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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NZTrioTuesday, September 26th, 2017 at 5:35pm
It's been a whirlwind week at the Shanghai Conservatory with the lovely Yuri Cho - a concert at the New Music Week, and 11 new compositions performed last night for the composing competition. At least a million notes flew by.... great to catch up with old friends, make some new ones - and the beer was well earned (and enjoyed) afterwards!!!!
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NZTrioTuesday, September 19th, 2017 at 3:55pm
Congrats Jeroen - superb piece of music :)
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SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music
This week we’re featuring SOUNZ Contemporary Award finalist Jeroen Speak, who is nominated with ’Serendipity Fields’. This is the second time Jeroen has been nominated for the Award. “It is very inspiring seeing the high quality of new music being composed by New Zealand's younger generation today. Salina Fisher and Chris Gendall are both remarkable composers, with unique voices, I congratulate them both.” Jeroen introduces 'Serendipity Fields' below and you can read more about him and the work on SOUNZ Online: http://bit.ly/2xhZoOk APRA AMCOS NZ RNZ Concert NZ On Air NZTrio #silverscrolls17
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NZTrioWednesday, September 6th, 2017 at 10:20am
Last two outings of Exotica (before heading to Kokomai Festival) are this weekend Sept 9 and 10 at #MairangiBayArtsCentre and Leigh Sawmill Cafe - tickets via Eventfinda NZ. This is a RIPPER of a programme, performed in fantastic venues - don't miss it!
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NZTrio
NZTrioFriday, September 1st, 2017 at 5:31pm
Shout out to our fabulous friends at #WORLDBrand, live streaming their show at #NZFW 8.30pm tonight - we'll be watching! Why don't you join us? https://www.facebook.com/WORLDBRAND/photos/a.225832990764414.74363.225828760764837/1810424325638598/?type=1&theater
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NZTrioMonday, August 28th, 2017 at 3:26pm
So great when someone who is new to your work says all the right things! Hope you'll join us for EXOTICA with guest violinist #AndrewBeer at Nathan Homestead this weekend (perfect #FathersDay gift!) Sept 3, 5pm. Tickets via #Eventfinda:http://bit.ly/NZTrio0903
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NZTrioThursday, August 24th, 2017 at 10:07am
Thanks for a great day #MacleansCollege - lovely kids with awesome ideas!

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