Piquant and entertaining programme from guitar and viola d’amore at St Andrew’s

Jane Curry (guitar) and Donald Maurice (viola d’amore)

Music by Locatelli, Hindemith, Bruce Paine, Pablo de Sarasate, Ciprian Porumbescu and Miroslav Tadeć

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 9 May 2018, 12.15 pm

I heard these two musicians last year, and once again I can only say that their playing is highly skilled and utterly delightful, and the repertoire charming.

A sizeable audience, including numbers of young people, heard them play a diverse range of music, not all of it composed for precisely this instrumentation, but all of it well worth hearing and apt for the combination.

The Locatelli Sonata Op.2, no.4 was enchanting.  Originally written for flute and continuo, it worked very well in this instrumentation, the guitar performing the continuo part, amply producing a sound closer to the harpsichord than the piano would in an arrangement that exists for violin and piano.  The sweet tone of the viola d’amore in the hands of a thoroughly competent musician is a treat to hear.  The movements, adagio-allegro-largo-allegro were beautifully contrasted, the subtle nuances and variety of tone of the viola d’amore giving everything character and life.

Paul Hindemith was one of the first of the modern composers to write for the old instrument; his Kleine Sonata Op.25, no.2 was indeed short.  There was much lively interplay between the two instruments, and discordant passages part of the humour of the composition

Bruce Paine is an Auckland =based guitarist and composer.  His Finchdean Duet is named after a peaceful village in England, and was originally a solo piece.  Maurice employed the deeper, richer tones of his instrument in this work, which I found attractive but not adventurous.

Pablo de Sarasate was a nineteenth century Spanish violinist and composer.  He wrote many pieces based on Spanish dances, for his instrument.  ‘Playera’ was one in a collection of such dances for violin and piano – though according to my Spanish dictionary, the word literally means ‘canvas shoes’.  It was appealing music.

Romanian composer Ciprian Porumbescu had a short life, and his ‘Balada’ was  probably written in confinement to his home region, where his political views kept him.  He contracted tuberculosis, which accounted for his early death.  It was a sad piece (written for violin and piano), but eloquent and plaintive.  It had these two instruments sounding so well together; the effect was lovely, and elegant.

The final offering in the concert consisted of two ‘Macedonian Pieces’ by Miroslav Tadeć, a Serbian now resident in the USA.  He is a prolific guitarist, composer and recording artist.  Maurice’s parts in ‘Jovka Kumanovka’ and ‘Cajdarsko Oro’ were originally written for flute.  The first one was rather wistful but folksy in character.

The second sounded like a folk dance, fast and very rhythmic.  The viola d’amore made it sound quite skittish. It rounded out a piquant and entertaining programme.






Archi d’Amore Zelanda with delightful programme of New Zealand compositions, plus Bach

Archi d’Amore Zelanda
Donald Maurice (viola d’amore), Jane Curry (guitar), Inbal Megiddo (cello)

David Hamilton: Imagined Dances
J.S. Bach: Suite no 1 in G major for solo cello
Michael Williams: Archi Antichi

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 14 June 2017, 12.15 pm

The ensemble brought a thoroughly delightful programme to an appreciative audience.  What was unusual was that apart from the solo Bach work, the music played was contemporary, whereas one would expect that the viola d’amore would be playing music from a much earlier times.  The programme notes included this comment ‘…the instrument has been enjoying a renaissance since the mid-twentieth century, with new works being composed and old works being adapted…’

Just over a year ago I reviewed a concert of Vivaldi music performed by Archi d’Amore Zelanda, which on that occasion consisted of eight players.

The common factor between the items was that all were suites of movements (almost all) based on dances.

The David Hamilton work suffered from the fact that all three instruments were stringed, whereas the composer’s original had been for flute, violin and guitar, though the composer had approved the version we heard.  The original would have had more contrasting timbres than this version.  Thus, in this version individual instrumental lines and characters did not always stand out; the closeness in pitch of the guitar to the viola d’amore was another factor.  The Williams work, on the other hand, was written for these instruments, and it was constructed differently, with more solo, or solo and accompaniment passages.

Hamilton’s dances began with a pensive Sarabande, a slow dance.  A flamboyant Tango followed, then a Waltz with a lilting melody; after a slow introduction, it was fast and rhythmic.  The final Mexicana had stirring rhythms and repetitive phrases, with a shriek at the end.

Inbal Meggido made some introductory remarks, as did Donald Maurice at the beginning of the concert, but unlike him, she held rather than used the microphone, so I did not catch most of what she said.  However, her performance of Bach’s first Suite for Cello was superb.  Never have I heard it played with such variety of dynamics and tone.  The opening Prelude was a statement in which her playing overcame familiarity; its freshness was a delight.  There was a fine resonance, and very subtle bending of the rhythm.

The Allemande was gracious but at the same time rhythmically sparkling.  Courante was a fast and spirited run.  Meggido’s variety of tone and dynamics gave the music meaning.  There was nothing mechanical about the playing.

The Sarabande, being slower and more thoughtful was an excellent contrast to its predecessors.  Minuets 1 and 2 were bright and vigorous, working up to the lively Gigue that ended the Suite.  This was a splendid performance.

Archi Antichi was written for Archi d’Amore Zelanda, and as the title indicates, was based on antique dances, to some extent.  It consisted of Fugue, Cavatina, and Arrhythmia (though missing its first ‘h’; commemorating the heart condition the composer had experienced).  As Donald Maurice said in his remarks opening the concert, it was somewhat ‘Lilburnish’ – particularly in the opening movement, I found.

Jane Curry introduced the work, and I was pleased to hear her pay tribute to Marjan van Waardenberg for the work she does organising these lunchtime concerts.

The Williams work began with the cello alone, in Bach-like manner.  The others joined in with pizzicato.  Moving into a minor key, the music became more complex, the parts following their individual lines clearly, but nevertheless making a pleasing and cohesive whole.  A slower section again had each instrument complementing the others in a satisfying way.

The cavatina had a slow, undemonstrative start, followed by a strong but mournful duet for cello and viola d’amore.  The guitar joined in after a time, in a beautiful piece of writing.  The other instruments blended gorgeously in accompanying the melody.  The “Arrythmia” featured pizzicato in an off-beat rhythms and good interplay between the parts before the music became agitated; it ended with a delicious little motif – perhaps saying ‘everything is all right now’, to end a fine concert of interesting and well-played music.





Unusual trios for contrasted groups, influenced disparately by viola d’amore and the Holocaust

Music of Sorrow and Love
Archi d’amore Zelanda and the Terezin Trio

Archi d’amore Zelanda (Donald Maurice – viola d’amore, Jane Curry – guitar, Emma Goodbehere – cello)
Michael Williams: Suite per antichi archi
Boris Pigovat: Strings of Love (2016)

Terezin Trio (Katherine McIndoe – soprano, Reuben Chin – alto saxophone, Heather Easting – piano)
Ellwood Derr: I never saw another butterfly

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 18 May, 12:15 pm

This lunchtime concert combined two young chamber groups in music that touched on tragic themes and conditions of the heart, physical and emotional. Perhaps they were to be seen as metaphysically linked.

We have heard several performances by Donald Maurice’s Archi d’amore Zelanda; the last let us hear both the viola d’amore and the modern viola; in fact the last outing was just a fortnight ago, as part of an octet playing Vivaldi.

Today, they played two pieces commissioned by them and which will have their ‘world premieres’ in a forthcoming trip to Poland where they will play at the Europejskiego Centrum Muzyki Krzysztofa Pendereckiego w Lusławicach (or European Center for Music, Krzysztof Pendercki, Lusławice), a small town east of Krakow. Check it out on the Internet.

It is an important cultural centre with origins as an intellectual and artistic centre in the 17th century. It is not far from Penderecki’s birthplace, and the composer bought the old manor in 1976 and restored it to create a music centre, with a beautiful contemporary building opened in 2013.

The Trio will also give concerts in Krakow and Warsaw.

Michael Williams
Suite per antichi archi
was commissioned from Hamilton composer Michael Williams.

His piece touched on the heart, and its first movement was named for the heart condition, ‘Arrhythmia’, an obtuse reference to music with varying rhythms. For the first few minutes all three instruments were plucked, rhythmically though in varying bar-lengths; then viola d’amore and cello returned to bowing. The music might not have been too complex or academic, but it was attractive, untroubled. The second movement, Cavatina, was slower and elegiac, with much attention to the lower strings of all three instruments; there was a hint of Spanish music guitar of the 17th or 18th centuries (Hopkinson Smith’s concerts at the 2014 Festival stimulated my interest in and enjoyment of it). The third movement was a fugue, with the bowed instruments used mainly in that way, gaining speed subtly as the mood lightened and became dance-like, though remaining in an antique mode.

Boris Pigovat
Boris Pigovat and Donald Maurice have formed a partnership/friendship since the composer wrote a Holocaust Requiem in 1995, with an obbligato viola for Maurice, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nazis’ atrocity, Kristallnacht. Atoll Records recorded it by the Wellington Orchestra under Taddei with Maurice as violist.

The latest fruit of that association is Pigovat’s Strings of Love.

Because I hadn’t heard very much of what the musicians said about the music, I asked Donald Maurice for some help and he gave me the following about this piece.

“Much of [Pigovat’s] music since [the Requiem] is reminiscent of those ideas [in the Requiem], in particular in his viola sonata, and in this new piece, Strings of Love, there are similar ideas to the ‘Lux Aeterna’ from the Requiem. It also includes a clear quotation of the nursery lullaby ‘Rock-a-Bye Baby, on the Tree Top’. This poem was believed to have been written by a pilgrim who travelled on the Mayflower and it was a comment on the way the American Indians rocked their babies to sleep by hanging their bassinets off tree branches. This observation about the significance of the theme in the trio is my own, not from Boris!”

So there was dreamy quality in the viola and cello in the opening part, then a kind of a popular tune, with perhaps the influence of a guitar, though the viola dominated the melody. The mood lightens and the tempo increases towards the end. Both the music’s intention and its performance were of attractive clarity and should help create a nice repertoire for the innovative combination of viola d’amore, cello and guitar which, judging by the sort of music they inspire, evokes feeling that relate Renaissance or Baroque sensibility to contemporary musical values and social issues.

Ellwood Derr
I never saw another butterfly was written in 1966 around poems written by children in the terrible concentration camp at Terezin in Czechoslovakia. So it has an affinity with the much later written Third Symphony of Gorecki.

It’s composed for a trio, appropriately entitled Terezin: soprano, alto saxophone and piano. Soprano Katherine McIndoe has, in only a couple of years, established an attractive record in competitions and small opera performances, such as with Days Bay Opera. It’s a strong voice with a keen-edged vibrato that might need watching in years to come, but which showed admirable accuracy in the early quasi-atonal music and an air of electrified fear in the section so marked. Her spoken words came almost as a shock.

Reuben Chin’s contribution on the alto saxophone too, was most accomplished: twittering and bird-like (rather than simulating a butterfly) in the Prologue; while the calm, Debussyish, accepting spirit of ‘The Garden’ hardly disguised the underlying hopeless grief that is embedded in the music. Throughout, Heather Easting’s piano lent expressive and sympathetic backing, often rather dominating the scene as near the end of the fourth section, marked ‘Fear’.

I had hesitated about coming to this concert, thinking one of my colleagues was to review it, but was engrossed by both these unfamiliar trio ensembles right from the start.


Viola d’amore takes place with guitar and cello in lovely NZSM-based trio

New Zealand School of Music

Archi d’Amore Zelanda (Donald Maurice – viola d’amore, Jane Curry – guitar, Emma Goodbehere – cello)

Music by Paganini, Handel, Piazzolla, Lilburn, Michael Kimber

Adam Concert Room, NZSM Kelburn Campus, Victoria University

Friday 16 October 12:10 pm

The last concert of the year in the university school of music’s Friday lunchtime series. I’ve been getting to too few of these rewarding little concerts in the past few years – a failing that I’ve commented on before.

But I was very happy to be there today to listen to what could be described as a somewhat experimental performance: the putting together of two modern, conventional instruments with one, the viola d’amore, that was common between the late 17th century and the end of the 18th, although its use has continued in particular situations to the present, for example in some operas, including Madama Butterfly.

So the viola d’amore was an odd late-comer to and eccentric member of the viol family which was being superseded by the violin family from the late 17th century. The viola d’amore is about the size of the modern viola, held under the chin; it has seven strings plus seven sympathetic strings which resonate with the sounding of relevant pitches on the bowed strings.

It was an enterprise led, no doubt, by NZSM violin and viola teacher, Professor Donald Maurice, who has been drawn to explore this uncommon instrument which can add a subtly different quality to an ensemble, and even to the colour of an opera score.

Strangely, none of the pieces in this concert were written for the viola d’amore, yet each piece sounded thoroughly idiomatic in the amended guise in which the guitar, too, was an unforeseen presence.

The first was a Terzetto for violin, cello and guitar by Paganini (who was a guitarist too). I have to remark that the sound of the viola d’amore was a bit less than comfortable in the beginning, not as close to the warm, mature voice of the viola as I’d expected, but rather thinner and less romantic. When, finally, the cello emerged with the leading voice the whole sound came into much better focus, particularly with the charming guitar contribution. Then there was an engaging conversation between cello and viola d’amore. In the second movement, Andante larghetto, a pretty waltz tune lent a nostalgic quality to the whole and the sound of the viola really did settle down, though the effect of the sympathetic strings didn’t seem to contribute what I’d expected to be a slightly richer array of sonorities from those strings.

Handel was closer to the early phase of the viola d’amore’s existence though I find no evidence that he wrote for it. The Lento from this sonata in G minor for two violins however, was quite lovely with one part given to the viola d’amore and the second to the cello.

Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango offered Jane Curry the chance to play a part actually written for her; but it was also the opportunity for Donald Maurice to change instruments, from that tuned in D major to a second one tuned to A minor. The reason for this was that the instrument is treated like many of the wind instruments, as a transposing instrument, the fingering following the written notes, but not their sound. They played the Café movement of the four movement suite, the guitar with a dreamy, rhapsodic sound and the viola d’amore more mellow than previously. It sounded a very decorous café enlivened with polite, charming music.

It was a real pleasure to hear the first two of Lilburn’s Canzonas. The first is best known because of its beguiling tune which suggests, to me, that had the composer been encouraged to write more in this vein, there could have been a Lilburn equivalent of Farquhar’s Ring round the Moon music. The arrangement for these three instruments was imaginative and effective with guitar picking up the originally strummed viola part and the melody passing delightfully from viola d’amore to Emma Goodbehere’s cello.

The biggest piece – about a quarter of an hour – was Variations on a Polish Folk Song (Ty pójdziesz górą) by American composer Michael Kimber, originally written for viola and string orchestra, based on what sounded like a characteristic peasant folk song. Maurice spoke about the group’s planned trip to Poland next year when they will play this.

Three of the middle variations include a vocal part, presumably the song itself, which the players explored the options for: in Polish? in English? And then because of the innate musicality of the vowel sounds, Maori was settled on. Donald Maurice’s niece Renée Maurice was recruited to sing, and it intrigued me to hear her adopt a singularly authentic Maori quality, with little grace-note-like catches at the beginning of some phrases. As well, a second vocal line was taken rather engagingly, as a moonlighting job by Jane Curry, continuing with her bright instrumental part. The variations were, well, various, some dance-like, some lyrical, some rather dark and disturbing. There was even time to notice the evidently tricky viola d’amore part that Maurice handled, with hardly a slip in the big challenge of bowing only one at a time of the seven only fractionally differentiated strings, not to mention fingering three more than usual strings with the left hand.

The trio is scheduled to play again at the lunchtime concert at St Andrew’s on The Terrace on Wednesday 11 November.