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, November 12th, 2019 at 4:20pm
A major Uprising is coming to Auckland Dec 11/15. Followed by a tipple and some shortbread hehe ;) Bookings via Eventfinda or nztrio.com - https://mailchi.mp/73dc06fb901a/nztrio-tectonic-uprising-national-eflyer1-3039285
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NZTrioWednesday, November 6th, 2019 at 11:04pm
Big love to our friends at #worldbrandnz - thanks for a lovely night 💗 we highly recommend the IHC tote bags if you are looking for Christmas gifts that give back and make a difference! Very worthy cause and a wonderful way to celebrate 30 years of awesomeness 🌟
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NZTrioWednesday, October 30th, 2019 at 8:57am
Sharing some wonderful insights from Dr Robin Wilson on the importance of music education, including this quote: "It’s unfathomable to me that some people don’t grasp how important music is to the fabric of our society. It goes without saying that music expresses our human condition, conquers boundaries and unites people, inspires us, soothes us, reassures us, challenges us, and ultimately can lift us out of our earthly realm to appreciate something spiritual (regardless of one’s religious beliefs) in moving ways that words and actions cannot.": https://www.cutcommonmag.com/music-education-matters-says-robin-wilson-violin/?fbclid=IwAR0gJUq9d30GspXdtDfWRamQ7pXxnHHGDmg5Ru14ai2P-y3if9Y7dH8cJz0

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