Springtime winds at St Andrew’s from the NZSM

New Zealand School of Music Woodwind Students

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

This further recital by music students from the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University of Wellington attracted a rather smaller audience than is usual for these lunchtime concerts. However, everyone was appreciative of the display of talent, skill, and hard work on show.

First on the programme was sonata V in E minor for flute and continuo, BWV 1034 by J.S.Bach. Samantha McSweeney played the first and second movements, accompanied by Kirsten Robertson on the piano. The adagio consisted of lovely music, and was played with a beautiful sound. The only drawback was rather noisy breathing sometimes. The player needs to try to breathe as singers do, inaudibly.

The following allegro was lively, the melodies shooting all over the stave – no doubt demanding to play. It was a gorgeous performance.It was followed by the slow, second movement from Mozart’s bassoon concerto in B flat major, KV 191, played by Breanna Abbott, with piano accompaniment from the incomparable Catherine Norton. This youthful composition was a delight to hear. Its melodious, lyrical and pastoral characteristics were fully demonstrated in this performance.

Next was a flute trio from Bella Anderson, Samantha McSweeney and Ainslee Smithers. They played an allegro first movement by Kaspar Krummer, a nineteenth century German composer and flautist. The players’ ensemble was excellent; their mastery of both instrument and music most accomplished; a delicious work beautifully played.

Now for something completely different. Schulhoff was a Czech composer, whose life came to an untimely end in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942. The alto saxophone piece, of which the third and fourth movements were played by Peter Liley accompanied by Catherine Norton, was entitled Hot sonate [sic] for alto saxophone and piano. Despite this, the programme note described it as ‘cool, raucous and smoky’.

Schulhoff composed in many styles, but was strongly influenced by jazz, which is the predominant element in this work.It opened with whining, siren-like sounds on the saxophone. Discords abounded from the saxophone; the piano part was fairly tame in the third movement. The fourth movement was fast, and ‘classical’ in a Satie-like manner. The music was very well played, and effective, though the repetitious figures in this movement tended to become tedious The movement had an abrupt, unexpected ending.

Darius Milhaud’s quirky, humorous style of composition was somewhat muted in his Pastorale Op.147, which was played by Samantha McSweeney (flute, substituting for the original oboe), Billie Kiel (clarinet) and Breanna Abbott (bassoon). The piece immediately lived up to its title, its smooth quality expertly played, which I found quite soporific.

The final work was by Gareth Farr, played by Isabella Gregory (flute) and Finn Bidkin (marimba). I assume (thanks to Wikipedia) that it was Kembang Suling. Neither the composer’s nor the piece’s names weere printed in the programme; it was easy to pick up the composer’s name spoken, but not that of the work.

The first movement’s opening featured repetitious rhythms for both instruments (obvious gamelan  influence here and elsewhere), that built up from quiet piano to forceful forte. The music became more excited; it was impressive to watch the marimba-player using two mallets in each hand, at
speed. The music then moved between the flute taking the solos spot and the marimba doing so.The second movement was slower, with a slightly eerie quality; the flute melody was very quiet, backed by a ghostly marimba accompaniment. The third movement was a vigorous duet with variety and independence of the two parts, though they were linked thematically and rhythmically. The piece ended with a dynamic unison, and a final flourish.

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