Farr delights with richly imagined setting of poems

Gareth Farr's work was rapturously received at the Edinburgh Festival.

Gareth Farr's work was rapturously received at the Edinburgh Festival.

REVIEW: Margaret Medlyn ( mezzo soprano), New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Strings directed by Vesa-Matti Lepanen. Music by Elgar, Sculthorpe, Farr and Vaughan Williams.

This was not a long concert but it was deeply satisfying, with music by four composers who all sat very comfortably together.

I suppose the Anglican cathedral was an appropriate space in many respects but I still felt for the people towards the back; just how they would have made sense of anything surrounded by the huge, confusing, acoustic I don't know.

And there was much to be made sense of.

Although surrounded by distinguished composers, Gareth Farr gave us the highlight of the concert with his richly imagined setting of three poems by Paul Horan in which the sorrow and anger of three widows (relicts) is brought forth with passion and directness, always closely attentive to the words.

There is a richly atmospheric setting for the first song (Onward), a  huge passionate outpouring at points in both Funeral and Remains.

The string writing is superlative and the vocal writing is enormously surefooted. 

I couldn't help thinking of Samuel Barber's ease with the voice – I could offer no higher praise – and Margaret Medlyn was all one could ask for as each of the three women.

Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for Strings, with its close, taut writing, challenged the acoustic, although it was sumptuously played, but the late Peter Sculthorpe's Sonata  for Strings No. 3, in its atmospheric evocation of the Australian people and landscape, worked better in the space, as, too, for the most part, did Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Again well played, with a particular reminder of just how well  Vesa-Matti  Lepanen directed things.

But it was the Farr work – no surprise that it was rapturously received at the Edinburgh Festival – that stole the evening

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 - Stuff.co.nz

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