20 September 2012
An innovative programme, five highly skilled wind players, a combination that promised much and certainly delivered more than anticipated.
The repertoire for this combination belongs almost exclusively to the 20th century, is always highly original in sound, often discordant, usually charming, imaginative and always possessing a character which catches the attention of the listener.
Time and again one or other of the instruments was highlighted – plus sometimes the brilliant top edge of the piccolo, the brooding depth of the bass clarinet and the hunting beauty of the cor anglais – an ever changing palette of fascinating and distinctive timbres.
Solo lines were exceptionally well played, particularly from the higher-pitched instruments, with strong support and underpinning of the upper sounds by the bassoon and horn.
Of special interest was the world premiere of noted NZ composer Gareth Farr’s Mad Little Machine, a typical Farr composition, witty, highly charged and energetic, with a helter skelter ending, music which suited the players admirably in a performance of exemplary clarity in every detail of the score.
Elliott Carter’s Woodwind Quartet, with his two clearly contrasted movements, made a fine opening to the programme – the players following the composer’s mantra of “individualising each instrument, assigning a different character to each one.”
The three movements of Quintet in E by Carl Nielsen was notable for the balance of the clarinet and bassoon duet of the Menuet, the dark tones of the cor anglais in the Prelude and the colour projected in the variations of the final movement.
Each instrument was highlighted in brilliant and elegant playing the seven distinctive movements of Milhaud’s Cheminee do roi Rene, while the timeless character of his native landscape was clearly conveyed in every phrase of Australian composer Ross Edwards’ Incantations. The strongest dissonances were heard in the contrasts of the final item, Six Bagatelles, by Hungarian composer Gyorgi Ligeti, music composed during the strictures of the communist regime. But these were fascinating sounds which made perfect sense in performances of exemplary clarity.
These five principals from the NZSO have a deserved reputation for the quality of their playing, which was enhanced in this concert.
No one in the audience would have left with any doubt of the skill and musicianship.