From The Night Watch – “Love Me Tender” – a Baroque-style celebration of love’s intangibility

Vivaldi:  Flute Concerto in G minor “La Notte”, RV439
Handel:  Duet: Che vai pensando folle pensier, HWV184
Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op.3 .no.5  HWV316
JS Bach: Cantata: Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit “Actus Tragicus” BWV106
Buxtehude: Wo soll ich fliehen hin?  BuxWV112
Telemann: Concerto for flute in E minor, TWV52:e1

The Night Watch: Singers –
Pepe Becker (soprano) Katherine Hodge (alto) Phillip Collins (tenor), Will King (bass)

Instrumentalists –
Katherine Mackintosh (violin/musical director) Annie Gard (violin) Imogen Granwal (viola da gamba/’cello) Robert Oliver (viola da gamba) Thea Turnbull (viol) George Wills (theorbo/guitar) Kamala Bain (recorder) Theo Small (flute/recorder) Douglas Mews (harpsichord)

Queen Margaret College Hall, Wellington

Sunday, 10 February 2019, 4.00pm

This is a new ensemble in town, ‘The Night Watch’ (after the Rembrandt painting, though both the Martinborough and Wellington concerts were held in daylight hours).  This group is a combo of New Zealand singers and instrumentalists with several Australian baroque instrumentalists from
Sydney. Despite the geography, there was no time separation here; the playing was magnificently co-ordinated and presented, under the direction of Catherine Mackintosh, a veteran of English ensembles The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Academy of Ancient Music and the Purcell Quartet.

Though every work in the programme was denoted in a minor key, the concert was by no means of a predominantly sombre mood.  It began with a delightful flute concerto by Vivaldi, the soloist being Theo Small from Sydney.  “La Notte” must have been written for warm summer nights such as we have been experiencing lately; its effect was not only of somnolence, but also of languor.

Both finesse and exuberance characterised the playing in the allegro that followed the opening largo.The central largo was solemn, but still conveyed to us a feeling of summer heat (it was indeed hot, and rather dark, in the hall).  More gorgeous flute-playing brought to life a jovial allegro which concluded the work.

A spoken introduction to the Handel works followed, and there were more such introductions later in the programme, some clearer and more fully audible than others – it was the first time I had attended a concert there and the hall’s generous acoustic was kinder to the singing than to the spoken voice.

Pepe Becker and Will King both sounded in good form. Pepe Becker is, of course, a seasoned artist, particularly in this style of music, while Will King is a young bass, but his accomplishment in negotiating the florid passages presented to him, with splendid timbre and clarity of words, was astonishing. The singers’ characterisation of the lovers’ tiff was conveyed well.

The Handel concerto grosso was familiar to me from an old recording.  Here, it was played on baroque instruments and had a verve and incisiveness (unknown to Yehudi Menuhin, on the recording!)  A short adagio contained delicious passages,; while the allegro that followed was not only fast but varied. The final allegro featured counterpoint and plenty of subtlety. There were a few misplaced notes, but among so many, what were a few strays?

The Bach cantata demonstrated to me how skill in performing and interpreting baroque music has progressed since I first heard a baroque group in Wellington decades ago.  Kamala Bain’s recorder playing was exquisite.  The theorbo (what a dramtic-looking instrument!) I admit I could barely hear.

The singers came on the platform during the playing. Tenor Phillip Collins proved to have a fine voice for this music and splendid enunciation.There was complex interweaving of the musical lines sung by the male singers.

The alto’s opening notes were not very secure here, but elsewhere her solo revealed her good voice. The harpsichord-and-strings accompaniment was enchanting.  Will King’s solo, as well as illustrating once again his verbal clarity, was accompanied by the women vocalists singing a chorale – most effective.  This was followed by a soprano solo, sung with two recorders, and then a chorale for the four voices, with highly decorated recorder accompaniment.

Buxtehude’s music is not very often performed, yet it was good enough in reputation for J.S. Bach to walk many miles to hear it and meet the composer.The opening of this work was a long solo from bass Will King, who gave it character. It was succeeded by short solos from the two women, and then an extended tenor aria, sung with precision, yet also with animated delivery.

Pepe Becker presented next a lovely, languid, limpid solo, before being joined by alto Katherine Hodge and the men in a chorale, that made me think how much the concert would perhaps have gained from being performed in  church.  Nevertheless, there were advantages in this venue (I’m told parking was one of them!).  A contrapuntal chorus followed, to end a lively, even ecstatic performance.

Telemann, like Vivaldi, has come into prominence in recent decades, with the revival of baroque music in all genres.  The pairing of recorder and flute in this composition was unusual.  The speaker commented that perhaps Telemann was hedging his bets regarding instruments: the recorder was still popular, but it was becoming apparent that the transverse flute was to become more important.

Magical tones emerged from both instruments; together, the sound was delicious, the tones not being as different as one might imagine. Douglas Mews was given no rest; he played in every work, with his usual accuracy, musical sympathy and judicious support – the fast passages were impeccable.  The third movement, largo, had the first the recorder then the flute playing against delightful pizzicato strings.  It all let rip in the presto finale – and Pepe Becker had a change, playing the tambourine.  The faster final flourishes finished a first-class musical feast.



Wellington Chamber Orchestra with rewarding and interesting music from Britain and Armenia

Wellington Chamber Orchestra conducted by Ian Ridgewell, with Matthew Stein (trumpet)

Gerald Finzi: The Fall of the Leaf, Op.20
Alexander Arutiunian: Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
Charles Villiers Stanford: Symphony no.3, “The Irish”, in F minor, Op.28

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Sunday, 9 December 2018, 2:30 pm

It was tempting to describe this as a concert of unfamiliar twentieth-century music, however the symphony was composed and first performed in the 1880s.

An enthusiastic audience filled the church to hear this interesting programme, that began with the rather elusive, indefinite opening of the Finzi work.  This had once been intended to be part of a symphony, but it never eventuated, and after many years, the work was completed by a friend of Finzi’s after the latter’s death.  (Finzi’s dates: 1901-1956).

Like much of the composer’s work, it was gentle, nostalgic, and full of beautiful orchestral colours and melodies.  After the opening, a cor anglais gave a folksong-like melody, followed by the horns, then pizzicato strings and harp, the latter deliciously played by Michelle Velvin.  There was a superb passage for violas, sounding deep and resonant.  There was more superb writing for the cor anglais; no wonder it’s called the English horn!

The work revealed a considerable variety of dynamics.  All in all, it was most agreeable music.

The conductor for this concert was an Englishman, now resident in Wellington, and involved in music education.  I was intrigued with his conducting style; he held a baton, but, like many conductors, did not use the stick independently – it was simply an extension of his right hand.  I had just heard a couple of days before, a radio interview with visiting conductor Nicholas McGegan, here to conduct the NZSO (plus choir and soloists) in Handel’s Messiah.  He does not use a stick, and said that the white stick was used in past times to make the conductor’s beat visible in candle-lit auditoriums.  Since these days such places are lit by electric lighting, he saw no reason to use one.

The main drawback to the concert was the relatively small size of the venue, and its resonance.  Wellington desperately needs back the Town Hall and the Ilott Theatre, the latter being of a suitable size for this orchestra, which on Sunday numbered 59 players.  Too much sound, especially from the brass, can be pretty hard on the ears, and this was the case on Sunday.  The cymbals were simply deafening; fortunately they were not used frequently.

Alexander Arutiunian lived from 1920 to 2012; his trumpet concerto was composed in 1950 and is probably his best-known work internationally, although he had a busy composing, teaching and performing life in Armenia and the Soviet Union generally.

In Matthew Stein we had a superb soloist, not long  returned from study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he was a prizewinner.  (Pity he was listed on the back of the printed programme as ‘Piano’!)

His playing was brilliant.  The work was played without a break, but there are definite ‘movements’, with different tempi (Wikipedia gives five movements).  Subtle changes of dynamics were a feature throughout.  Its beginning was fast and furious for the orchestra, yet revealed many different colours.  The clarinet had plenty of sequences in the sun.  Occasionally the orchestra was too loud for the soloist to be easily heard.

After a very loud, repetitive section from the orchestra, the music became quiet and reflective, the soloist using a  mute (the second movement).  The music here was calm and somewhat wistful in character.  Here, the strings’ intonation was wayward, but generally, the playing was fine.  Along came lovely harp ripples, and more prominent clarinet episodes.

The strings got worked up in an insistent rhythmic pattern, and there was a general crescendo as the soloist’s removal of his mute signified another movement.  Extraverted phrases came from the soloist; the flute and percussion made fanciful contributions in this very fast movement.  As elsewhere, there was plenty of work for trombones and tuba.

A brilliant cadenza from the trumpet broke forth, with varied dynamics and rhythms, and featuring trills, all executed with skill and apparent ease.

The audience gave this performance a well-deserved rousing reception.  It was an exciting and varied work, played with élan.

My friend and I moved to the back of the church in the interval, which rendered the brass fortissimo into forte or mezzo-forte.

Irish-born Stanford (1852-1924) was once highly regarded as a symphonist, but is now mainly known for his choral music, particularly his church music.  Much of this repertoire is beautiful an appealing.  One of the reasons we can be grateful to him is for his teaching and developing the talents of Vaughan Williams, Holst, Ireland, Frank Bridge (teacher of Benjamin Britten) and many others, as a teacher at music college and university.

A link with the other composers in the programme is the fact that all used folk-like melodies from their countries of origin; not necessarily actual known melodies, although  some genuine Irish ones are said to be present in this Stanford work.  Certainly the opening of the work sounded like one such.

The strings were a little shaky here, but things settled down again.  There were felicitous phrases, and some grand melodies in an Elgarian vein.  The composer’s orchestration was splendid, with an imaginative variety of use of the instruments.  However, I did not think the orchestra played as well in this work as they had in the Finzi.

The music was easy on the ear.  A passage with pizzicato strings and woodwind melodies over the top gave a slightly spooky atmosphere; were there leprechauns about?

The second movement had a sprightly tempo (or should that be spritely, being Irish?), that fell into a quick march, with brass to the fore.  Then a change of mood and rhythm brought a lilting lyrical section, but still with a lot of brass.  Then we were back to the march, followed by an abrupt ending.

The third movement started with the harp (significant, of course, in Irish music).  This was gorgeous, and was soon joined by flutes and clarinet.  These were ethereal sounds, into which the oboe entered, adding its piquancy.  Strings were sotto voce, horns too contributed to the other-worldly aesthetic.  A swaying theme developed, like a slow dance.

More woodwind melodies ensued, then the brass joined in a crescendo with a very four-square theme which I found rather too insistent, saying “Look out for us!  Here we come!”

While I love some of Stanford’s choral music (notably The Blue Bird), I wouldn’t declare this symphony ripe for widespread resurrection, whereas the other works on the programme could certainly stand more frequent airings.  Nonetheless, there were many lovely elements in the work, of which the harp episodes were among the most mellifluous.

The final movement was faster again, and featured more spooky pizzicato, this time on cellos and double-basses, to great effect.  This section ended like a folk-song, before the music became quite rumbustious, making a very positive declaration (what a contrast to much twentieth-century composition!).  Next was a hymn-like tune, which could well be a traditional Irish melody.  Not all the brass coped well here.  The music came close to pomposity.  However, Stanford’s orchestration was splendid.  A rousing, tuneful ending was triple forte, to send us on our way.


Baroque music, rare and familiar, in a happy St Andrew’s concert

HyeWon Kim (violin), Jane Young (cello), Kris Zuelicke (harpsichord)

Leclair: Sonata in C, Op.2 no.3
Cervetto, Giacomo Basevi: Sonata in F, Op.2 no.9
J.S. Bach: Italian Concerto, BWV 971 (1st movement)
Sonata no.1 in G minor for solo violin, BWV 1001
Handel: Sonata in A, Op 1 No 3, HWV 361

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 28 November 2018, 12.15pm

A larger-than-average audience came to hear this programme of a mixture  of familiar and unfamiliar baroque works.

Sometimes musical (and other) works from the past are lost sight of because their worth is slight.  This seemed to me to be true of the Cervetto piece.  Extraordinary as it is to read of a a composer from 17th-18th centuries who lived to be at least 101 (c.1682-1783), his music didn’t live up to the quality of other music presented.

The programme began with another rather lightweight piece, by Jean Marie Leclair ((1697-1764).  It had a slow, even lethargic, but tuneful andante opening movement.  The second movement (allegro) was lively, but again, somewhat undistinguished.

Next was a largo movement (you can see the pattern: slow-fast-slow-fast).  The music included a lot of sequences and repetitions, but its character was pleasant.  The allegro final movement was buoyant and dance-like.  The relationship between the instruments featured skilful interweaving, but the violin seemed the only one to carry the melody, with the others accompanying.

The Cervetto Sonata was for cello and harpsichord; the composer was a cellist, and apparently did a lot to popularise the cello as a solo instrument in England, where he lived for the latter half of his life.

The solemn andante first movement featured much double-stopping for the cellist; the second, comprised of a minuet with two trios, was lyrical and rhythmic with the cellist contributing fast passage-work.  Some splendid melodies emerged, and the composer utilised a wide range up and down the cello strings.

The caccia (literally ‘chase’, so in the style of hunting music) last movement had a very strong pulse, and much repetition.  The cellist achieved great resonance especially in this movement.

The Bach excerpts were well-played, but it might have been more satisfying to have had the whole of the ‘Italian’ concerto on the harpsichord or the whole of the violin sonata, rather than one movement of each.  Of course, programming single movements gave each instrumentalist a chance to shine on their own.

As the performers told us, Bach’s counterpoint is more dense and complex than that of the other composers featured.  The ‘Italian’ concerto is a familiar work, utilising the two-manual harpsichord to obtain the contrasts that in a ‘normal’ concerto would be made by a soloist and an orchestra.  Kris Zuelicke gave a very satisfactory performance.

The solo violin sonata was typical  of Bach’s exacting writing for the instrument, frequently requiring for the violinist to play chords on two or more strings, and execute double-stopping.  HyeWon Kim produced splendid tone, and gave a very fine performance.  She played in a baroque style, without vibrato – as did Jane Young on the cello.

Finally, we had the Handel, with the same four-movement tempo sequence as in the Leclair sonata.  The sombre andante had an appealing melodic line.  The trio played as an organic unit, and together brought out the broad sweep of the music, which contained less detail than found in the Bach compositions.

The third movement (adagio) was slow and contemplative, but very short, while the final movement startled me with its familiarity – I think I learned it as a child, as a piano piece.  It was cheerful and elevating at the same time, contained some interesting modulation, and made a happy, smiling ending to the concert.

NZSO in splendid Beethoven: the first and the last, under Edo de Waart

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (led by Donald Armstrong).  conductor Edo de Waart

Beethoven:  Symphony no.1  in C major, Op.21
Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op.15

Madeleine Pierard (soprano), Kristin Darragh (mezzo), Simon O’Neill (tenor), Anthony Robin Schneider (bass), Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir (Music Director Dr Karen Grylls)

Michael Fowler Centre

Friday, 23 November 2018, 6.30pm

Such is the popularity of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony (no.9) that the Michael Fowler Centre auditorium was sold out.  There were two empty seats next to me, but I did not see many others.

The gentle prologue to  Beethoven’s first symphony (the symphony premiered in 1800) almost sounds like an ending, and reminds one immediately of Haydn, the great master of the symphony, who was still around for the first 40 years of Beethoven’s life.

Excellent programme notes needed much more time to read than was available to me before the concert, but, as at other concerts, I couldn’t read them during the performances because of the strange New Zealand custom of dowsing the lights during orchestral and choral performances, as though they were visual spectacles like plays, opera or ballet.  This is not the case in the United Kingdom, where I recently attended concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and London’s Festival Hall – all performed with full auditorium lighting.

Symphony No 1
The first movement soon bounced into its allegro con brio tempo after its andante molto  introduction. There is then a gradual build-up of volume. Fine woodwind and horn interjections arrived.  The orchestra for this work was  much smaller than that employed later for the Ninth Symphony; brass consisted of two horns and two trumpets.

Crisp, articulated playing was the norm.  Sublime oboe and flute playing was a predominant feature. The music included pleasant variations.

The second movement, andante cantabile con moto, had a tuneful, dance-like opening.  All was very classical and orderly, but modulation passages proved a little more adventurous than Haydn perhaps would have been.

Menuetto: allegro molto e vivace – Trio was the tempo marking for the third movement.  Its lively tempo had woodwinds to the fore; the timpani had plenty of interesting work to do, and an unusual prominence for music of the period.  This movement featured some lovely string playing.

The fourth movement began portentously.  After a rather short adagio introduction, which held the audience in suspense,  until a jolly dance broke out. The dance ends, and there is declamation of trenchant chords again.  The dance theme develops, becoming more complex and intertwined with declamation, syncopation featuring also.  Peace returns, then a wind-up to the end.

The Choral Symphony
After the interval, we were treated to a marvellous performance of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. This final symphony, composed between 1822 and 1824, was performed first in 1825 under the great composer’s ‘direction’, although he was by now totally deaf, and another did the actual conducting.  It received a rapturous reception.  A huge orchestra is required; its premiere in Vienna saw a larger orchestra than possibly had ever been assembled there for a symphony concert.  Many more of every section are required here than in the first symphony.

The first movement, allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso, begins with only a quiet harbinger of things to come, yet its quietude has an amazing quality in its softness.  Some have said that the opening resembles the sound of an orchestra tuning up.  Then comes the first of many outbursts, demonstrating the composer’s revolutionary use of extreme dynamics magnificent crescendo and diminuendo at various points throughout the work. The trumpets became prominent, adding to the rich colours.  A high level of excitement was engendered, accompanied by magisterial majesty,  Horns were splendid, and the whole orchestra made huge, dramatic sounds.

The second movement (Scherzo: molto vivace – presto) carried on much the same mood,  but with incessant rhythms.  Its great theme somewhat foreshadowed the fourth movement. The trio section introduces trombones into the orchestra for the first time in the work.

The adagio molto e cantabile – andante moderato third movement contains many interesting and entrancing variations.  Some brief fugal treatment ensues; what Tovey describes as ‘…fragmentary counterpoint which enhances the effect…’; the movement has an emphatic outrburst before ending quietly.

The mighty fourth movement, is almost of symphonic length in itself, following the relatively short third movement.  The soloists came on, ready for their contributions, the women both in beautiful red gowns.  It has a graceful, almost tentative introduction to the theme, principally from cellos and basses, and a peaceful, quasi-pastoral passage with lovely variations  Horns took over the theme.  The variation from woodwinds with pizzicato strings was utterly transporting.  Brass did their piece, but never too dominating.  Variation was in dynamics as well as on the theme.  A quiet wind-down, a diversion, splendid flutes, and a gradual rise in tension, especially from the strings followed.  Again, the theme came from cellos and double-basses, with the other instruments taking it up, with variations – but the violins gave it to us straight.

Finally we are awakened by soloists and choir.  Bass Anthony Robin Schneider’s invocation ‘O friends!… Joy!’ was intoned richly and incisively by his superb voice.  (A pity that the translation in the programme, and in Wikipedia, gives the mild ‘Oh’ of exclamation, not the dramatic ‘O’ of invocation).

The choir soon joined in. Their words were taken from the “Ode to Joy”, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with text additions made by the composer.  The varied tempi in this movement make for increased excitement, until the last words are hurled out at high speed.  The music became dramatic in its build-up; it always seems to be going somewhere.

There were 60 voices in the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir on this occasion – quite large for a chamber choir, but needed for Beethoven’s ecstatic utterances.  Their contribution was accurate and sonorous, with clear words, and animation.  The choir’s singing and that of the soloists was thrilling.

Only Kristin Darragh had some rather ugly notes near the beginning – possibly they were rather low for her tessitura.  Elsewhere, in the ensembles she was not easily heard at times; the soprano has the advantage (fully utilised by Madeleine Pierard, the superb soprano) of being at the top, while the bass stands out for being the lowest sound, and the tenor stands out because the .music is high in his voice.  Simon O’Neill had the right voice and volume for this role.

Martial airs came from the orchestra, excellently delineated, adding to the grandeur of the music. More percussion is introduced in this movement; bass drum and triangle both have notable solos.

All parts, solo and chorus, are written high in their respective voices.   I noticed that the soloists, when seated and not performing solo, ‘sang along’ with the chorus parts – a nice gesture.  The choir was absolutely great on the final section; the work finishes triumphantly for them, interspersed with beautiful ensembles for the soloists – but some detail was lost in all that was going on.

This was a wonderfully nuanced performance under the highly experienced Maestro Edo de Waart, and the audience showed appreciation most enthusiastically.


First-class performance of a Brahms masterpiece by Vivanti String Sextet

Vivanti  String Sextet: Yuka Eguchi, Malavika Gopal (violins), Victoria Jaenecke, Martin Jaenecke (violas), Ken Ichinose, Rowan Prior (cellos)

Brahms: String Sextet no.1 in B flat, Op.18

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 14 November 2018, 12:15 pm

A sizeable audience heard this masterwork from Brahms, played by a sextet made up of members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (plus friend Martin Jaenecke).  The work is seldom heard, probably because of the difficulty of assembling a sextet.  I don’t think I have heard it live since a concert given by a visiting ensemble in a Festival concert many years go – was it 1988?  1990?  They played also the String Sextet no.2.

Immediately the musicians commenced, we were treated to a gorgeous sound. – mellow, reassuring, in the first movement’s allegro ma non troppo.  The players performed with confidence and panache, and the church’s acoustics did them proud.  Darker tones entered; a cello solo was most mellifluous.  The music approached grandeur, but in a rather nostalgic manner.  Plucking from the cellos added piquancy.

A general excitement of tempo and volume led to a new, placid theme, which was passed around the players.  Its chromaticism gave a persuasive romanticism to the music.  A waltz towards the end was graceful, then a brief passage with all playing pizzicato finished the movement.

Throughout, the playing was splendid from all the musicians.  The second movement (andante ma moderato) had a strong opening to its theme and variations.  The song-like theme was harmonised in a very straightforward way.  The first variation was for the cello, and was given an excellent performance by Ken Ichinose.  (From where I was seated I could not see if Rowan Prior also played in this variation).  The violas took it up, and gave the theme considerable embroidery, before the cello had another complex variation, jumping all over the fingerboard.

Then the violas returned with a strong hymn-like variation.  The violins now had their chance, playing the same variation, before they had a passage playing a melody against the violas playing a drone accompaniment.  The cellos were at first absent from this interchange, until they took up with some pizzicato.  Cellos now had the melody, more-or-less straight.  The music became quieter, and slowly wound down to its end.

The Scherzo third movement was a very tuneful dance,  full of good spirits.  It was bouncy and euphonious.  The short trio lived up to its tempo (animato), driving forward constantly, as did the also animated scherzo, on its return.

The final movement, Rondo, was marked poco allegretto e grazioso.  It was sonorous and cheerful.  There was plenty of dynamic variety, and all was played splendidly, with superb subtlety and fabulous tone.  Gentle passages echoing the first movement helped the music wind down gradually in sombre vein, but it picked up animation again in the final bars.  This is a great work of chamber music, and it was marvellous to hear it, in such a first-class performance.


Edo de Waart reaffirms his comprehensive Mahlerian authority and insight with Number Seven

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conductor Edo de Waart

Mahler: Symphony no.7 in B minor, Op.36

Michael Fowler Centre

Friday, 9 November 2018, 6:30 pm

The concert was one of Edo de Waart’s ‘Masterworks’ series.  A mammoth symphony of over 80 minutes in length was obviously not everyone’s cup of tea: the front block of seating downstairs was virtually empty.  But it was a tour de force for conductor and orchestra.  The huge variety of musical and instrumental content and the diversity of sounds, timbres and musical ideas bore out Mahler’s well-known saying that ‘the symphony is like the world, it must encompass everything!’

It is the only one of his symphonies with which I was not familiar, and of which I have no recording; it is probably the least frequently performed, not only on account of its length.  Such a long and complex work takes some getting to grips with.  Yet like all the composer’s works, there is much in it to delight as well as much to wonder at and to ponder on.  An excellent essay in the printed programme contained interesting and illuminating material.

The orchestra was led by Yuka Eguchi, assistant concertmaster (though this was not shown in the programme), and numbers of guest players were brought in to create the large orchestra required.

With five movements, the symphony is one of the largest in the orchestral repertoire, and is played without an interval, though the breaks between movements must have been welcomed by the orchestra’s members.

A theme for the symphony suggested by the composer (though he made many revisions to it) was ‘darkness to light’.  However, each movement has a distinct ‘personality’.  The first movement, very long, like the last, is entitled ‘Langsam [slow]– allegro molto ma non troppo’.  The opening seemed indecisive, that could not entirely be blamed on Mahler, but the brass soon made their presence felt; next, woodwinds were added, with strings playing at a low pitch, the tones very solemn.  Woodwinds take over again, before a general overall shindig breaks out.

More lyrical figures creep in, before the large percussion section has a good workout.  The clarinettists play their instruments unusually, holding them up horizontally in front of their faces.  The full orchestra plays military motifs, then all is quiet, with a few solo instruments having short statements, and many changes of orchestral colour.  The two harps created lovely ripples, and there were dramatic passages with typical Mahlerian harmonies and intervals.  The brass contributed numerous expostulations.  Everyone was busy; the percussion had their own outbursts, but eventually the music subsided, though soon quickened to a brass march, that illustrated the different tonalities and discordant chords in this symphony compared with the harmonies in Mahler’s earlier ones.

A problem here was the unhelpfulness of the programme in describing the additional brass instrument used.  When the player stood for his special bow at the end of the concert, I thought that he had a euphonium.  However, Wikipedia says that Mahler did not want that instrument, but describes the instrument variously as tenor horn or baritone horn.  The player sat next to the trombones, and in the list of players at the back of the programme he is stated as simply “Brass  Nitzan Haroz”.  Certainly here was a distinct sound at various points in the symphony.  Another failure of description there was in joining the fourth movement guitarist (Jane Curry) and mandolin player (Dylan Lardelli) under the heading ‘Guitar’.

The second movement, like the fourth, is titled ‘Nachtmusik’ (Nocturne).  It opens with a horn figure, echoed by a muted horn, then an oboe, before the other musicians gradually enter, including distinctive percussion.  A jaunty rhythm has the strings tapping their bows, but soon the contrabassoon makes a noteworthy contribution, and a marching tempo takes over the music; then a smooth theme, like a folk-dance, is played on violins, before one of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs, ‘Revelge’ (or ‘The Dead Drummer’) sounded forth its sad but militaristic tones.  We heard the horn echo again.  We heard superb, rich, colourful, sonorous playing throughout.  The four flutes contributed largely, with lots of delightful little figures for woodwind before a fortissimo passage with spooky elements (as so often with Mahler).  The ‘kitchen department’ lived up to its nickname here and elsewhere, with splendid cowbells.  Lyrical motifs issued from all sections.

To the Scherzo third movement, Mahler had given the description (in German: Shadowy.  Flowing but not too fast.  It has a spooky character throughout, but also spiky and perky..  Horn, drums and double basses began proceedings, with many brief utterances from various instruments, notably frequent short solo violin fragments.  Likewise, the viola contributed lovely sonorous solo fragments.  After some hectic brass, the clarinets contributed to a quirky ending.  The ¾ time used in this movement led a commentator to call it ‘a most morbid and sarcastic mockery of the Viennese waltz’ (Wikipedia). Among the unusual instruments employed was the small E-flat clarinet, played by David McGregor.  Its distinctive sound was heard quite frequently throughout the symphony.

The fourth movement, another ‘Nachtmusik’, this time andante amoroso throughout, as compared with the varying tempo markings of its predecessor.  Brass is absent (except horns), and the use of guitar and mandolin create a serenade atmosphere.  A brief violin solo opens the movement, then a charming oboe intervenes, soon allowing the violin to resume.  I noticed that in this more intimate movement, Edo de Waart conducted without the baton.  Violin, flute, oboe, mandolin and guitar continued the serenade-like character of the music.  This movement was in many ways more colourful than the earlier ones. There was always something new happening; some great horn melodies emerged and the movement had a gentle ending.

Now for the powerful Finale – a rondo, that opened with timpani and brass, and great excitement.  There is repetition of a main theme from the first movement.  A jaunty dotted rhythm makes its appearance, then the woodwind take over, followed by strings – but the brass cannot be suppressed for long.  Muted trumpets were most effective.  There such a variety of sounds!  Tapping the top (wood) of the bass drum was done with a sort of whisk.  I learned in Wikipedia that this was a rute.

“The rute… from the German for ‘rod’ or ‘switch’), also known as a multi-rod, is a beater for drums. Commercially made rutes are usually made of a bundle of thin birch dowels or thin canes attached to a drumstick handle… A rute may also be made of a bundle of twigs attached to a drumstick handle. The Rute is used to play on the head of the bass drum.”

Shrill flutes and piccolos contribute to the continuing variety of the movement, as did the high-pitched, sometimes squeaky sound of the E-flat clarinet.  A huge musical wake-up ensues, and then subsides.  Peals of bells and full brass brings the movement, and the symphony, to an end with grandeur, although a soft passage intervenes, and finally an enormous proclamation, with all players flat out.  The climax resulted in great acclamation from the audience.

It is noteworthy that the Dutch premiere of this symphony took place only a year after its initial performance in Prague in 1908.  It seems that the Dutch have an affinity with Mahler.  Not only is our present conductor a notable interpreter of Mahler, but there are others, including Bernard Haitink.  If we didn’t already know that de Waart is a great Mahler conductor, we found out when he conducted Symphony no. 5 in 2016.


Choral concert to celebrate new digital organ at Cathedral of Saint Paul

Organ Festival: Choral anthems 

Choirs and Choristers of Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul, Choir of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Directors Michael Stewart and Michael Fletcher, organists Richard Apperley and Michael Stewart)

Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul

Saturday, 13 August 2018, 7 pm

With the organ moved to the side, the rather small audience had full view of the choirs in their red cassocks.  In his introduction, Michael Stewart referred to ‘choral blockbusters’; we had a few of them!  First was Handel’s famous coronation anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’.  It was sung with the usual robust cheerfulness, as was the next anthem, Parry’s ‘I was glad’.  Richard Apperley accompanied this in fine style, giving a ringing fanfare at the beginning.  The effect when the choir came in was thrilling.

Again (cf Friday night’s organ recital) I did not hear the clarity from this digital organ that would have been present in the pipe organ that was damaged in the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.  In the quiet parts, Apperley used the Choir manual, and throughout both choir and organ had a commendable range of dynamics.  The choir moved to several different positions for the different items; throughout, the singing was good.  The sound from the two choirs was unified in singing this music, which is tricky in places.  It is one of Parry’s most effective compositions, and not as bombastic as some of his utterances; rather it has a positive mood.

Before his solo item, Michael Stewart remarked that the organ was very comfortable to play.  He played ‘Fête’ by Jean Langlais (French composer for the organ again), an appropriate choice for initiating a new organ.  In festive style, we were caught up in a whirligig of excitement.  Especially in the slower sections, both Solo (right hand) and Choir (left hand) organs were used.  The final passages were jubilant, with plenty of foot-work.

Now it was the turn of the children who make up the Cathedral Choristers.  First, they sang a piece by Sir John (alias Johnny) Dankworth: ‘Light of the World”.  This was beautifully sung.  Next was ‘Look at the world’, words and music both, by the prolific British choral composer John Rutter.  This was a more difficult sing, but well performed.  Both items were sung in unison, accompanied by Richard Apperley.   The choristers were joined by the Cathedral choir to perform Jonatham Dove’s ‘Gloria’ from his Missa Brevis.  This British composer’s bright and jazzy piece incorporated a rapid organ accompaniment and a grand ending.

Gerald Finzi, another Brit. despite his surname, wrote charming, lyrical music. The combined three choirs sang his anthem ‘Lo, the full, final sacrifice’, with words by the mystical poet Richard Crashaw, who flourished in the early seventeenth century.  The performance was notable for the very fine men’s voices.  Not to demean the women, who sang extremely well, but it is often the men who are the weaker parts of a choir.

It was good to have the words printed in the programme, because it was not always easy to pick them up in this resonant building.  The music was very varied; some pensive, some jubilant.  Likewise the organ accompaniment – very dramatic.  The piece ended in a calm, peaceful ‘Amen’.

After the interval came an organ solo from Richard Apperley.  In his introductory remarks, the organist said that his improvisation upon this piece was the final music at the last service in the Cathedral before the earthquake – therefore the very last on the pipe organ.  He explained that the music built to cataclysmic effects, not inappropriately.  It was not clear if today’s performance included improvisation.

The piece was ‘Evocation II’ by Thierry Escaich, another French organist and composer, this time, contemporary. A repeated pedal note and staccato chords above gave a sense of foreboding as did the alternation between manuals, and gradual build-up of volume.  It ended in a ‘Wow!’ moment.

Michael Fletcher from Sacred Heart Cathedral now conducted the two adult choirs in Edward Bairstow’s ‘Blessed city, heavenly Salem’, with Michael Stewart at the organ.  The composer’s dates (1874-1946) put him between Parry and Rutter.  A lyrical  piece, it was in a style distinct from both his predecessor and his successor.  The music changed moods to suit the words.  The choirs not only sang accurately, they exhibited a splendid soaring tone.  The organ also went from ff to ppp.  A soprano solo in the last verse, with sotto voce accompaniment from choir and organ, was most effective; the anthem had a beautiful, subtle ending.

Zoltán Kodály was the only non-English composer represented.  His quite substantial choral and organ work, ‘Laudes Organi’ simply means ‘In praise of organs’.  It was based on a medieval text, and was written in 1966, a year before the composer died.  The organ as an instrument goes back to much more ancient times than the medieval; the Romans had small organs.

The Latin text was translated in the programme.  The second verse consists of instruction to the musician who will play the instrument.  The organist is instructed not to stand on the bellows, but to practice hard.  The choirs were preceded by a long, varied organ introduction.

The choral music not only featured very effective part-writing, it was illustrative of the words, notably at the beginning of the second verse: ‘Musician! Be a soldier; train yourself…’  Before the last verse (of four) there was a gorgeous organ interlude.  A jubilant organ postlude followed by a lovely polyphonic ‘Amen’, and final grand organ chords ended the work.  This was very fine singing and organ-playing indeed.

Like much of the composer’s music, the tonalities ran through a bunch of keys, or rather, made use of Hungarian modes, not exclusively those used in northern and western European music.  This made the music striking, significant, even magical in places; an admirable composition.

The last item of the evening was Vaughan Williams’s setting of the canticle ‘Let all the world in every corner sing’, words by the great metaphysical poet and cleric George Herbert.  After a great build-up from the organ, the choirs came in, in full voice for this well-known and dramatic setting.  Gymnastics were required from the organist, especially on the pedals.  Like the previous item, it was directed by Michael Stewart, with Richard Apperley at the organ.  Great refinement was evident in the quiet passages, before the piece’s upbeat ending.

Thus ended a memorable concert, aptly celebrating the new organ.

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Heroic welcome for the new digital organ in St Paul’s Cathedral

Cathedral Festival for the digital organ

Joseph Nolan, organ

Bach,: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
Franck: Prelude, Fugue and Variation
Marcel Dupré: Variations sur un Noël
Widor: Symphonie V in F minor, Op.42 no.1

Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul

Friday, 12 August 2018, 7:30 pm

To celebrate the inauguration of its new Viscount Regent Classic digital organ, the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul has put on an Organ Festival.  The guest organist, Dr Joseph Nolan, is a British organist, formerly organist at the Chapels Royal in London (involving numbers of different organs, including one at Buckingham Palace), but since 2008, Organist and Master of Music at St. George’s Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia.

Probably due to a competing concert and to what was the coldest evening in Wellington all year, the audience was rather smaller than one would have expected.  A beautifully produced programme booklet was provided, for this recital and the next evening’s choral concert.  Magnificent photos of the organ console were on front and back of the booklet.  Inside, all information and full texts and translations for the choral items were given, in an easily-read typeface (as always when Michael Stewart has a hand in things).

The organ’s specifications and other details were printed in the programme.  There are 38 speaker cabinets, mainly housed (in rather ugly fashion) in the former main pipe chamber above the chancel, opposite the position of the late lamented pipe organ’s console.  A small number of speakers are in two other locations to the right and left, facing into the church.   The console has four manuals: Great, Swell, Choir and Solo, plus Pedal.  The organ was built by the Viscount company in England, with a custom-built console made by a Devon company.  The keys are wooden, so do not look white like the keyboards we are accustomed to.  All details were devised by Michael Stewart and Richard Apperley, Organist and Director of Music, and Assistant Director of Music respectively, at the Cathedral.

With twenty speaking stops for the pedals and only a small number fewer for each of the manuals, this is a large organ.  Swell, Choir and Solo are all shown as being ‘enclosed’.  On a pipe organ this would mean the relevant manuals’ pipes are enclosed in boxes, which can be opened or closed by the use of special foot pedals, to achieve softer or louder sounds. Of course, there are no pipes and no boxes with this organ, but the same effects can be achieved.  Pistons (which bring out various pre-set combinations of stops, when pressed) number over thirty thumb pistons, and over twenty toe pistons, which were of a different design from usual, the rubber (or similar) flat tops making it less likely that a foot would slip off them.

The organ resonated well in the building, though not having the same sort of resonance as a pipe organ.  I found the clarity somewhat less compared with the old  instrument, and the distinctive sounds of, for example, flute, oboe or diapason stops less, well, distinctive.

For this recital, the organ console was moved to a position below the chancel, but at the centre, so that the audience could readily see Dr Nolan in action.  For the choral concert on Saturday it was moved to its usual position, to the right.

Bach’s towering Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor was written while he was still quite a young man, when there were few demands for him to write a constant flow of church music, compared with the situation during his later years in Leipzig.

The Passacaglia consists of twenty variations on a theme, which is initially stated solely on pedals, the variations being sustained throughout by a repetition of the pedal part (or ostinato), which then becomes the main theme of the double fugue that follows.

When the manuals entered, the registration was not so hefty as to blot out the strong pedals.  The melody eventually moved from pedals to the Great manual, later to the Choir, each move bringing forth a different array of sounds.  Some may say that was not an ‘authentic’ performance, but it did demonstrate the organ’s capabilities.  The ending was fast, fantastic, and loud!

Not to mention the capabilities of Dr Nolan, whose facility at romping around the manuals and the pedal board was nothing short of astonishing.  There were lovely ripples from the Choir organ, returns to stentorian pedals, more stops added – but the result was never too thick. The elaborate, lengthy work was thrillingly executed by Dr Nolan, displaying not only his great ability but also the scope, resonance and fine quality of the organ.

Such is the veneration of Bach, Telemann, Buxtehude and others of the North German school, and the recordings we hear of English organs, many music-lovers may not realise the sheer plethora of cathedrals, and thus cathedral organs, in France.  A tour two years ago took me to some of these in southern France.  So it is not surprising that there are  many works written by French composers for the instrument.  Saint-Saëns and Poulenc are two eminent composers; each has written a major symphonic work for orchestra and organ, which are probably the only ones performed regularly by a standard symphony orchestra, with soloist.  Thus the remainder of the programme consisted of three works by French composers – as indeed was the encore..

Despite Franck not being one of my favourite composers, I find his Prelude, Fugue and Variation delightful, especially the simple but beautiful opening of the Prelude. Mellow tones on the Swell underpinned the melody, the latter played on the Choir organ.  Nolan employed less rubato than one often hears in performances of this work  The fugue utilised a bigger and heavier sound palette on the Great.  It was amusing to see the organist conducting himself with one hand while playing the Variation with the other.  Here again, nimble foot-work was remarkable.

A variety of attractive registrations were utilised on Swell and Great; the variations on the charming melody were enhanced by judicious stop choices.

I thought some of Nolan’s hand movements while playing were somewhat pianistic but that did not seem to affect the result .  Maybe he caught them from one of his teachers: New Zealand-born Gillian Weir, who has the same tendency.  His other principal teacher was the eminent Frenchwoman, Marie-Claire Alain.

The next work was by Marcel Dupré; his Variations are enchanting, based on a traditional French carol.  The melody was illuminated all over the organ. with delightful accompaniments.    Nolan exhibited amazing finger-work on the Great, especially in one very excitable variation.  This illustrated how responsive the keyboards are on this instrument.

The melody changed key, thus retaining the piece’s interest.  Dupré obviously had a great musical imagination; some of the variations were very quirky.  I was aware of distribution of sounds around the building; a fast, loud variation was definitely emanating from further to my left than others.  This was a brilliant, virtuoso performance.

Widor’s Toccata, the final movement of the symphony played as the last item on the programme, has had almost pop status for many years.  Written in 1870, the Symphonie is a massive work in more ways than one.  It has five movements, varying from the allegro vivace first movement to an adagio fourth movement, followed by the Toccata, which returns the work to a fast tempo.

The first movement was quite restrained and matter-of-fact, contrasting sounds from the Great and the Swell.  Some wonderful effects were achieved, especially on the Choir and Swell manuals, as the movement progressed – at speed!  The ending was quite rambunctious.  The second movement, allegro cantabile, produced an attractive singing melody from the Swell organ,  with an accompaniment below on the Great.  Another section consisted of an accompanied flute melody.  Nolan was again a magician on both manuals and pedals.

The andantino third movement began with pedals only.  The music moved to the Solo manual and then came a hymn-like pronouncement on the Great.  The pedal work involved using two feet on the go at once, an octave apart.  Full Great organ ensued.  Sometimes the sound was a bit muddy, such as you would not get from a pipe organ.  However, it has to be said that most of the time one was not aware that it was a digital organ.  The quiet ending of this movement led to the quiet adagio fourth movement’s chorale-like opening, with the ‘box closed’.  The dynamics went down to a triple piano softness.  I found the switch from ‘closed’ to ‘open’ a little too obvious.

Then the famous Toccata, with all its fire and sparkle, switching between manuals.  It made a very effective finale.  When the principal melody was being played on the pedals, it required toes and heels of both feet.  The last phrase was fortississimo!

The encore, quite lengthy, was the Finale of a Louis Vierne organ symphony, which showed off a lot of the organ’s range of sounds.  Some of the playing, here and elsewhere  was, I felt, too fast; the audience could not always appreciate all the subtlety and sounds of the fast figures in the music.

Nevertheless, this was a superb and dramatic recital, played with bravura and virtuosity.  It did the new instrument proud.


Diverting, varied, guitar recital by NZSM students

New Zealand School of Music Guitars

Music by Brahms, de Falla, Ravel, Philip Houghton, Barrios

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 10 October 2018, 12.15pm

It was not easy to understand what were the alterations to this concert’s programme, caused in part by illness; the microphone not working (as indeed it did not the previous week) didn’t help matters.

First up in this varied programme were Rameka Tamaki and Oliver Featherston.  They played as a guitar duo Theme & Variations from Sextet Opus 18 (second movement) by Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897), arranged by the great guitarist John Williams.  The work was in B-flat major, and was composed in the summer of 1860, while Brahms was staying near the River Elbe. It was premiered later in Hanover, by an ensemble led by Brahms’s colleague, the violinist Joseph Joachim.

The second movement andante was played in a very pleasant arrangement. The fact of it being a theme and variations based on Hungarian rhythms and sonorities made it somehow suitable for guitars. There was perfect co-ordination between the players, despite plenty of technical demands.  For the most part the music was gentle and delicate, throughout this quite long movement.

Music from Falla’s opera La Vide Breve is quite well-known, particularly the orchestral music from it, such as this Spanish Dance, adapted for performance by two guitars by Emilio Pujol, and played by the same duo as was the first piece on the programme.  It was a thoroughly pleasing performance of this delightful, bright piece.

Next were two solos, both by Agustin Barrios (1885-1944), who was born in Paraguay, but lived in other parts of Latin America for most of his life.  He wrote many works, mainly short ones, for guitar.  Chris Everest played his La Catedral and Rameka Tamaki played Julia Florida.   The first consisted of three movements; after a short Preludio came an Andante, followed by Allegro.  This was an attractive solo, the player obtaining gorgeous resonance from his instrument.  The middle movement was slow and pensive, beautifully executed.  The third movement was fast, with a sustained melody over  running accompaniment.  This demanded, and achieved, great skill.

Like the first, the second soloist played from memory.  Gentle and lilting Julia Florida qualified as a pretty piece (that is not meant to sound demeaning!).  Like the previous piece by Barrios, it was full of interest, and quite demanding on the player – I thought I noticed a few missed notes, but overall, it was another fine performance.

Megan Robson, Finn Perring, Chris Everest played an arrangement of String Quartet in F, (second movement) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), arranged by Winton Yuichiro White, a contemporary American composer chiefly associated with film music. Ravel completed the quartet in 1903.

The movement is marked Assez vif – très rythmé. The pizzicato theme is eminently suited to the guitar; what was striking in the arrangement was the long passages played at a very high pitch – not so common perhaps in guitar music.  It was a spirited rendition, ending in a flourish.  As the programme note stated “White made use of the classical guitar’s large range of colours and techniques, utilising a 7-string guitar, to create a convincing impression of the piece.”

The programme ended with a delightful Suite by Australian Phillip Houghton (1954-2017): A Masque for Lady Nothing.  It was made up of seven short movements, and was played by Joel Baldwin and Oliver Featherston (violin and guitar).
1. Fanfare
2. Bonsai Garden
3. Tinkers’ Dance
4. Le Tombeau de Juliet
5. The King’s Blue Frog Galliard
6. Lovers Dance
7. Spanish Spaniards Pilfer Portuguese Parrots

The work was commissioned by the Sydney Guitar Trio, for the 1999 Darwin International Guitar Festival and is inspired by ancient modal music illustrating seven scenes for a masque (a Renaissance celebration of dance, song, art and all things magical), held in a long-lost kingdom. Below I reproduce the programme note, slightly edited.

“Each movement depicts a different story – Fanfare: the entire kingdom gathering in the woods outside the castle. Jugglers, incense, dancing and a body painter named Bosch. Let the celebrations begin! Bonsai Garden: a world where everything big is small, where stillness is a fragrant breeze. Tinker’s Dance: bawdy and swaggering, not too fast though, they’re all drunk.  “Le Tombeau de Juliet” depicts the tomb of Juliet in silence, all hearts each recall their own true love. “The King’s Blue Frog Galliard”: is a gleeful and slightly clumsy dance, obnoxious and rude. The typical instrumentation of the lute is imitated with bright ponticello and harmonics. “Lovers Dance” is flowing, graceful and entwined. Spanish Spaniards Pilfer Portuguese Parrots depicts how in olden days, not only did Spain have a superior armada than Portugal, but also a superior network of parrot smuggling.”


NZSM cellists under Inbal Megiddo play cello favourites, some rare, some in disguise, all skilled and entertaining

New Zealand School of Music Cellos, led by Inbal Megiddo

Music by Mozart, Grűzmacher, Bach, Vivaldi, Brubeck, Gershwin, Joplin

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 3 October 2018, 12:15 pm

lnbal Megiddo is the head of Cello Studies at the New Zealand School of Music.  Along with her today were seven cello students, all highly competent on the instrument.  Their varied programme was heard by a sizeable audience.

The programme commenced with a very fine arrangement of Mozart’s Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, by Douglas Moore, an American composer who died in 1969. The tone of the four cellists who played this was not always well-blended.   The names of the players (five females including Megiddo, and three males) were given in the printed programme, but they were not identified individually for each piece played.

Verbal explanations were given rather too fast for everything to be clearly heard.  Megiddo explained the origins of two of the cellos – the first was given by the family of the late Wellington luthier and cellist, Ian Lyons.  The origin of the other I could not hear.  Two of the group played these instruments in Friedrich Grutzmacher’s Duo for two cellos, Op.22 no.2. Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Grützmacher was a noted German cellist in the second half of the 19th century.  This was most attractive music, very well played. The upper part was quite lovely, with an interesting lower part accompanying.  The two players swapped places from time to time, i.e alternating between upper and lower part throughout the performance so that both got a chance to be the soloist.  There were gymnastics for both parts.

Next we turned to J S  Bach; Prelude and Fugue from Suite no.5 in C minor.  It was arranged by Laszlo Varga, (1924-2014), a Hungarian-born American cellist.  The effect of the Prelude arrangement was quite romantic.  In the Fugue, the separate entries of the instruments revealed the differing timbres of each individual instrument.

A fast version of the three movements of  ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (RV 297, Op.4 no.8) followed, in an arrangement by James Barralet, a British cellist.  Inbal Megiddo played the solo parts in the first two movements; the largo was beautifully rendered.  A student performed the solo in the third movement (allegro) in fine style.  It was exquisitely played, and the performers’ ensemble was splendid.

Elegy was quite different from David Brubeck’s other compositions (assuming this is the famed jazz composer Dave Brubeck) such as the well-known Take Five.  It lived up to its title superbly. Again, Megiddo played the solo rather mournful but beautiful melody.  The music fell away to pianissimo at the end. The players had a lovely blend here.The Gershwin standard ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess kept us in the United States; it was short and sweet, but effective, with Megiddo again playing solo.

Finally, in jazz-land again, we heard The Entertainer, a 1902 classic piano rag written by Scott Joplin (1868-1917).  Again the players revealed their expertise.  Although intonation was no always perfect, the playing was full of contrast, including in an excellent pizzicato passage. A cellist in the audience told me that most of this programme had been performed at this year’s Cellophonia, for cellists; ‘a week of music making and expert coaching from international musicians’ held in late August, at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington.