Q + A with The Klara Kollektiv
Kiwis Anna McGregor and Manu Berkeljon, make up two thirds of the The Klara Kollektiv - a Swedish based Trio of Clarinet, Violin and Piano. With their upcoming tour of NZ approaching soon in July, we caught up with all three to chat about the work they have commissioned from Anthony Ritchie, their strong connection with New Zealand, and what aspect of New Zealand they are most looking forward to sharing with Taru Kurki, the one Swedish member of the mesmerizing Trio.
Tell us a little about the genesis of this tour, and how it relates to your Dalecarlia tour back in 2014 (and Album Release)?
As New Zealand musicians living overseas, we (Manu and Anna) believe it is vital to return home to New Zealand and perform. Chamber Music New Zealand has enabled us to do so twice: first in 2014 as members of the Dalecarlia Clarinet and now in our new configuration, the Klara Kollektiv.
When planning tour repertoire we intentionally include a substantial amount of New Zealand music because we feel a responsibility to support composers. Upon completing our previous tour we recorded an album of NZ music for clarinet and string quartet entitled ‘Fjärran – in the Distance’, which went on to win Best Classical Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. The Klara Kollektiv is a continuation of our previous work: this year we are excited to be collaborating with Anthony Ritchie and Rattle Records to record a similar album of New Zealand music for clarinet, violin and piano.
You all have busy schedules and live in different cities in Sweden - what keeps you playing together and how do you manage this?
We all have full-time jobs as professional musicians in Sweden so scheduling rehearsals can be a challenge! Manu is a member of Dalasinfoniettan in Falun, Taru teaches piano at the Falun music conservatory and Anna works at Wermland Opera in Karlstad. A tour like this motivates us to prioritize our ensemble: all of our holidays this year have been used for rehearsals.
How did you meet the members of your trio?
All of us met in Sweden: even the two New Zealanders!
How did you choose your repertoire for this tour? What ties these works together?
We started by selecting two substantial 20th century trios by Bartók and Khachaturian and pairing them with romantic sonatas by Franck and Brahms. Next we added the three works that Anthony Ritchie has written for us: this tour will involve the New Zealand premiere of ‘Three Scenes’ for solo clarinet and Violin Sonata No.3 as well as the world premiere of his new trio ‘Picture Stone’. To finish we chose some short pieces by Sibelius in order to represent Taru’s Finnish nationality as well as the Lilburn Sonatina for clarinet and piano because it’s simply a beautiful piece.
Your programmes feature the work of Dunedin composer Anthony Ritchie, including works that he dedicated to you (Anna - Three Scenes and Manu - Violin Sonata) and also a new commission for the trio. How did this relationship develop?
We first met Anthony when we played his clarinet quintet on tour in 2014 and have been in contact ever since. When he offered to write pieces for us we agreed immediately: he has a distinct voice as a composer and his music is very enjoyable to play. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship: he creates new work and we make sure it gets performed.
Why is new music important to you?
Performing and recording New Zealand music is our way of contributing to our country’s cultural heritage. It’s important to us that audiences have opportunities to hear the music of their own country parallel to classic works.
What are you most looking forward to sharing with Taru in New Zealand?
Flat Whites! Lord of the Rings scenery! And brunch at Fidel's in Wellington!
After the tour - what next?
We have named our trio the Klara ‘collective’ because we intend on continuing our work together in various constellations. Klara Kollektiv will become an umbrella term for the trio, the Dalecarlia Clarinet Quintet and any other instrumentation we decide to choose next. The constants in the ensemble will be the presence of Manu and Anna, and the connection to New Zealand.
High on our priority list would be to commission works by the next generation of New Zealand composers: we haven’t had time for this yet. We would love to be able to offer them funding and international premieres. Sometimes a certain piece by a certain person for a particular instrumentation just needs to exist: we would be so curious to hear the results!
The Klara Kollektiv
Touring NZ 19 July - 9 August. Find out more here.