Stroma’s “Spectral Electric” concert at City Art Gallery


Jonny Marks (throatsinger), Ed Allen (horn), Bridget Douglas (flutes), Patrick Barry (clarinet), Shannon Pittaway (bass trombone), Leonard Sakofsky and Thomas Guldborg (percussion), Michelle Velvin (harp), Catherine Norton (piano), Anna van der See and Alan Molina (violin), Andrew Thomson (viola), Ken Ichinose and Robert Ibell (cello), Matthew Cave (contrabass): conductor Mark Carter

Luigi Ceccarelli: Respiri (1999)
Kaija Saariaho: Ciel Etiole (1999)
Salvatore Sciarrino: Fauno che fischia a un Merlo (1980)
Kaija Saariaho: Cendres (1998)
Annea Lockwood: Immersion (2001)
Michael Norris: Sygyt (2017)

City Art Gallery, Wellington, 16 November 2017

Large and flexible contemporary music ensemble Stroma subdivided into smaller units for most of their “Spectral Electric” concert. Founder member Ed Allen, using a mechanically and electrically modified horn, got to demonstrate aspects of virtuosity not typically heard in his work with the NZSO and Orchestra Wellington. In Luigi Ceccarelli’s Respiri, there were raindrop staccatos, deep pedal notes and plaintive keening. Horn calls were echoed and blended, acoustic sounds extended and processed in a manner similar to “granular synthesis”. Moment to moment the performance was very well paced, but in the end I did not feel that the moments – intriguing as they were – coalesced to form a coherent piece.

No such problem with fellow Italian Salvatore Sciarrino’s Fauno che fischia a un Merlo. Bridget Douglas’ flute and Michelle Velvin’s harp created a consistent sound world of high register trills and tremolos, like a dialogue between two birds, punctuated by occasional glissandos and palm-slaps on the harp.

New Zealand born, U. S. resident composer Annea Lockwood is known for her installations featuring recordings of natural sounds (as in Sound Map of the Hudson River), and for activities involving the burning, burying or drowning of pianos. A title like Immersion, then, had to be a bit of a worry. As it turned out, duo percussionists Leonard Sakofsky and Thomas Guldborg showed it to be a well made, almost conventionally structured piece, exploiting two different kinds of sustain: bowed or rubbed metal (bowl, cymbals and tam-tam), and rapid marimba tremolandos. It built up to a powerful climax on mysterious deep marimba and roaring tam-tam, before returning to its rarefied beginning.

Finland’s Kaija Saariaho also utilised the delicate effects of bowed metal (cymbals, crotales). In her Ciel Etoile (“Starry Sky”), percussionists Sakofsky and Guldborg were joined by contrabassist Matthew Cave, who provided dark low notes and high harmonics. Pizzicatos marked a more rhythmic section, before the piece evaporated into the stillness with which it began.

Saariaho’s Cendres was more varied and driven. Subtle effects, such as Catherine Norton’s inside-piano, the fusing a piano tremolo with Ken Ichinose’s cello harmonics and with Bridget Douglas’ flute, were contrasted with more conventional instrumental flourishes. These made beautiful intrusions, but also diluted the work’ stylistic integrity a little.

Saariaho was somewhat on the edge of the Spectralist movement, which began in 1970s France. Ironically then, the most spectral work in the concert was composed in 2017 Wellington. The full Stroma ensemble under conductor Mark Carter joined the remarkable throatsinger Jonny Marks for Sygyt by Michael Norris. Wellingtonian Marks studied in China/Mongolia, and performs with the All Seeing Hand, and at the Pyramid Club.

As a score with wordless voice, Sygyt joins a select list of vocalises that includes concertos by Gliere, New Zealand’s Lyell Cresswell, and English quarter-tone pioneer John Foulds (Lyra Celtica), and the small-group Preludio a Colon by Mexican microtonalist Julian Carrillo. These all used the female voice. Sygyt requires Marks to traverse his commanding range, from the gravelly, visceral, sub-bass kargyraa style, to the exquisitely ethereal harmonics (all the way up to the fourteenth) of the eponymous sygyt. Norris (and Marks) seamlessly integrated these ethnically Mongolian and Tuvan ways of singing into the language of Western music – or perhaps what Western music might have been like if it had followed the trajectory implied by Renaissance just intonation and meantone, instead of reverting to the modified form of mediaeval Pythagorean tuning that is Equal Temperament. Rich, resonant chords are built from the harmonic series (a preoccupation of the Spectralists), and the series itself is employed as a melody on instruments and on the voice. In the last section melodic lines are created from selected disjunct notes of the series.

Marks used a microphone to achieve balance with the ensemble. But he didn’t need it to produce the sounds, as he demonstrated dramatically at the end, leaving the room to sing in the echoing, reverberant spaces of the City Gallery.

Stroma will be performing in the New Zealand Festival (Mechanical Ballet, 16 and 17 March 2018), and taking part in the 2018 Chamber Music New Zealand series with The Rest Is Noise author Alex Ross (Wellington, 26 May).

Maximum Minimalism – simple, state-of-the-art complexities from Stroma


Bridget Douglas (flutes), Patrick Barry (clarinet), Reuben Chin (saxophone), Jeremy Fitzsimons (percussion), Leonard Sakofsky (vibraphone), Emma Sayers (piano), Anna van der See , Rebecca Struthers (violins), Giles Francis (viola), Ken Ichinose(cello), Matthew Cave (contrabass), conducted by Mark Carter.

Steve Reich: Double Sextet (2007)

Alison Isadora: ALT (2017)

Julia Wolfe: Lick (1994)

Terry Riley: In C (1964)

City Gallery, Wellington,

Thursday, 19 October 2017

“Maximum Minimalism” was the wittily oxymoronic title for this concert by Wellington’s (New Zealand’s?) premiere contemporary music ensemble, Stroma. “Minimalism” was the name bestowed on a group of American composers who, in the 1960s, reacted against the forbidding complexity of atonal and serial music and began (largely independently of each other) employing the extended repetition of simple elements. Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley were the pioneers (La Monte Young is sometimes included, but this is confusing, because his work explores indefinitely sustained sounds, tuned to ratios from the harmonic series, rather than rhythmic repetitions).

Steve Reich preferred the term “process music”. His early compositions were as rigorous in their way as anything in the preceding period of modernism: tapes which went gradually out of phase (Come Out, 1966), or chirping chords progressively lengthened until they became an oceanic swell (Four Organs, 1970). Later, he started making composerly interventions into these strict procedures. In Double Sextet the forward driving momentum was interrupted by slower chordal sections, and the whole piece included a slow movement. The live instrumentalists (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone and piano) played with precision against a recorded version of themselves (hence the “Double”), producing a dense, busy texture. This, and the interaction between Emma Sayers’ high piano and the piquancy of Leonard Sakofsky’s vibraphone, created an edgy, astringent world of sound.

If Double Sextet represented late minimalism, Terry Riley’s In C stood right at the beginning. His approach was very different from Reich’s. Here the complex counterpoint was the result, not of careful calculation, but of giving the performers freedom progress through a series of short melodic fragments, each at their own pace. I was impressed by how these classically trained musicians handled the improvisatory elements. While there was no particular overall shape, Stroma created the dynamic ebb and flow that could be expected from experienced improvisers. There were even segments of long notes where the tempo seemed to slow down, despite the persisting pulse of the high C’s on piano and percussion.

American cross-genre composer Julia Wolfe’s Lick began with short, arresting phrases before the syncopated rhythms kicked in. Reuben Chin’s saxophone and Nick Granville’s electric guitar contributed to the jazz-rock ambience. Again I felt the absence of a clear overall structure, but was engaged by the well-paced contrasts of texture and rhythm.

For me, the highlight of a Stroma concert is often the premiere of a New Zealand work, and this was no exception. Victoria University graduate Alison Isadora has spent much of her life in The Netherlands, but maintains her connections with New Zealand, and held the 2016-17 Lilburn House Residency. Many of her compositions have involved mixed media, often with a political undertone (“agitator-prop”, perhaps – one piece included an onstage washing machine). Her recent scores have been more introverted however, the string quartet ALT notably so. Ethereal and understated, ALT wove its texture almost exclusively from string harmonics, sometimes near the top of musical pitch-perception. But its quietly seductive surface was underpinned by a well-formed musical structure, propelled to a subtle climax by a gentle pulse in the cello, before resolving into a sustained sense of suspended time. It could almost have merited a place in Stroma’s next concert (“Spectral Electric”, City Gallery, Thursday 16 November), which will be a tribute to the Spectralist composers who base their sonorities on the harmonic series: this will feature a new concerto by Michael Norris for Wellington’s own, Mongolian trained, throatsinger, Jonny Marks.

“New Look” NZ Trio performs old and new at Wellington City Gallery


Natalie Lin (violin), Ashley Brown (cello), Sarah Watkins (piano)

Arnold Bax: Trio in B flat major
Jenny McLeod: Seascapes
Samuel Holloway: Corpse and Mirror (New Commission)
Beethoven: Piano Trio in E flat Op. 70 No. 2

City Art Gallery, Wellington,

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

NZTrio are undergoing a dramatic change. With the departure of foundation member Justine Cormack, attention at this concert was inevitably centred on the replacement violinist for this tour, Natalie Lin, a New Zealander currently living in Texas. She immediately impressed in the vigorous opening of the Bax trio with her strong, confident tone, going on to duet lyrically with Ashley Brown’s warm dark cello. This was densely-written, lush late-Romantic music for the most part, exceptions being a berceuse-like section in the middle movement, and an almost Bartokian staccato energy in the finale. Perhaps because Bax was a pianist, and the original commission was from a pianist, the overriding sonic impression however was that of the rippling arpeggios, trills, and interludes from Sarah Watkins’ Bechstein piano.

The programme began with this 1946 work from the afterglow of Romanticism. It ended with an 1808 one from the pre-dawn of Romanticism. Beethoven’s E flat trio is not well known (possibly because, unlike its “Ghost”-ly twin, Op.72 No. 1, it does not have a catchy title). Here the pianist’s articulation was aptly crisp and classical, the strings gracefully Mozartian, but everyone had Beethovenian heft where required (as in the second movement). Occasionally the interaction between the strings, on the one hand, and piano, on the other, reminded me of the treatment of voice and piano in some of the songs that Beethoven was composing around the same time (“Neue Liebe, neues Leben”, for example), or there would be brief declamatory passages (again not unknown in the lieder, such as “Andenken”).

New Zealand composer Jenny McLeod’s Seascapes (2015) are her arrangements of two of her 1995 Tone Clock pieces that were requested by Jack Body to commemorate Douglas Lilburn’s centenary year. They were good choices: the iterated piano notes in the first piece, and a hesitant Scotch snap in the second, are both reminiscent of characteristic Lilburn “fingerprints”. Having heard these rich, full-bodied versions for piano trio, it is hard to imagine them for piano only.

A welcome feature of NZTrio’s recitals is their commissioning of new New Zealand works. They have had a long association with Auckland composer Samuel Holloway, playing his remarkable Stapes at the 2005 Nelson Composers’ Workshop, and later including it on their excellent Lightbox CD(the strings, using non-standard tuning, make the piano sound eerily microtonal). Over time, Holloway’s style has become increasingly austere: in his string quartet Impossible Songs, long, often microtonal, solos on the strings are relieved only by the emergence of a sensuous female voice in the final movement. In more recent work still, there is often no such reward at the end. At last year’s Nelson workshop, for instance, duo pianists performed Holloway’s Things, in which each “event” – chord or note – had its own page: although potentially tedious, it encouraged focused, meditative listening to the inner life of the sounds.

Corpse and Mirror reminded me a little bit of Things, but here the “events” followed one another in quick succession, establishing a regular (though not slavish) rhythm. With the precision ensemble playing of the NZTrio, the piece had the effect of a “trio for one instrument”, each “sound object” finely nuanced, ever changing yet ever familiar, like a kaleidoscope, or like the obsessive cross-hatchings of the artist Jasper Johns that Holloway refers to in his programme note (Johns also provided the title). The result was rather like a jagged Webernian melodic line but with a pulse such as found in Steve Reich (one of the few minimalist Holloway holds in high regard). Not an easy listen, then, but one which had its rewards after all.

Feast of music, art and ambiences – NZTrio’s “Zoom” at Wellington’s City Gallery

NZTrio: Justine Cormack (violin), Ashley Brown (cello), Sarah Watkins (piano)

John Musto: Piano Trio (1998)
Chris Watson: Schemata – three views of an imaginary object (2009)
Elliott Carter: Epigrams (2012)
Alexander Zemlinsky: Trio in d minor, Op. 3 (1896)

City Gallery, Wellington

16 June 2016

Appearances of NZTrio at the City Gallery are always a special event. There’s the wine, the fruit juices, the food, the opportunity to meet interesting people, the art (in this case, quirky, occasionally beautiful, watercolours by Francis Uprichard). Oh, and there’s the music.

A feature of NZTrio presentations (this one titled “Zoom”) is their inclusion of New Zealand work. Often it is specially commissioned, as were the David Hamilton and Ken Young pieces in their preceding concerts. Schemata, however, was composed when Chris Watson was Mozart Fellow at Otago University, and premiered by another group. From his early work as a recent graduate (such as …vers libre… and Derailleurs, heard at the Nelson Composers Workshops around 2002 and 2003, Watson has demonstrated an ability to create an ebb and flood of tension while using an atonal, semi-serial idiom – no mean feat in the absence of a sense of harmonic direction (an exception is the bass clarinet solo Mandible, which I’ve never warmed to: it seemed to me like a collection of effects). In the three movements and three minutes of Schemata, pauses separate terse gnomic gestures (Webern lives!), with Cormack’s violin, Brown’s cello and Watkins’ piano each taking turns to begin each movement. The tension and resolution comes in the late climax of the last few moments, where dense flourishes are beautifully resolved into piano resonance. A miniature masterpiece.

Epigrams was Elliott Carter’s last composition, written when he was 103. The first of the twelve short pieces felt very much in the same world as Watson’s. But I soon got an impression of a different, distinctive musical voice. Chamber music is commonly described as a ”conversation among musicians”, and Carter took this one step further: the rhythms are characteristically speech-like, the “conversation” often brought to a peremptory full stop by a flourish, chord or note from on of the instruments (typically the piano).

John Musto, another American composer, has some 41 years to go to reach 103. His two-part Piano Trio might be thought of as “polystylistic”, but within a fairly narrow range of styles – there is little that is Watsonian or Carterish here. The minimalistic rippling arpeggios on Watkins’ Bechstein (Steinway? Nein way!) might have been something from Philip Glass, with elegantly flowing melodic lines from Carmack’s violin and Brown’s cello – these elements return in a kind of informal rondo. There are light fast sections that suggest Prokofiev, there are jazzy syncopations, there is a hint of tango right near the end, and there are passages of rich, almost schmaltzy Romanticism: was Musto being sincere, or was he being ironic, “sending it up”? I can’t make up my mind. But the members of the Trio played it with absolute conviction.

Rich (and sincere) Romanticism was the hallmark of Alexander Zemlinsky’s 1996 Trio. Brahms saw the score (in the original version with clarinet) and was impressed. Though Zemlinsky was a pupil of Bruckner, and later a teacher (and brother-in-law) of Schoenberg, I heard little of either composer in this Trio (at a stretch, a few sequences, and descending pizzicato lines on the cello, could have come from Bruckner). What I heard was overwhelmingly Brahmsian, densely written, even overwritten, especially in the first movement. In the second, Watkins’ solo piano interlude, and Carmack’s ghostly high violin, offered welcome relief, as did the lively finale, with more of Brown’s cello pizzicato.

This concert showcased one of New Zealand’s top ensemble’s mastery of a wide range of repertoire (familiar and – in this case – unfamiliar), as well as their admirable commitment to New Zealand music.

NZSM tutors as composers and performers


Works written for New Zealand School of Music Staff

Stephan Prock: Stradivariazioni
Ross Harris: Sunt lacrimae rerum
Martin Riseley: Intermezzo for Lenny
Ross Harris: Three Sandcastle Songs / Shtiklekh

Adam Concert Room, NZSM

Friday, 23 August 2013

The New Zealand School of Music’s last lunchtime concert before the mid-semester break was a recital by NZSM staff members of works especially written for them by current and previous VUW and NZSM staff members.

Stephan Prock teaches composition at the School. His Stradivariazioni was commissioned by Martin Riseley and Diedre Irons for a 2011 Chamber Music New Zealand tour. In effect a suite of six movements, the initial themes (based on musical ciphers) were subjected to five variations, each bearing the name of a Stradivari violin. Le Rossignol (“The Nightingale”) was a contemplative nocturne, with bird-like turns and trills. Firebird was appropriately Stravinskyan. Le Messie (“The Messiah”), named after an instrument that was kept hidden and never seen (and now in a museum, still unplayed), began with a slow introduction, rich in open-pedal resonance, on Irons’s piano. Riseley took up his violin as if to play, then put it down again, and again, and again, tantalising us -will he play? Won’t he? (Did he? I’m not telling!)

Unlike the previous variations, the last two, Red Diamond and Alard, were run together without a break, which was somewhat disconcerting. This finale segment was attacked with great gusto, Riseley straining to get the most from his instrument.

Prock’s genial style here could easily have been that of the nineteenth century. Martin Riseley’s, in his Intermezzo for Lenny (from a violin sonata), was that of the twentieth, with hints of jazz in its witty phrases (a tribute to Leonard Bernstein). It was characterised by lean counterpoint between Riseley’s violin and Jian Liu’s piano, and built up to a strong, late climax.

Ross Harris’s musical language, though of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, seemed timeless in the 2013 Sunt lacrimae rerum. As with many of Harris’s other compositions, it was inspired by tragedy (the Virgil quote, “There are tears in things”, was found in a book on the Holocaust). Inbal Megiddo captured the sense of lament in the falling phrases of the long cello introduction, before Jian Liu added a spare counterpoint on piano. It built, hesitantly, towards a sub-climax before subsiding with a sigh to a bare piano line, the cello silent. This would have made a poignant ending, if it were the end of a shorter piece. This, however, was to prove something more substantial, leading on the a scherzo section with a fortissimo climax before returning, with assured pacing, to cello cantillation and an exquisite high harmonic on which to end.

Like Sunt…, Harris’s Shtiklekh gave the impression of several movements compressed into one, this time celebratory rather than sombre, as rollicking foot-stomping sections were interspersed with more pensive passages. Performed with great aplomb by the trio Galvanised, it was informed by Harris’s experience playing in a Klezmer band. Debbie Rawson’s earthy, pitch-bending soprano sax deputised for the Klezmer clarinet, amplifying Rebecca Steele’s introductory flute line, while Diedre Irons on piano had an almost Satiesque ‘Gymnopedie” moment.

The Three Sandcastle Songs set poems by the Nelson-based Panni Palasti, whose memories of wartime Budapest provided the texts that formed the heart of Harris’s Fifth Symphony (premiered in Auckland in August, and broadcast by Radio New Zealand Concert). These poems spoke of calmer times, of living in Kororareka (Russell) after she had emigrated to New Zealand. The songs were fresh, and sung by a seasoned and sensitive interpreter of Harris’s vocal music (notably The Floating Bride…), Jenny Wollerman.

The first song, Invitation (“Come with me/to the edge of the sea”) flowed and tripped along until it slowed to its elegiac conclusion (“the dead may know what we can’t guess”). The second, Manifesto, featured arpeggios and some discreet word-illustration (“the mad swirl/of deranged particles”) on Jian Liu’s piano. The third, Kororareka Ruins , was more declamatory, and I wondered why it was not placed between the two more melodious songs for the sake of balance and contrast. In Palasti’s book Taxi! Taxi! (Maitai River Press, 2008), the poems appear in the order in which they were performed, but that would not seem to be a compelling reason to keep them that way. Perhaps Harris (who has written some very dark compositions, such as Contra Music and As if there were no God) wanted to leave us with the image of “a cobweb/so ancient/it won’t catch a thing again”, rather than Manifesto’s “surge towards infinity” and the hint of transcendence that ends the Fifth Symphony.



Electric music and music-theatre – Nicholas Isherwood


Nicholas Isherwood (voice), Michael Norris (sound diffusion)

Isaac Schankler: Mouthfeel / Lissa Meridan: shafts of shadow
Jean-Claude Risset: Otro / Michael Norris: Deep Field
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Capricorn

Adam Concert Room

Thursday, 21 August 2013, 7.30 pm

The Adam Concert Room darkens. Electronic sound wells up like a rushing wind. After several minutes, a tall, gaunt figure mounts a platform at the back. The lights fade up to reveal the futuristically silver-clad spaceman from the Dog Star.

So began Stockhausen’s Capricorn, an adapted segment of his longer work SIRIUS. Low electronic sounds underlying Nicholas Isherwood’s voice gradually rose in pitch over the half-hour (or so) of the piece, with a few exceptions, such as when the bass frequencies returned, heavily amplified (perhaps over amplified) to eclipse the voice at the point of climax. Near the end, a hauntingly naïve tune emerged out of the abstract texture, and Isherwood produced ethereal vocal harmonics (especially written for him by Stockhausen).

In 2009, Isherwood had performed Havona, part of Stockhausen’s last composition, in the same venue. Again, incongruously, I was reminded of Harry Partch. In Havona, it was chintzy synth-sounds that suggested the Partch chromelodion. In the mid-period Capricorn, it was the stylised poses (futuristic here, rather than antique) assumed by the actor-singer.

Isherwood has worked with Stockhausen, and with an impressive list of other 20th and 21st century composers, including Iannis Xenakis, whose La Deesse Athena (“The Goddess Athena”) and Kassandra, he will be performing with Stroma in their “Goddess and Storyteller” concert on Sunday (1 September 2013, VUW Hunter Council Chamber, at 4 pm). Isherwood is also the author of the forthcoming The Techniques of Singing, chapters of which will cover (among other things) extended vocal techniques, and the twelve-odd gradations between the whisper and the scream (yes, he can do them all!).

The first half of the concert consisted of world premieres of four of the six pieces for voice and electronics, that will make up The Electric Voice (the remaining two, I understand, have not yet been completed). As programmes had run out when I arrived (more had been printed by half time), I listened to the first half “blind”, knowing only that there were two New Zealand works (by Michael Norris and Lissa Meridan), and two by unfamiliar international composers (and I had no idea of the order).

The first piece was a tour de force of Isherwood’s extended techniques, such as mouth-sounds, isolated abstract phonemes, deconstructed words (“prrrrroduct”), along with the occasional vocalise. I thought: Swedish sound-text poets, Bob Cobbing, Ernst Jandl, and other sound poets, and Berio’s treatment of e. e. cummings’ poems in Circles. I thought it was not New Zealand, and I was right. Mouthfeel, by US composer Isaac Schankler, was a sort of anti-advertisement for a brand of taco.

The second composition also had something of sound poetry about it, but here there was more vowel content, and some beautiful falsetto singing that was chorused through the electronics. I thought that this, too, was not New Zealand, but I was wrong. It was Lissa Meridan’s shafts of shadow, in which the singer listened to a track through headphones and translated what he heard, vocally.

The third piece made extensive (and effective) use of panning the sound around the loudspeaker array. I thought this might have been Meridan: the bell-like chimes near the beginning reminded me of the gamelan, which Meridan would have heard when she was director of the NZSM Electronic Music Studio, and the French words could have resulted from her now living in France. But no, it was Otre by international composer Jean-Claude Risset (the only piece in this Electric Voice group not a full premiere, apparently being a version of a previous composition).

The fourth work impressed me immediately, even without my knowing that it was by Michael Norris. Deep Field I sets ancient and historical astronomy texts, with Isherwood’s voice weaving freely over sustained, elongated syllables in the live electronic part. The effect is reminiscent of the twelfth century free organum of Leonin, that moment in history when western music stood poised to develop as a single melodic line of rhythmic suppleness and intonational subtlety, over slowly changing drone notes (akin to, although still different from, middle-eastern and Indian classical music). Then Leonin’s successor Perotin added the third voice, setting western music on its path to the forty-part motet and the Symphony of a Thousand.


Stroma, with percussionist Claire Edwardes

STROMA presents Event Horizon

Stroma, conducted by Hamish McKeich, with Claire Edwardes (percussion)

Alison Isadora: Cornish Pasty / Gyorgy Ligeti: Continuum
Jeroen Speak: Musik fur witwen, jungfrauen und unschuldige
Gerard Brophy: Coil / Steven Mackey: Micro-concerto

Ilott Concert Chamber

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Stroma’s recent concert featured works by two expatriate New Zealand composers, Jeroen Speak and Alison Isadora, both past graduates of Victoria University.

Speak, based in England, is currently in the country with his partner, Dorothy Ker, who holds the 2013-14 Lilburn House residency (Ker’s own […and…11] is scheduled for performance by Stroma at its next concert on 1 September). This August concert, Event Horizon, was named after Speak’s mini-concerto for piano and three percussionists, which in its turn was inspired by the stark paintings of Wang pan Yuan, Taiwan’s “prince of loneliness”.  As it happened, due to an insufficiency of percussionists, the eponymous work disappeared over a different event horizon – like that surrounding a black hole. In its stead, we had another composition by Speak, Musik fur witwen, jungfrauen und unschuldige (“Music for widows, virgins and innocents”, 2005) which had previously been premiered by Stroma. This proved to be a music of quietly intense, fleeting gestures (punctuated by side-drum strokes played by harpist Ingrid Bauer and violist Peter Barber), that gradually developed a sense of direction as repeated phrases hinted at an emerging underlying pulse.

Speak’s enigmatic title was drawn from that of an earlier composition, developed from a chant by Abbess Hildegard. The name of Netherlands-based Alison Isadora’s Cornish Pasty (2010) was similarly opaque (the programme note described the food, but not the music). The piece began with a starburst of sound, with tremolandos from Emma Sayers’ piano, Nick Granville’s electric guitar, and Steve Bremner’s vibraphone, creating a moving sound-object, through which melodies emerged from Rueben Chin’s and Hayden Sinclair’s soprano and tenor saxophones. Almost unrelentingly dense (in marked contrast to the sparseness of Musik fur witwen…), this composition, too, had a sense of direction and satisfying shape, gradually slowing down and thinning out after some interjections from Dave Bremner’s trombone, evolving from a texture-based piece to a predominantly rhythm-based piece.

I thought I detected some similarities here with Dutch composer Louis Andriessen (whose Zilver was performed in 2010 by SMP Ensemble under visiting conductor Lucas Vis), and also with some elements of minimalism. Continuum (1968) might have been Gyorgy Ligeti’s study in minimalism. This pulsating texture of trills and tremolandos has been played in Wellington, in its original harpsichord version, by Donald Nicolson.  Stroma’s “stereo” arrangement for marimba and vibraphone (impeccably realised by Claire Edwardes and Thomas Gulborg) had the odd (and enchanting) effect, for me, of  being “music in the head” (like the South American difference-tone flutes, demonstrated by Alejandro Iglesias-Rossi). Also affecting – and surprising – were the sustained, singing tones that were elicited from these percussive instruments.

Featured star, Claire Edwardes, performed solo in fellow Australian Gerard Brophy’s 1996 Coil, its dynamic contrasts and short, lively phrases demanding virtuoso control of the vibraphone’s pedal for both sustain and staccato effects.

American Steve Mackey’s Micro-concerto (1999) saw Edwardes take up small, hand-held instruments (such as claves, guiro, and whistle) along with the more conventional drums and vibes, for a five movement concert piece with small ensemble. The fourth movement, a warm-toned duo for Edwardes’ marimba and Rowan Prior’s cello, was especially enjoyable. The more vernacular-friendly style of both Mackey and Brophy made for a satisfying balance with the adventurous works in the first half.

Stroma’s next concert (Sunday, 1 September, 4pm, VUW Hunter Council Chamber) will feature (along with the Dorothy Ker, and former NZ resident Gao Ping), the versatile bass-baritone (and actor) Nicholas Isherwood. Last here in 2009, he performed then Stockhausen’s Havona (with electronics), and Sciarrino’s Quaderno di Strada (with Stroma). Both compositions had the uncompromising severity of late works: one was, the other not (thankfully, Signor Sciarrino is still with us). On 1 September, in “Goddess and Storyteller”, Isherwood will be performing in two dramatic vocal works by Iannis Xenakis.

New Sounds – SMP Ensemble, Magda Mayas, Tony Buck and Hermione Johnson



Mitchell McEwen (flutes), Andrzej Nowicki (clarinets), Dylan Lardelli

(guitar), Carolyn Mills (harp), Claire Harris (piano), Antony Verner

(violin), Andrew Filmer (viola), Charley Davenport (cello), Jeremy

Hantler (taonga puoro).

DYLAN LARDELLI: “Musical Box”;

PHILIP BROWNLEE: “He rimu pae noa”; “As if to catch the fleeting tail of time”;

SUN-YOUNG PAHG: “ThresholdIng”,



Adam Concert Room, Wellington.

Saturday 26 February 2011


St Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington

Saturday 26 February 2011


Two Works

Adam Art Gallery, Wellington

Sunday 6 March 2011

After funding was withheld from leading NZ contemporary group Stroma

for this year, the senior-student/recent-graduate ensemble SMP was

left to carry the torch for new “concert” music – at least for
Wellington. Thankfully, some money was made available by Creative NZ
for “Interiors I”, the first of two presentations exploring subtleties
of tone colour and aspects of player interaction.

All but one piece featured the versatile Dylan Lardelli on guitar, and
all but one (a different one) were written by recently-emerged New
Zealand composers. Lardelli himself is one such: he starred in his own
2009 “Musical Box”. This delightful dance of harmonics from guitar,
Carolyn Mills’ harp and Andrew Filmer’s unexpectedly resonant viola,
was joined by Jeremy Hantler on taonga puoro: soft contrabass-clarinet
kakapo booms blown across the hue gourd, mouth modulated infrasonics
from the spinning porotiti, and (in a change of mood at the end) the
piccolo register of the bone koauau. There was a sense of timelessness
here, which Lardelli has evoked before, nowhere more successfully than
in “Aspects of Theatre”, premiered by SMP Ensemble under Lucas Vis in
March last year. There was an absence of development, which was not
however a deficiency: as also in Holloway’s “Sillage”, the sounds were
sufficient unto themselves.

Lardelli seamlessly integrated the traditional Maori instruments into
the world of western classical ones. So too did his fellow graduate
from Victoria University (NZ School of Music), Philip Brownlee. The
2009 “He rimu pae noa” began with Jeremy Hantler whirling the
dove-voiced poi-a-whio-whio gourd, while simultaneously playing the
nguru (with mouth). The albatross bone putorino, heard first in flute
mode, announced the climax with its trumpet voice, while Claire
Harris’s brittle, sparkling piano displaced Lardelli’s otherwise
ubiquitous guitar. Hand cupped “speaking stones” (Phil Dadson style)
led this well-shaped piece back to its beginning.

I found Brownlee’s “As if to catch the fleeting tail of time” (also
from 2009), less successful, despite the precision playing from SMP.
Here Lardelli’s guitar solo (and it can be played as a solo) was
magnified by the ensemble: blended tonally with the harp, its attacks
extended by Charley Davenport’s cello. I found the succession of
separated events overlong, compounded by the lack of the sense of form
and direction found in Morgan’s “Unfold” and Brownlee’s own “He rimu
pae noa”.

I had a similar feeling about the only work not written by a New
Zealander. Sun-Young Pahg is a Korean living in Paris, and her
“ThreshholIng” (2007) was an alternation of slow, spacious passages
with more agitated sections.

Rachael Morgan’s “Unfold”, on the other hand, unfolded, simply and
beautifully. Another graduate of VUW/NZSM, Morgan has been a recipient
of the Edwin Carr Foundation Scholarship which has taken her overseas.
Beginning with the guitar softly bowed (yes, bowed) near the bridge,
“Unfold” grew gradually with string tremolandi and flute pitch bends
to an understated climax (where the guitar strings were struck with
what appeared to be a dulcimer hammer), before returning to the sotto
voce opening.

Aucklander Samuel Holloway is one of our most exciting
recently-emerged composers. In his somewhat Webernian 2005 trio
“Stapes”, he managed to make a piano sound microtonal by using quarter
tone pitches on the violin and cello. The long-held tones of “Sillage”
(2010) belong to the time-suspended world of his recent string quartet
“Domestic Architecture”, which made a feature of the pulsing beats
between sustained micro-intervals. These scores are dangerously close
to minimalism – dangerously, because Holloway has publicly expressed a
distaste for minimalism. However, his idiom here is far removed from
the frenetic repetitions of Philip Glass (which, I think, Holloway had
in mind), and more akin to the “holy minimalism” of Aarvo Part, and
the prolonged soundings of LaMont Young. In “Sillage” (the word means
a wake in water or a waft of perfume) Lardelli’s bowed guitar
established a harmonically rich tambura-like drone (unobtrusively
detuned over the course of the piece) above and around which the
timbres of alto flute, clarinet, viola and cello merged and emerged.
Atmospheric as this realisation was, the instrumentation (apart from
guitar) is variable: a different version will be heard in SMP’s next
concert (“Interiors II”, Adam Concert Room, Friday March 11, at 7pm).

Interiors (in this case the inside of the piano) was very much the
theme of the recital by German musician Magda Mayas. Perhaps
paradoxically, there was greater ebb and flood of tension in these
extrovert, improvised interactions with percussionist Tony Buck, than
in many of the  more fully composed offerings from SMP. I caught only
the last one-and-a-half sets (and missed the contribution from Sound
and Light Exploration founder Daniel Beban altogether) because –
crazily – there were two concerts of enterprising new music scheduled
for the same evening.

Sound and Light Exploration member and regular performer at their
Frederick Street venue Fred’s, Hermione Johnson, had two works played
at the Adam Art Gallery. The reprise of a  multi-instrumental piece,
originally premiered in October to open the Designs for Living
exhibition, took advantage of the disparate spaces of the Gallery:
violinists Chris Prosser and Tristan Carter on different floors, Jeff
Henderson on sax in a side room, Nell Thomas on the mezzanine with her
theremin, Gerard Crewdson prowling with spooky unpitched staccatos on
the trombone, and Johnson herself barely audible on accordion in a
distant corner. The second item was rather more, well, dramatic.
“Drama Studies” was improvised – brilliantly – by Johnson, on a
spectacularly prepared piano (not only the classical Cage bits of
metal and wood, but also a network of wires strung from the ceiling).
After a long first half that was like Stockhausen on speed – something
of a marathon for both pianist and listeners – the rewards came as
Johnson began to use varying slabs of texture and changes of tempo,
culminating in a galaxy of attacks  mixing standard and altered tones.
A tour de force, never to be heard in quite the same way again.

Sounds contemporary – Stroma and SOUNZ Contemporary…

STROMA: Sequences

Featuring Dave Bremner (trombone), Bridget Douglas (flute), Peter Dykes (oboe), Rebecca Struthers (violin), Lenny Sakovsky (flowerpots),

Hamish McKeich and Mark Carter (conductors).

Berio: “Sequenza I”, “Sequenza VII”; Xenakis: “Charisma”; Rzewski: “Song and Dance”, “To the Earth”; Ross Harris: “Fanitullen”, “Trombone Opera”; Chris Gendall: “Rudiments”.

St Andrews on the Terrace, 1 May 2010

also: SOUNZ Contemporary Award 2010  (preview): Chris Gendall: “Rudiments”; Ross Harris:  “Violin Concerto No. 1”; Chris Cree Brown: “Inner Bellow”.

New Zealand Music Month 2010 began with a highlight – the “Sequences” concert from leading contemporary music group Stroma, which  featured NZ premieres of two recent offerings from Ross Harris and Chris Gendall. These large-ensemble, almost orchestrally weighty scores, bookended a series of  mainly solo pieces showcasing the virtuoso talents of individual Stroma members.

Luciano Berio’s 1958 monodic classic “Sequenza I” gave star flutistBridget Douglas scope for delicate multiphonics, and a twentieth century version of baroque “virtual counterpoint” on a single melodic line. Interestingly, I did not particularly notice any of the microtones and pitch-bends that have become a characteristic of many, more recent, pieces for solo woodwind. Berio’s 1969 “Sequenza VII” took oboist Peter Dykes on a breath-control marathon, with its dissolves from multiphonic fuzziness to “uniphonic” clarity, and – again – the use of contrapuntal lines sketched from contrasting registers (here anchored by a recurrent tonic).

The tense, telling gestures of Iannis Xennakis’ 1971 “Charisma” (fortissimo scrunches, and tremolando slides, on Rowan Prior’s cello; bell-like grace notes on Patrick Barry’s clarinet) were fitting in a work written to commemorate a premature death. More celebratory was Frederic Rzewski’s 1977 “Song and Dance” ( vibes, flute, bass clarinetand contrabass) in which “song” sections with their graceful flute lines and plaintive bowed contrabass, were set against the rhythmic, jazzy “dance” episodes. A later Rzewski piece, “To the Earth” from 1985, had been performed during the composer’s visit here a few years ago. It was a solo (or perhaps more accurately, a duo for one): percussionist Lenny Sakovsky played in a tetratonic scale on four flowerpots (made, of course, from clay – from earth),  while reciting a hymn to Gaia (Earth) translated from the ancient Greek. The effect was one of affecting simplicity.

Ross Harris’s “Fanitullen” was written as a test piece for the 2007 Michael Hill International Violin Competition. Taking its cue from Scandinavian folk fiddling and the legend underlying “The Soldier’sTale”, this “devil’s tune” demanded virtuoso playing from Rebecca Struthers – by turns fiery and ghostly, with polyphony within a single line, as well as double-stopping. Harris’s “Trombone Opera” was inspired by pansori, a form of Korean monodrama for a singer –  with only her fan for a prop – and a drummer. Not a fan in sight with Stroma, but a battery of three percussionists (including bass drum, marimba, and bells) were amongst the support for the recitatives of David Bremner’s golden-toned trombone. Bremner notwithstanding, I did not find the work attractive (it probably wasn’t meant to be). It seemed to belong to the gnarly, knotty sound-world of those discomfiting compositions in which Harris (sometimes courageously) confronts the darker, angst-ridden side of human nature. Among these are “To the Memory of I.S. Totska”, “Contramusic” (one of Harris’s earlier essays for Stroma), and also “Labyrinth” for tuba and orchestra (the NZSO) –  which received a Sounz Contemporary Award (unlike the awards for Harris’s Second and Third Symphonies and for “…Totska”, which were all eminently deserved, I thought the win for “Labyrinth” was suspect, displacing as it did Ken Young’s enigmatic but ultimately powerful Second Symphony).

As in “Labyrinth”, there was a significant place in “Trombone Opera” for tuba (Andrew Jarvis), and as in “Contramusic”, Hamish McKeich featured on the contrabassoon. “Trombone Opera” was written in 2009 while Harris was Creative New Zealand/ Jack C. Richards Composer-in-Residence at the NZ School of Music. The prospective (now current) holder of the  Residency is Chris Gendall. While a student at Victoria University, Gendall was noted for his impressively energetic, rhythmically driven compositions, such as the piano duo “Xenophony”, and “So It Goes”, which won the inaugural (2005) NZSO/Todd Foundation Young Composers Award (in my view, it should have been first equal, along with Andari Anggamulia’s exquisitely Webernian “Les Images”). Even as early as 2002 (with “Sextet”) and 2003 (“Miniatures” for guitar, cello, contrabass and drums), however, Gendall was interrupting his  motoric momentum with passages of fragmentary free rhythm. Gendall has now completedpostgraduate studies at Cornell University, and in his most recent scores, such as the 2008 “Wax Lyrical” (another Sounz Contemporary winner, also performed by Stroma last year), and in “Rudiments”, the ostinati have been almost entirely dispensed with, and the jagged, disjunctive rhythms have come to predominate.

The three movements of “Rudiments” were based on three foundations of music: melody, harmony and counterpoint (rhythm, notably, did not get a mention). The energy of “So It Goes” was still here, but expressed as a kind of textural exuberance (for my part, I miss the metre). In the first movement there was a dense tone-colour-melody, and a progression from single note to cluster. In the second (“Forest for the Trees”) there were some remnants of pulse, while in the third, hints of contrapuntal  imitation. For this piece, the versatile HamishMcKeich packed away his contrabassoon and took up the baton.

Gendall’s “Rudiments” is one of three contenders for the 2010 Sounz Contemporary Award, to be announced on 8 September. While undoubtedly a strong work, it remains to be seen whether it will be a landmark, and whether Gendall will consolidate his current style or explore other areas. Ross Harris is again in contention for the Award, this time with his Violin Concerto, first performed by Anthony Marwood and the NZSO in this year’s Made in New Zealand concert (7 May). Here the soloist wove an almost continuous commentary around the orchestra’s discourse, which ranged from the idiom of Webern, to Berg, to (even) Shostakovich. The episodic one-movement structure could seem either delightfully rhapsodic, or confused and meandering.  Despite the impeccable advocacy of Marwood and the NZSO, I was unconvinced by the premiere. After hearing subsequent Radio New Zealand Concert broadcasts, I have warmed to the work a little, but still remain ambivalent. If time-frames had permitted, I would have  much preferred Harris to have been represented by either “The Floating Bride, The Crimson Village” (Jenny Wollerman, NZSO/Sounz Readings last year; and Made in New Zealand 2010), or “The Abiding Tides” (Jenny Wollerman and the NZ String Quartet,  Arts Festival, 7 March). “The Floating Bride”was a romantically Mahlerian song-cycle, and while “The Abiding Tides” had some of the stylistic diversity of the Violin Concerto, in the chamber work the different styles tended to be confined within separate movements, and furthermore had a purpose in underlining Vincent O’Sullivan’s compelling texts.

Nevertheless, I would put money (if I had any) on Harris winning the Award. My own choice though would be  Chris Cree Brown’s “Inner Bellow” for clarinet and electronics. Performed by Gretchen Dunsmore at the CANZ Nelson Composers Workshop opening concert (4 July 2010), “Inner Bellow” not only seamlessly blended live and recorded sounds, but also created strange new colours from the partially dismantledclarinet, with intervals being compressed (instant microtones!) in some registers. As in “The Triumvirate”, played by the NZ Trio during the 2005 Nelson Composers Workshop, Cree Brown employed an adventurous musical language within a reassuringly conventional structure (with recurring elements suggestive of  a rondo).

Given the calibre of this year’s contestants, whoever receives the Award will be a worthy winner.


NZSO/Todd Corporation: promoting our young composers


ALEX TAYLOR: “fray”;
PIETA HEXTALL: “Portrait”;
TABEA SQUIRE: “Vee Dub and the Little Tiger go Wandering”;
CORWIN NEWALL: “Significant Figures”;
HANNAH GILMOUR: “Though It Lingers”;
LIZZIE DOBSON: “A Study in Scarlet”;
ARNA SHAW: “Timatanga”;
MINTO FUNG: “The Chase”;
AJITA GOH: “Freedom is Not Free”;
MATTHEW CHILDS: “Alone In The Night”.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich

Michael Fowler Centre, Monday 24 – Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Todd Corporation’s – and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s – support for the Young Composer Awards makes it one of the most important arts sponsorships in the country. Their promotion of the growing point – the apical meristem – of creative artistic development promises to deliver a much greater return in cultural benefits than the (more typical) funding that goes into many, more prominent, areas. As conductor and co-adjudicator Hamish McKeich put it, where else in the world would young people write such imaginative, fresh and varied pieces?

On occasions like this it seems almost de rigueur to say (as indeed McKeich did say), that the standard this time was higher than ever. I cannot entirely agree: in my view, I feel we have reached something of a plateau (albeit a gratifyingly high one). Certainly this year I found nothing as striking as the 2008 winning score, Alexandra Hay’s compellingly adventurous “Nocturnis Bellum”, which I covered in my review for “Salient” – (Google: alan wells september music month, or go to

However to be fair to McKeich and his fellow assessor Ross Harris (who mentored the young composers), while the best of 2009 might not have equalled that of 2008, the least satisfactory piece this year was arguably better than the comparable composition last year.

Aucklander Alex Taylor came closest to matching Hay’s achievement. His “fray” belonged to the same world as the very accomplished wind/string quintet “Four Abstracts” which Taylor presented at this year’s Nelson Composers’ Workshop and, like the quintet, was based on a single chord. The orchestral “fray” was an atmospheric study in the exploitation of clusters, sometimes sustained and static (occasionally with an “electronic” ambience), and sometimes moving in a closely woven microtexture. Taylor demonstrated an assured control of tension and release, and changes – even when abrupt – were always adroitly managed. During one magical moment, a high piccolo note was deftly thrown into violin harmonics.

Taylor, a first-time participant in the NZSO/Todd Awards, would have been my choice to win. Nevertheless it was another first-timer, Natalie Hunt, who did win. A graduate of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music, and the 2009 National Youth Orchestra Composer-in-Residence, Hunt is an experienced young composer (though her evocative tone poem “Only to the Highest Mountain” for the NYO is the only other orchestral score of hers I had heard). Her NZSO/Todd submission “Rain II” opened with jaunty, jazzy pizzicato on contrabass (perhaps closest in spirit to her work for the Saxcess saxophone quartet): this was contrasted with a mournful, molto vibrato melody on the solo cello. A marimba ostinato began to add momentum, then suddenly a high, expectant sustained note made an inconclusive end – the pulse quickened just as the piece was about to die. It felt much more like the introduction to a longer work, than a complete composition in its own right. It was this unfinished quality that made the judges’ decision a surprising one for me.

Hunt admitted to being under a time constraint – the rush to meet the submission deadline. Fellow NZSM graduate Pieta Hextall, too, faced an issue of time: in her case, the stipulated limit on overall length. Hextall’s “Portrait” had as its core a central, ostinato-driven rhythm piece (reminiscent of “Impetus” in the 2008 Awards, and even more of her “Second Etude for Bassoon and Piano” – the sort of music Philip Glass might have written if he’d had any imagination). Framing this was a texture piece: rarefied, spare, carefully paced (similar to her “Third Etude” – the sort of music La Monte Young might have written if he’d had any imagination…). As with Hunt’s “Rain II”, I felt that “Portrait” could have gone on to develop further – there was so much more potential there.

This was Hextall’s third appearance at the Awards. So too for another NZSM student, Tabea Squire (NYO Composer-in-Residence in 2008). Her whimsically titled “Vee Dub and the Little Tiger go Wandering” hinted at Bruckner in its wide string tremolandi and grand chorale-like gestures, and Glass in its repeated ostinati, but was ultimately unlike either (someone suggested the pastoral Vaughan Williams as well, prompted perhaps by the “VW” of the title). Squire made sensitive use of soloistic timbres in addition to solid orchestral chords, and created a convincing flow of tension without the need for any single definitive climax.

Both Hextall and Squire have undertaken extensive university study. Corwin Newall, likewise making a third appearance at the Awards, is still at school (Dunedin’s Kaikorai Valley High). His cheerful, resolutely tonal “Significant Figures” showed an increasing competence in writing colourfully for orchestra, while retaining a youthful exuberance and abundance of musical ideas.

Waikato University is notable for encouraging its students to write for orchestra. The four represented last year employed fairly conservative tonal idioms, but with great facility in some very attractive compositions. Two of these young composers returned in 2009. Hannah Gilmour (who won a special commendation in 2008 for “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”) brought “Though It Lingers”, which packed in (perhaps a little too tightly within the restricted length) poised, suspended moments, urgent climaxes, and an expressive violin solo. Her compatriot Lizzie Dobson offered “A Study in Scarlet”, a genial score with some sombre undertones, less bright than its title might suggest (and a stark contrast to Dobson’s frenetically driven toccata for orchestra “Ricercare per Vita” of 2008).

Arna Shaw (then living in Christchurch) received a special mention in 2007 for best first entry. This proved a prescient judgement. Now studying at Wellington’s NZSM, Shaw displayed significant progress in her well-constructed “Timatanga”, balancing koauau glides on the flute, and solemn string laments, with driven rhythms and forceful climaxes. A further NZSM student, Minto Fung, provided an very short but engagingly witty tone poem “The Chase”.

Music with a narrative or pictorial element was indeed strongly in evidence. “Feral” by Robbie Ellis bore a programme note describing a secretive, sinister creature. Ellis’s composition was characteristically energetic: dark and restless with exciting climaxes and only rare moments of respite. With his feeling for theatre and an ear for unusual orchestral effects, the Auckland University graduate (now resident in Wellington) utilised “jet-whistles” on the flute, rapid parallel chords on the trumpets, a “blood-curdling scream”, and instructions for lighting manoeuvres. The Orchestra entered enthusiastically into the over-the-top spirit, vocalisations and all. They voted it their favourite piece.

Aucklander Ajita Goh’s “Freedom is Not Free” was inspired by the inscription on a Washington DC Korean War memorial. The string ostinati and stately brass chorales reminded me (again) a little of Bruckner, while the splashes of unexpected colour from harp and vibraphone recalled Goh’s own, more lyrical “Reflection” from last year.

Also suggestive of Bruckner was Matthew Childs’ orchestration in “Alone In The Night”, in that there were hardly any solos, and extensive use of instrumental groupings – rather in the manner of organ registration. Rhythmically tricky, this score employed many changes of time signature.

I have, regrettably, no information on Childs. In contrast to last year – which was organised by the excellent Roger Smith – no scores were made available to reviewers (my phone message of enquiry was not returned), and some of those that I did see (courtesy of the composers) contained no biographical notes. This event is worth constructive, critical evaluation – witness the number of young composers who have appeared in previous Awards (such as Claire Cowan, Ryan Youens, Robin Toan, and Karlo Margetic) who have been taken up by the NZSO-Sounz Readings.

Recordings made over the two days, together with interviews by Jeremy Brick, will be broadcast later in the year by RNZ Concert, in programmes in their 8 pm Sunday evening “Young New Zealand” series.