Collaboration produces exquisite results

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Narrative works combining Maori and Western instruments bookend lively Asian offerings.

There was more than one tale to be told in NZTrio’s Convergence concert on Sunday, particularly by the featured New Zealand composers. A new version of Gareth Farr’s 2009 Nga Kete e Toru enlisted Horomona Horo to add a second strand of taonga puoro alongside Richard Nunns.

The task of tracking the ascent of Tane to the 12th heaven lent Farr’s score a generous span. An effective tryst of glassy string harmonics with quavering pumotomoto tawhirirangi, woven around Sarah Watkins’ chiming piano, was the first of many keenly etched sonorities. An eerie dialogue between Nunns’ flute and Justine Cormack’s ghostly violin scales was one; another had pumotomoto toroa bravely adding its song to the dashing romantic melody of the title movement. Only occasionally, as when conch calls floated through one of Farr’s surging toccatas, did the coming together lack conviction.

At the other end of the evening, Victoria Kelly’s new Toi Huarewa/Suspended Way also pursued a mythic narrative. The piece’s collaborative origins were stressed – both Horo and adviser Tim Worrall being given their dues in a short documentary screened before the performance. There was certainly a creative communion here, although at times the restricted voices of the Maori instruments struggled to compete with the timbral richness and language of their Western counterparts. Both, alas, had to deal with the irritation of creaking chairs and the occasional clatter of plastic cups. Watkins delivered the cool, shapely harmonies that Kelly knows so well. And one of the work’s many imaginative touches had Cormack and Ashley Brown’s string lines being bent as if they were sonic elastic.

In between Farr and Kelly, NZTrio played two shorter works by Chinese composers Gao Ping and Chen Yi. Gao’s Four Sketches, commissioned by NZTrio four years ago, teemed with character and incident. The players took to the opening movement with almost terrifying gusto and, tuning into the cultural counterpoint of the third, Brown’s venturesome cello left the constraints of Western tonality far behind.

Chen’s Tibetan Tunes also showed folkish high spirits, although the high point was its more fragile, reflective voice, exquisitely rendered.

 

William Dart – New Zealand Herald, 26 March 2013

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