NZSM Wind Students
Music by Fauré, Francisco Mignone, Lowell Liebermann, Gareth Farr. Krysztof Penderecki and Debussy
St. Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday, 23 May 2018, 12.15 pm
It is interesting to hear music students at different levels of their courses, and of ability and achievement. All these students, though, performed well and provided engaging music. In most cases they were accompanied on the piano, although two students played unaccompanied pieces. It was pleasing to see a number of school students in the audience; perhaps they are studying wind instruments. Simon Brew, acting head of winds at the New Zealand School of Music, briefly introduced the programme. Nearly all the students introduced themselves and their music more than adequately, using the microphone.
Fauré was represented by Fantasie for Flute, Op.79, played as the opening piece by Samantha McSweeny, accompanied by Kirsten Robertson. French composers wrote prolifically for the flute, and this was a lovely example of their work, which for me carried over nicely from the Fauré songs I heard in Waikanae on Sunday. The piece was inventive and graceful, with a languid opening section. It changed to sprightly and playful passages. It was written for a Paris Conservatoire competition, so it aimed to have the students demonstrate a range of techniques, tempi and dynamics. As well as our player doing this more than adequately, the accompaniment was full of character.
I had never heard of the Brazilian composer Francisco Mignone. His dates were 1897 to 1986. (It would have been useful to have the composers’ dates printed in the programme.) Improvised Waltz no.7 was the title of the piece for solo bassoon, played by Breanna Abbott. It was quite a jaunty piece to start with, but the deep-toned instrument made it harder to get over a light-hearted mood. It was short, and very competently played.
Lowell Liebermann is a contemporary American composer (born in 1961) who is a prolific composer as well as a performer. His Movement 1 from Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op.23 was played by Isabella Gregory, accompanied by Kirsten Robertson. A leisurely opening was followed by an allegro that brought a rush of notes before falling back to gentle utterances. In places the piano doubled the part of the flute. A new section was slow, but both flute and piano jumped around the staves, especially the latter. Both played angular phrases, the flute employing particularly the lower register of the instrument. A return to slower, gentler phrases brought the piece to a smooth, mellifluous end.
The only New Zealand composer represented was Gareth Farr; Peter Liley, alto saxophone, accompanied by Catherine Norton on the piano, played Farr’s Meditation very confidently, following an excellent spoken introduction. The piece opened with notes on the piano, followed by chords, then a slow, pensive melody. This gradually developed and built to a high climax – most effective. More climbing motifs – then an abrupt end.
Solo clarinet was played by Harim Hey Oh, performing Penderecki’s Prelude for solo clarinet. Slow, quiet single notes opened the short piece. Then the music became quite gymnastic, with quick notes darting here and there, including very high notes and very loud ones (hard on the ears!). Then it was back to slow, quiet notes, widely spaced – and it was all over.
The other great French composer represented was Debussy, by his Première Rhapsodie for clarinet, played by Frank Talbot with Catherine Norton accompanying. The piece was written for graduate students at the Paris Conservatoire, so was constructed to test them. Later, the composer orchestrated it. This was a highly competent performance, employing a lot of different techniques and idioms. The full range of the instrument’s notes and dynamics were used. It was most enjoyable music, not only for the clarinet’s role; the piano had a very varied part also.
This was a very satisfactory demonstration of the skills of wind students at the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University of Wellington.