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This week Classical reviewer Geoff Adams listens to Griffiths: Charms & Knots, and Psathas: Ukiyo.
Song cycles sung by the composer make this a definitive 50-minute recording.
Title work is a set written in 1987 when David Griffiths was lecturer in voice at the University of Otago. (He was previously at Auckland University and is now at the University of Waikato.) These songs derive from poems by early 17th-century English poet George Herbert.
New Zealand poets inspired the two 1979 song cycles: Shoriken (16 short verses by Charles Brasch), and Five Songs of Love (A. R. D. Fairburn).
As an experienced singer of lieder and other art songs, Griffiths seems to have written, very naturally, what he sees as a spiritual journey and serious songs of a serious young man, finding rest in the metaphysical Herbert.
Interest: different melody and words in 23rd Psalm.
John Psathas is the most internationally performed of NZ composers. His 2006 album View from Olympus spent four weeks on top of the country's classical charts and he has won three Best Classical Album awards at the NZ Music Awards.
Ukiyo isn't really classical. Its four compositions plus one engineer's remix are percussion-based, featuring Portuguese marimba and vibraphone master Carneiro with Fitzsimmons, with the group Stroma (conductor Hamish McKeich), and electronic sound wizardry.
There are plenty of thumps of explosive energy as well as some moody passages in a blending of rhythm, jazz and Eastern melody. Title work derives from the transient floating world (ukiyo) of Buddhism. Great engineering, but no booklet.
Highlight: longest piece Psyzygysm has big musical forces in feverish rush.