Music as salvation and sustained beauty

It is 75 years ago that French composer Olivier Messiaen wrote his Quartet for the End of Time. The circumstances of its composition were extraordinary. It was written and performed in a German concentration camp in the depths of winter, 1941.

Messiaen wrote it to bring “eternal light and unalterable peace” to all people. Seventy-five years later, a 27-year-old British clarinettist and the NZTrio are fulfilling Messiaen’s promise, on the other side of the world, with 10 consecutive performances, from Auckland to Invercargill, of this quartet. Bliss believes it is “the greatest piece of chamber music ever written”.

The music depicts angels, jubilant bird song, rainbows, furious apocalyptic trumpets, tenderness and ecstasy. I loved the infinitely slow cello solo, in praise of the eternity of Jesus, and the clarinet solo, the abyss of the birds, full of sustained beauty.

The audience were overwhelmed, as I was, right to the last expansive violin melody floating upward to heaven.

No less ethereal was Ross Harris’s commissioned piece, “There May Be Light”. He wrote this as a companion piece to the Messiaen. But his music was in soft, hushed gestures, exploring and balancing micro-tones, deliberately discordant, as if unable to stay ‘in tune”, capturing the subdued, speechless silence of captivity and uncertainty in a prisoner-of-war camp. A challenging and engrossing composition, meditating on the fragility of life.

The first two items were contrasting twentieth-century French pieces. Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie, written in 1909 for solo clarinet, was performed with unfaltering musicality by Julian Bliss. He has unbelievable dynamic range and soulful tone.

Darius Milhaud’s Suite, written in 1936 as incidental music for Jean Anouilh’s play about an amnesiac war veteran, was jaunty and playful, influenced by Latin folk music and jazz. It was light-hearted, but further illustrated the theme of human adaptability and the loss of sanity in the face of war.

This was a superb concert, unforgettable for the commitment and energy of the musicians and their technical perfection.

Margot Hannigan, Nelson Mail – 2 August 2016

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NZTrio
NZTrioSunday, May 28th, 2017 at 9:00am
A big shout out to NZ On Air and SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music for funding these Resound films of our 2016 FLARE adventure with Simon O'Neill. Performed live at the Great Hall of the Arts Centre of CHCH, this is Alex Taylor's transcription of Strauss's 'Four Lieder' Op.27. More to come.... https://vimeo.com/209649644
NZTrio
R. STRAUSS: Four Lieder, arr. ALEX TAYLOR
This is "R. STRAUSS: Four Lieder, arr. ALEX TAYLOR" by SOUNZ on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.
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NZTrio
NZTrioSaturday, May 27th, 2017 at 6:06pm
Tuesday night's final performance with Justine was special in so many ways - it really felt like a celebration of the incredible music we have enjoyed and the enormous contribution she has made over the years. We were therefore enormously honoured to have been presented, on stage, with a citation and grant by The Lilburn Trust for outstanding services to New Zealand music - the first time in the history of the award that the citation has been given to an ensemble. We couldn't be more proud of our fellow composers, and we will continue to champion their vital and vibrant voices on stage throughout Aotearoa and the world. It truly is a privilege. Thank you!!
NZTrio
NZTrioThursday, May 25th, 2017 at 1:33pm
A big THANK YOU and fond farewell from Justine.
NZTrio
NZTrioWednesday, May 24th, 2017 at 10:31am
And that's a wrap for our beloved Justine. It was a beautiful #swansong and a room/theatre/bar(!) full of palpable love. Thankyou to all our wonderful guests, friends, family, and supporters for sharing it with us.
NZTrio
NZTrioTuesday, May 23rd, 2017 at 11:38am
A few tickets left for tonight's concert. Here's William Dart's review of Sunday's performance. Book here: http://bit.ly/booknztrio. See you there!
NZTrio
NZTrioMonday, May 22nd, 2017 at 2:42pm
Sarah leads a toast to Justine at last night’s concert 🍾🥂

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