border).

It’s little wonder that he tended to combine, deliberately or just instinctively, the musical languages of all three cultures.

The Ciacona, or Chaconne, conjures music that Bach might have had in his head when he wrote the great Chaconne that ends the Second Solo Violin Partita. It is a reasonably well-known and attractive piece, and its performance was admirable.

Johan Jakob Froberger was of a generation earlier than Muffat (in 1616). The programme notes say that “he influenced practically every major composer in Europe, including J S Bach, by developing the genre of the keyboard suite and, like Muffat, contributed greatly to the cross-pollination of musical traditions through his many travels. For much of his life Froberger lived in Vienna, where he worked for the Viennese court.”

Ryman spoke to enlarge on that but he didn’t use the microphone and his voice didn’t carry well. However, the Suite No. XII in C major did speak clearly and engagingly. The first movement, Lament, (also called an Allemande) found its message, not through the common device of falling motifs or even use of minor key, but with more subtle means, using melodic shapes that deftly created an elegiac tone, all set to rest with the slow scale rising to heaven. The Gigue had a discreet character, attractively ornamented, and subject to fleeting modulations. There was no lack of melodic ideas of real charm in the following Courante and Sarabande. We hear little of either of these composers; a rather different and in some ways more adventurous sound than is familiar from later generations of baroque composers.

Telemann represented the later generation, born just a couple of years before Bach, and thus somewhat dubious as an ‘influence’, as his music is less complex and intellectual than is much of Bach.

His Cello Sonata in D major (TWV 41:D6) was published in a journal called Der getreue Musikmeister (‘The Faithful Music Master’) edited by Telemann and a colleague. Cellist Jane Young led the way, as the harpsichord now became just a little more than polite accompanist. Young has recently taken up with the baroque cello and her instrument (well, her playing of it) gave off a fully convincing air of warm, rich sound, especially on the lower strings, in the opening Lento. Sometimes the absence of vibrato in echt baroque playing can sound odd, even pretentious, but here Young’s steady tone was perfectly unobtrusive.

The second, Allegro, movement wasn’t quite as convincing in tone, though rhythmically vigorous and the fourth movement had a similar feeling. So I enjoyed the third-movement Largo with its calm, lyrical character. Listening to this music, even though it doesn’t have the feeling of strength and, let’s say, genius that most of J S Bach has, still fills one with astonishment for its fluency and sheer fecundity.

Finally we reached J S Bach. The solo works for violin (and cello) seem to be better known, but the accompanied violin sonatas are not half bad. The Sonata in A major, BWV 1015 is the second of the Sechs Sonaten für Clavier und Violine whose BWV numbers run from 1014 to 1019. (Incidentally, ‘clavier’ translates as pianoforte; the Germans use the Italian word ‘cembalo’ for the harpsichord. And the placing of ‘clavier’ before ‘violine’ in the title suggests at least equal importance). Here, violinist Anne Loesser emerged while cellist Young remained, so turning the ‘clavier’ part into a basso continuo one. This worked very idiomatically. In fact, the cello part evolved very interestingly, occasionally picking up a melody from violin or harpsichord which, in spite of my remark above, hardly sounded the equal of Loesser’s very bright violin.

The notes pointed out that the sonata had the layout of the sonata da chiesa (‘church sonata’) with four movements of alternating character. Indeed it is no less interesting and impressive than any of the solo violin sonatas or partitas, rich in contrapuntal elaboration as well as musical invention. The last movement, Presto is the most familiar and its warmly inventive and energetic character was splendidly realised, even though neither cello nor harpsichord quite matched the much more 19th century volume and sonority of the violin here, and I might add, not quite the whole-hearted equality you get from a piano accompaniment.

The entire recital was a great success however, demonstrating how satisfying and enlightening a themed concert can be in the hands of musicians with the heart and the skill to bring off such stylistically varied music with such accomplishment and insight.