St Paul's recital marks milestone

Elizabeth Bouman
Elizabeth Bouman
New Zealand's longest-running composition prize marked 75 years with a recital in St Paul's cathedral last Sunday afternoon, as part of ongoing 150th University of Otago celebrations.

A good-sized audience supported this recital of music by eight composers, beginning with Douglas Lilburn's 1944  organ Prelude and Fugue in G minor - a lyrical legato prelude which made way for the densely contrapuntal fugue with its wildly reckless recapitulation, in a masterful delivery from organist Simon Mace.

Three Housman songs by John Ritchie, composed when he was 26, were presented by a newcomer to Dunedin, Tessa Romano, whose voice soared magnificently in the cathedral, accompanied by Anthony Ritchie, and again later with clarinet (Stephen Cranfield) and cello (Heleen Du Plessis) in Fragments and Letters by Dorothy Buchanan, who also wrote the thought-provoking original text, commissioned by jazz singer Malcolm McNeill in 1995.

Tessa Peterson joined Cranfield for Sonata for Clarinet and Violin (1980) by Peter Adams, and Kerian Varaine's Crave Release for Violin and Piano (2013) performance by Nathaniel Otley (violin) and Tom McGrath (piano) was an effective if rather disturbing statement of today's ecological situation. The various pieces reflected the musical language "of the time'' but 75 years ago, who could have imagined a flute (Feby Idrus) accompanied by electronic
acoustic backing, producing Jeremy Mayall's beautiful evocative soundscape Frosted Air Suite for Flute and Electronics (1915).

Leonie Holmes' Bottom's Dance (2011), referring to A Midsummer Night's Dream, and #Babylife (2018) by Corwin Newall, were works for two pianofortes - in this case one grande and an electronic piano with Terence Dennis, Tom McGrath, Moriah Osborne, Anni Ren.

Newall describes #Babylife, inspired by new fatherhood experience, as cute, chaotic, sweet, sleep-deprived, delightful and disagreeable all at once!'' Parents and grandparents certainly recognised the lot, as eight hands and a "naughty'' page-turner persevered to the end of this fast and frenzied cacophonic piece, contained within sonata-form - a great contemporary work.

The 2019 prize-winner of this long-standing competition was announced as Megan Kyte.

 - Elizabeth Bouman

Philip Neill Memorial Prize in Music Concert
St Paul's cathedral
Sunday, September 29


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