REVIEW: Music Wonderland - New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hamish McKeich with New Zealand String Quartet and Helen Medlyn (mezzo).
Music by Cree Brown, Cresswell and Whitehead
Wellington Town Hall, May 25
Reviewed by John Button
This year's Made in New Zealand concert featured three works, each of which has been performed in New Zealand before.
Still, only Lyell Cresswell's Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet has been done in Wellington, so the Cree Brown and Whitehead pieces were new to this moderately sized audience, and maybe this contributed to the fact that they made a lesser impression. But I doubt it.
I believe that Cresswell's 1997 concerto, composed and premiered in Scotland, is one of his finest works, and it still makes an indelible impression. The interface of the NZSQ with the orchestra created a fine tension - a concerto in the best sense of the word - and, structurally, it is very skilful.
Cree Brown's Celestial Bodies is a sort of updated Planets; a more knowledgeable scientific look at the universe with sections devoted to the likes of Globular Clusters, Dark Matter, Black Holes, Brown Dwarves and Quasars.
There is an electroacoustic element as well, and it is fairly well interfaced with the orchestra, but I must say I found the orchestration lacking the sort of variety I had expected, and which the famous Holst Suite has in abundance, no matter how hackneyed it is today. Well before the end I had had enough.
Gillian Whitehead's mono-drama Alice, composed in 2003, is based on Fleur Adcock's story of a a relative and her travails in moving from England to New Zealand in 1909 to help cure her TB.
The story is a harrowing one, and Helen Medlyn, for whom it was composed, sings it with great fervour and belief. But, again, there was a lack of variety, both in the orchestral writing and in the widely spaced, monochromatic, vocal writing, and this reduced the impact.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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