Tag Archives: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

A quick trip home!

16 Mar

At the first workshop of Relish in Immature Bombast, 24 May 2012, Auckland Town Hall. Photo by Oliver Rosser.

At the first workshop of Relish in Immature Bombast, 24 May 2012, Auckland Town Hall. Photo by Oliver Rosser.

I moved to Chicago on 5 January 2015. Three months on, I’ll be back in New Zealand for a couple of weeks.

To clarify for both Chicagoans and Kiwis: no, I’m not moving back. I still definitely live in Chicago. This trip is to fulfil a long-standing commitment with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra because they’re playing my Relish in Immature Bombast again.

If you’re unfamiliar with this piece, it’s for huge-ass pipe organ, full-on funk/rock/jazz drum kit, and symphony orchestra, take a squiz at this video:

The APO is performing this at Open Orchestra Central, at their home venue of the Auckland Town Hall. Reprising their roles are original soloists Tim Noon (organ) and Jono Sawyer (drum kit) – in fact, it’s ten years since Jono and I first worked together in ska band Jonny Doom & The Forcefields. I’ll be introducing the piece as MC and composer, interviewing some of the performers, and also MCing the rest of the afternoon’s proceedings.

Best of all, this event is totally, 100% free. Come to the Auckland Town Hall at 2pm on Saturday 11 April, and hit “Going” on the Facebook event if that’s your thing.

I also have a fundraiser concert!

Sir James Wallace has been quite generous with both his funds and his home – I’ve got a couple of Wallace Arts Trust-funded compositions in the works, and on Sunday 19 April he’s hosting a house concert for me. Poster:


I’ve invited two other composer-performers to join me:

Corwin Newall isn’t all that well-known outside of Dunedin, but he and I got to work together quite a bit during my Mozart Fellowship year. He’s got a new song cycle called Scientists (with movements about Alfred Nobel, Nikola Tesla, Gertrude Elion and Ernest Rutherford), which I’m singing and he’s playing on piano. He and I are also working on Douglas Lilburn’s Sings Harry (as well as a few other rarer Lilburn songs), and performing them at a few concerts. Also, he’s quite a nifty wordsmith and comedy songwriter… these skills will also be on display.

Grooves Unspoken album coverYvette Audain‘s axes of choice are saxophone and clarinet. She’ll join me for the North Island première of my new Sonatina for alto saxophone and piano (a piece funded by the Wallace Arts Trust). She’s also a great composer who last year released an album of work called Grooves Unspoken, for which I did the design and layout.

This house concert is on Sunday 19 April, and you can book in one of two ways:
Secure your seat with a donation
– Reserve a place and donate on the night: rannoch@wallaceartstrust.org.nz or 027 472 3669

There’s a recommended donation set at $40: this is kinda necessary because I’ve had to pay for my flights back to New Zealand on this trip (long set in advance). I would love to see you there! RSVP on Facebook if you will.

Lunchtime concert at the University of Otago, Wed 15 April.
Pre-concert talk for the APO, Thu 16 April.
Lunchtime concert at the University of Waikato, Wed 22 April.
– I do a concert at 1pm in Hamilton, and fly out of Auckland Airport at 7:30pm. Doable.

PS I’m also in Seattle from 1 to 5 April. Will be nice to visit that city again.

Robbie’s arbitrarily selective list of “new music” in 2015

10 Oct

newmusicEven though I’m not going to be in Auckland to hear (almost) any of this, I’m indulging in habit once more to produce a list of “new music” in the 2015 concert calendar. The APO, the NZSO and CMNZ have all released their seasons quite close to each other.

Points to note:

  • Lilburn 100. I can’t find an official website for that but I presume it’s being run through the Lilburn Trust. Old Gordon was born in 1915, so there’s plenty of his music around in the 2015 season. Quite a lot of chamber music that we don’t hear all that much, and OMG Michael Houstoun’s doing the Chaconne live!
  • Britten 102. You’d think it was his anniversary too, but no. Just coincidence that quite a lot of Benny-Boy is turning up.
  • I’m not bothering with putting in nice photos to break up the long list, since I won’t get to see any of it. Well, except my own pieces and Corwin Newall’s one (obv) and the Dutilleux cello concerto in April. Long story.
  • Kimmo Hakola is a mad bastard. Kari Kriikku is slightly less mad but still incredibly awesome. Well done NZSO for that concerto.

On with it!

New Zealand “New Music” Composers’ Music

BLACKMORE: The First Time I Stood [WP] – Milla Dickens, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
BODY: Melodies for orchestra – APO/Andrew Gourlay – 27 Aug, ATH
COWAN: [new work] [WP] – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
ELLIS: Relish in Immature Bombast – Tim Noon, Jono Sawyer, APO/David Kay – 11 Apr, ATH
ELLIS: [new work] [WP] – Yvette Audain & Robbie Ellis – 19 Apr, Rannoch
FARR: From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs – Atamira Dance Company, APO/[conductor?] – 14 Oct, Aotea
FARR: Shadow of the Hawk – Edward King & John Chen – (18 Aug HAM, 22 Aug WLG)
S FISHER: [new work] – NYO/José Luis Gómez – (2 Jul WLG)
HARRIS: Fugue for piano [WP] – Michael Houstoun – 2 & 4 Oct, ATH CC
HARRIS: Piano Quintet [WP] – Stephen De Pledge & NZSQ – (16 May HAM)
HARRIS: Variation 25 – NZSQ – (16 May HAM)
HARRIS: Violin Concerto – Ilya Gringolts, APO/Garry Walker – 19 Feb, ATH
LILBURN: Allegro for strings – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – 12 June, ATH
LILBURN: Aotearoa Overture – APO/Rumon Gamba – 18 June, ATH
LILBURN: Chaconne – Michael Houstoun – 2 & 4 Oct, ATH CC
LILBURN: Diversions for strings – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – (18 June WLG)
LILBURN: Sonata for violin & piano (1950) – Natalie Lin & John Chen – 30 Aug, ATH CC
LILBURN: Symphony No 2 – NZSO/Christian Lindberg, 2 May, ATH
MANDENO: Au Revoir [WP] – Jarvis Dams, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
MARGETIĆ: Lightbox – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
MORGAN: Seeking Answers to the Riddle [WP] – [Horomona Horo?], APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
NEWALL: Scientists [WP] – Robbie Ellis & Corwin Newall – 19 Apr, Rannoch
NORRIS: Claro [WP] – NZSO/Christian Lindberg – 2 May, ATH
PSATHAS: Corybas – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
PSATHAS: Island Songs – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
TAYLOR: burlesques mécaniques – NZTrio – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
WEBSTER: Your Letter [WP] – Elizabeth Mandeno, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum
WILLIAMS: Symphony No 1, Letters from the Front [WP] – George Henare?, Madeleine Pierard?, NZSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 Apr, ATH
K YOUNG: In Paradisum [WP] – Patricia Wright, Graduate Choir, Choir of Holy Trinity Cathedral, APO/Kenneth Young, Tim Gruchy – 4 Mar, ATH
K YOUNG: [Gallipoli Armistice commission] [WP] – St Kentigern College Choir, APO/Hamish McKeich – 25 May, Museum

Living Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

J ADAMS: Short Ride in a Fast Machine – APO/Garry Walker – 19 Feb, ATH
BERNSTEIN/FOSS: Prelude, Fugue & Riffs – APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
BOURGEOIS: Oesteoblast – Aucktet – 10 Aug, St Michael’s Remuera + 11 Aug, Takapuna Methodist
CORIGLIANO: Flute Concerto, Pied Piper Fantasy – Adam Walker, APO/Eckehard Stier – 5 Nov, ATH
CRESPO: Bruckner Etude – Aucktet – 10 Aug, St Michael’s Remuera + 11 Aug, Takapuna Methodist
HAKOLA: Clarinet Concerto – Kari Kriikku, NZSO/Miguel Harth-Bedoya – 6 Nov, ATH
LEDGER: War Music [WP] – Madeleine Pierard?, NZYC, NZSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 Apr, ATH
LÓPEZ: Perú Negro – NZSO/Miguel Harth-Bedoya – 6 Nov, ATH
MÁRQUEZ: Danzón No 2 – APO/Andrew Sewell – 7 Mar, Govt House
J SANDSTRÖM: Echoes of Eternity – Christian Lindberg, David Bremner, NZSO – 2 May, ATH
SCIARRINO: No 2 from Sei Capricci for violin – Justine Cormack – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
SØRENSEN: Trumpet Concerto – Tine Thing Helseth, APO/Eivind Gulberg Jensen – 6 May, ATH
STAUD: Für Bálint András Varga – Vienna Piano Trio – 23 Oct, ATH

Dead Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

BABAJANIAN: Piano Trio – NZ Chamber Soloists – 23 May, ATH CC
  Adagio for strings – APO/Alejo Pérez – 22 Oct, ATH
BARTÓK: Dance Suite – APO/Ilyich Rivas – 14 May, ATH
BARTÓK: String Quartet No 5 – Brodsky Quartet – (18 Mar HAM, 26 Mar WLG)
BARTÓK: Violin Concerto No 2 – Benjamin Schmid, APO/Rumon Gamba – 18 Jun, ATH
BERIO: Folk Songs – Fiona Campbell, APO/Ilyich Rivas – 14 May, ATH
BERNSTEIN: Songs from West Side Story – Anna Leese, APO/Andrew Sewell – 7 Mar, Govt House
BRITTEN: Four Sea Interludes – NZSO/Thomas Søndergård – 22 May, ATH
BRITTEN: Poème – Brodsky Quartet – (18 Mar HAM, 26 Mar WLG)
BRITTEN: Simple Symphony Op 4 – Turnovsky Jubilee Ensemble – 12 June, ATH
BRITTEN: Suite for violin & piano Op 6 – Natalie Lin & John Chen – (18 Aug HAM, 22 Aug WLG)
BRITTEN: Violin Concerto – Anthony Marwood, NZSO/Thomas Søndergård – 22 May, ATH
COPLAND: Clarinet Concerto – Julian Bliss, APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man – NZSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 Apr, ATH
DUTILLEUX: Tout un monde lointain – Nicolas Altstaedt, APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 Apr, ATH
GERSHWIN: Girl Crazy – APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
GINASTERA: Pampeana No 2 – Edward King & John Chen – 30 Aug, ATH CC
KHACHATURIAN: Excerpts from Gayane Suites – APO/Andrew Gourlay – 27 Aug, ATH
LIGETI: Cello Sonata – Ashley Brown & Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
LIGETI: Cordes à vide – Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
LIGETI: Melodien – APO/Gergely Madaras – 26 Feb, ATH
LUTOSŁAWSKI: Concerto for orchestra – NZSO/Miguel Harth-Bedoya – 6 Nov, ATH
NANCARROW: Sonatina for piano – Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
PIAZZOLLA: Libertango – APO/Andrew Sewell – 7 Mar, Govt House
POULENC: Organ Concerto – David Briggs, APO
RUSSO: Street Music – Corky Siegel, APO/Eckehard Stier – 16 July, ATH
SCHOENBERG: Accompaniment to a cinematographic scene – APO/Giordano Bellincampi – 8 Oct, ATH
SCHOENBERG arr Steuermann: Verklärte Nacht – Vienna Piano Trio – (16 Oct WLG, 22 Oct HAM)
SCULTHORPE: Earth Cry – William Barton, APO/Andrew Gourlay – 27 Aug, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Firebird – APO/Richard Gill (unwrap) – 13 Aug, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Firebird Suite (1919) – APO/Giordano Bellincampi – 1 Oct, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Pulcinella Suite – APO/Eckehard Stier – 9 July, ATH
STRAVINSKY: Rite of Spring – NZSO/Jaime Martín – 27 Nov, ATH
TAKEMITSU: I hear the water dreaming – Katie Zagórski, APO/Kenneth Young – 4 Mar, ATH
TIPPETT: A Child of Our Time – Indra Thomas, Victoria Simmonds, Nicky Spence, Derek Welton, Voices NZ Chamber Choir, NZYC, APO/Eckehard Stier – 21 Mar, ATH
WALTON: Cello Concerto – Jakob Koranyi, NZSO/Jaime Martín – 27 Nov, ATH
WEBERN: Four Pieces for violin and piano – Justine Cormack & Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)
WEBERN: Three Pieces for cello and piano – Ashley Brown & Sarah Watkins – (7 May PN, 9 May WLG)

Fact of the Day, Day, Day, Day, Day

20 Aug

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra is an organisation I’ve had plenty to do with since I was a teenager. They played my first orchestral compositions (now blessedly forgotten); they ran the New Zealand Secondary Schools Symphony Orchestra when I played double bass, their concerts introduced me to such key works as Mahler 3, Concierto de Aranjuez and the West Side Story Symphonic Dances; and that’s all before I’d left high school.

Now I’m an adult[citation needed], I’ve done damn near everything for the orchestra except play in it. Composing, arranging, MCing, pre-concert talks (like next week’s concert), video production, tutoring high school composers for APOPS, and I regularly present radio broadcasts of their concerts on Radio New Zealand Concert (e.g. in two weeks’ time).

Yesterday, I added “conducting” and “fronting for commercial radio” to my APO CV.

Fletch, Vaughan & Megan present the breakfast show on the Top 40 station ZM, and one of their regular segments is “Fact of the Day”. The three of them perform the musical intro sting live every morning:

Last week they pondered having it performed by an orchestra. Long story short:
– ZM is part of The Radio Network
– TRN’s parent company is APN
– APN publishes the New Zealand Herald
– The Herald is the naming rights sponsor of the APO’s 12-concert Premier Series
– TRN talked to APO Sponsorship
– APO Sponsorship talked to APO Artistic
– APO Artistic talked to me.

The Artistic Planning Manager might have been thinking of these vocal mockups from 2011. They were part of my proposal to write the piece that would become Relish in Immature Bombast:

This isn’t thaat far apart from what Fletch, Vaughan and Megan do every morning. A few more voices, a few more octaves, but just as out of tune!

I did two different arrangements: one straight as per their style, and a sad version “for serious facts”.


(I actually worked on these arrangements while in the broadcast booth for Bach’s St John Passion.)

Then came the recording. The three ZM DJs, plus a cohort of videographers, soundies and social media folk, turned up to Philharmonia Hall in Mt Eden. They had their fun in and around the orchestra’s rehearsal space following the full orchestra’s James Bond rehearsal, while the Operations team, with their usual military precision, took exactly 15 minutes to clear the room of extraneous players and set up for an 18-piece string orchestra.

Then it was on me! I’m not a conductor by training or even by habit, but I did get to do these dozen bars as my professional orchestra conducting debut. Was a bit scary demonstrating musicality in front of full-time players who know me more as a composer and general loudmouth, but I got through it by summoning all of my conducting training (one semester with Dr Karen Grylls, nine years ago… I think I got an A- or B+).

It’ll be used for Fact of the Day on air tomorrow morning at about 8:20am, and it’s also in a video on zmonline.com! Click through to enjoy my conducting, Vanessa Carlton piano skills, and general social media fronting.

Freelancing. It’s a fun job.

Update: It’s in the morning show podcast, listen from 44:48)

Speaking of Vanessa Carlton, I uploaded this yesterday:

Robbie’s arbitrarily selective list of “new music” in 2014

15 Oct

newmusicAfter last year’s compiled list, I’m doing the same again this year. Four major classical music organisations that operate in Auckland have released their 2014 programmes: the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Chamber Music New Zealand, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and New Zealand Opera (today at The Cloud).

I have gone through the programmes and picked out all the “new music” that’s in there in one easy-to-read list. Aren’t you fullas lucky?

In New Zealand Opera’s case, there is no “new music” to mention, but that’s not too surprising given there are only three productions next year. In the case of the other organisations, there’s a reasonable smattering. The APO has the most I’m looking forward to. CMNZ’s Kaleidoscope Series has some cool stuff, as will their Encompass Series (not announced yet, but pieces of mine are in there :-)). The NZSO’s brochure has this animal:

We don't care, we ain't caught up in your love of hair

That cat on Page 4 of the season brochure is weird. Just weird. And very out of context. I’ve heard it relates to a subsequent announcement from the NZSO though.

Onto the list! All dates are for Auckland unless otherwise specified. An asterisk * indicates a world première performance.

Added 22 October: Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.
Added 23 October:
New Zealand Festival

New Zealand “New Music” Composers’ Music

What I most want to see: Gao Ping is a rare creature in the modern world - a composer with the chops to perform his own piano concertos. His 四不相 (Si Buxiang, The Four Not-Alikes) looks like a concerto for piano and traditional Chinese orchestra.

What I most want to see: Gao Ping is a rare creature in the modern world – a composer with the chops to perform his own piano concertos. His 四不相 (Si Bu Xiang, The Four Not-Alike) looks like a concerto for piano and traditional Chinese orchestra.

*? Jack Body: Beat (among NZSQ, Forbidden City CO/Liu Shun, Gao Ping, Xiao Ma – 15 March)
Jack Body: Caravan (Nikki Chooi – 16 June)
Jack Body: Little Elegies (NZSO/Hamish McKeich – 2 May)
* Lyell Cresswell: The Clock Stops (Jonathan Lemalu, NZSO/James MacMillan – 10 May)
* Simon Eastwood/Natalie Hunt/Karlo Margetić/Tabea Squire: [new work from The Travelling Portmanteau] (NZSQ – 12 May)
Gareth Farr: Te Puna o Waiwhetu (CSO/Tom Woods – 22 February, Christchurch)
* Gareth Farr: [new piano concerto] (Tony Lee, NZSO/Pietari Inkinen – 28 March, Wellington only)
* Gao Ping: Si Bu Xiang (The Four Not-Alike) (Gao Ping, Forbidden City CO/Liu Shun – 15 March)
* Ross Harris: Aria for viola and string orchestra (Robert Ashworth, APO/Giordano Bellincampi – 5 June)
* Ross Harris: Requiem for the Fallen (Voices NZ Chamber Choir & NZSQ – 28 February, Wellington only)
Ross Harris: Te Moanapouri (CSO/Tom Woods – 17 May, Christchurch)
*? Dylan Lardelli: Secrets, Listening to the Qin (among NZSQ, Forbidden City CO/Liu Shun, Gao Ping, Xiao Ma – 15 March)
Douglas Lilburn: Aotearoa Overture (NYO/Ben Northey – 6-7 February, Wellington & Napier only)
* Michael Norris/David Downes: Wu Xing (Five Phases) (among NZSQ, Forbidden City CO/Liu Shun, Gao Ping, Xiao Ma – 15 March)
* Celeste Oram: macropsia (APO – 21 May)
John Psathas: Between Zero and One (Strike Percussion – 10 March, Wellington)
John Psathas: View from Olympus (Evelyn Glennie, Stephen De Pledge, APO/Hans Graf – 4 September)
* Anthony Ritchie: Symphony No 4 (Jenny Wollerman, CSO/Tom Woods – 22 February, Christchurch)
* Kenneth Young: [new work for brass] (Woolston Brass, CSO Brass/Kenneth Young – 20 September, Christchurch)
* Kenneth Young: [new work] (APO/Carlos Miguel Prieto – 16 October)
* [NYO Composer-in-Residence]: [new work] (NYO/Alexander Shelley – 19 July)

Living Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

What I most want to see: This Strayan fair dinkum muso Bretto Deano's concerto for trumpet...-o... yes. Only got premièred a couple of months back, and somehow I missed Håkan Hardenberger on his last visit here in 2007 (I think). Not gonna miss this one.

What I most want to see: This Strayan fair dinkum muso Bretto Deano‘s concerto for trumpet…-o… yes. Only got premièred a couple of months back, and somehow I missed Håkan Hardenberger on his last visit here in 2007 (I think). Not gonna miss this one.

Harrison Birtwistle: Oockooing Bird (Joanna MacGregor – 27 March)
John Corigliano: Violin Concerto, The Red Violin (Chloë Hanslip, APO/Eckehard Stier – 20 February)
Brett Dean: Eclipse (Doric SQ – 17-31 July, Dun/Ham/Nap/Wel/Chc only)
Brett Dean: Trumpet Concerto, Dramatis Personæ (Håkan Hardenberger, NZSO/Dmitri Slobodeniouk – 18 October)
*? Gao Weijie: Three Songs of Yuan Qu (among NZSQ, Forbidden City CO/Liu Shun, Gao Ping, Xiao Ma – 15 March)
Osvaldo Golijov: Ainadamar (Kelley O’Connor, Jessica Rivera, Jesus Montoya, Leanne Keneally, James Clayton, NZSO/Miguel Harth-Bedoya – 2 March, Wellington only)
Sofia Gubaidulina: ‘The Little Tit’, from Musical Toys (Joanna MacGregor – 27 March)
Sampo Haapamäki: Signature (CSO/Tom Woods, 24 & 25 May, Christchurch)
Matthew Hindson: Homage to Metallica (NYO/Ben Northey – 6-7 February, Wellington & Napier only)
György Kurtág: Six moments musicaux (Kelemen Quartet – 19 March)
James MacMillan: The Confession of Isobel Gowdie (NZSO/James MacMillan – 10 May)
James MacMillan: Woman of the Apocalypse (NZSO/James MacMillan – 10 May)
Torsten Rasch: Lycanthropy Aria, from The Duchess of Malfi (Tobias Cole, CSO/Tom Woods – 21 May, Christchurch)
Peter Sculthorpe: Memento mori (NZSO/Hamish McKeich – 2 May)
John Williams: Bassoon Concerto, The Five Sacred Trees (Ingrid Hagan, APO/Tito Muñoz – 1 May)
*? Zou Hang: Shi Bian Wu Hua (Ten Changes and Five Variables) (among NZSQ, Forbidden City CO/Liu Shun, Gao Ping, Xiao Ma – 15 March)

Dead Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

What I most want to see: this was tricky. Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra was a revelation when I played it in uni orchestra, Pacific 231 will be a mean-as concert opener... but ultimately it's Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta which will kick the most ass live.

What I most want to see: this was the trickiest to pick just one. Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra was a revelation when I played it in uni orchestra, Pacific 231 will be a mean-as concert opener… but ultimately it’s Leoš Janáček‘s Sinfonietta which will kick the most ass live. Part of the same trumpetlicious gig as the Brett Dean work.

Béla Bartók: Concerto for orchestra (CSO/Tom Woods – 18 October, Christchurch)
Béla Bartók: Sonata for two pianos and percussion (Diedre Irons, Michael Endres, Thomas Guldborg & Lenny Sakofsky – 1 September)
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No 4 (Kelemen Quartet – 9-18 March, Dun/Nsn/Wel/Nap/Ham only)
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No 5 (Kelemen Quartet – 19 March)
Alban Berg: Three Fragments from Wozzeck (Jenny Wollerman, APO/Eckehard Stier – 24 July)
Benjamin Britten: Noye’s Fludde (NZ Opera – during the New Zealand Festival, Wellington)
Benjamin Britten: Soirées musicales (after Rossini) (NZSO/Junichi Hirokami – 22 November)
George Gershwin: Preludes (Nikki Chooi & Stephen De Pledge – 9-24 June, NP/PNorth/Inv only)
Henryk Górecki: Symphony No 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Sara Macliver, NZSO/Hamish McKeich – 2 May)
Arthur Honegger: Pacific 231 (APO/Eckehard Stier – 27 February)
Leoš Janáček: Sinfonietta (NZSO/Dmitri Slobodeniouk – 18 October)
Erich Korngold: Much Ado About Nothing Suite (NZSO/Alexander Shelley – 25 July)
Erich Korngold: String Quartet No 2 (Doric SQ – 20 July)
Erich Korngold: Violin Concerto (Mikhail Ovrutsky, NZSO/Pietari Inkinen – 4 April)
György Ligeti: String Quartet No 1, Métamorphoses nocturnes (Kelemen Quartet – 9-18 March, Ham/Nap/Wlg/Nsn/Dun only)
Witold Lutosławski: Concerto for orchestra (APO/Tito Muñoz – 1 May)
Joseph Marx: [selected songs] (Christine Brewer, APO/Leo Hussain – 28 August)
Olivier Messiaen: L’Ascension: Quatre méditations symphoniques (CSO/Tom Woods – 23 August, Christchurch)
Olivier Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques (Joanna MacGregor, APO/John Nelson – 27 March)
Nikolai Myaskovsky: String Quartet No 13 (Borodin Quartet – 22 October)
Francis Poulenc: Sinfonietta (APO/Paul Goodwin – 9 October)
Alfred Schnittke: Concerto for piano with string orchestra (Ragna Schirmer, APO/Eckehard Stier – 20 November)
Alfred Schnittke: Concerto Grosso No 2 for violin, cello and orchestra (Mark Menzies, Ashley Brown, CSO/Tom Woods – 14 June, Christchurch)
Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No 1 (Aroha SQ – 13-25 October, Nsn/Inv/PNorth/NP/Ham only)
Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No 11 (Borodin Quartet – 22 October)
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No 5 (NZSO – 13 March, Wellington only)
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No 12 (APO/Eckehard Stier – 20 November)
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No 15 (NZSO/Alexander Lazarev – 24 May)
Igor Stravinsky: Petrushka [1947 version] (APO/Eckehard Stier – 20 February)
Igor Stravinsky: Petrushka (CSO/Tom Woods – 14 June, Christchurch)
Igor Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale Suite (APO/Eckehard Stier – 30 October)
William Walton: Henry V Suite (NZSO/Alexander Shelley – 25 July)
Anton Webern: Six Pieces for orchestra (APO/Giordano Bellincampi – 5 June)


The Adults meet the APO (Jon Toogood, Julia Deans, Shayne Carter, Steve Bremner, Ladi6, Anika Moa, APO/Hamish McKeich – 30 January)
Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular (heaps of guests, choirs, NZSO – 21 & 22 February, Wellington only)
Serj Tankian’s Orca and Elect the Dead symphonies (CSO/Hamish McKeich – 29 March, Christchurch)
The Golden Age of Broadway (Tim Beveridge, Julia Booth, Juliet Reynolds-Midgley, Tainui Kuru, Christchurch Pops Choir, CSO/Luke Di Somma – 11-12 April, Christchurch & Timaru)
Traditional Chinese works (Aroha SQ – 13-25 October, Nsn/Inv/PNorth/NP/Ham only)
Settling the Score Live – an opportunity for you to nominate some “new music” (APO – 28 November)

Now this is a story all about how

6 May

Yo quiero Liberty Bell.

Yo quiero Liberty Bell.

I’m in Philadelphia. I’m so near the end of my travels. There’s an organ concert on in two weeks’ time in Auckland, which contains my piece Relish in Immature Bombast. I made a video, because I’m staying just a few blocks away from the biggest (working) organ in the world.

This was made at the request of SOUNZ – The Centre for New Zealand Music. They do great things – music retail (scores, CDs, DVDs, books), reference library services, music promotion – for New Zealand art music. Normally they’d send someone with a camera to get me to answer questions, but last time I checked they didn’t have a branch office here… or anywhere outside Wellington.

If you haven’t booked your tickets for Organ Spectacular, this whole paragraph is a link to the event page on the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s website. The APO has a Buy Tickets link and tickets are only $15 for students and $25 for real humans. You really should buy said tickets and come to this concert on Thursday 23 May.

And there’s a Facebook event too.

Now ONTO THE VIDEO! You can hear four tiny bits of my piece scattered throughout the four-minute span. And you should go to SOUNZ’s transcript which has linky links to information and stuff.

And thanks to my improviser friend and Philadelphia native Bobbi Block for doing some of the videoing.

Robbie’s arbitrarily selective list of “new music” in 2013

26 Oct

Many performing arts organisations released their 2013 programmes this month, including APO, CMNZ and NZSO (in chronological order). I have combed their offerings to assemble a list of “new music” you can hear next year, if you’re interested in such things.

Classification of what “new music” is is entirely arbitrary. An asterisk * indicates a world première. Unless noted, all dates are the Auckland performances, because that’s where I’m living next year and this list is primarily for my benefit. My arbitrariness extends to a level of laziness sufficient not to chronicle the entire country.

Also, lots of organisations with smaller budgets are yet to announce their programmes. No, I probably won’t keep updating this list as they do.

(Added 1 November: Auckland Arts Festival.)
(Added 6 November: Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, even though they’re coming nowhere near Auckland.)
(Added 7 November: Michael Hill International Violin Competition, with its NZ test piece.)
(Added 16 November: the Adam Chamber Music Festival in Nelson. Quite a lot of “new” music there.)

New Zealand “New Music” Composers’ Music

What I most want to see: Jack Body’s expansion/reworking of his  Carmen Dances from 2002. Pity I’ll be in the USA in March. (Photo: apo.co.nz)

* Chris Adams: Mahuika (Nicholas Sutcliffe, APO/Hamish McKeich – 23 May)
Christopher Blake: Till Human Voices Wake Us (James Egglestone, NZSO/Tecwyn Evans – 24 April, Wellington only)
Jack Body: Arum Manis (Kronos Quartet – 11-14 March, WN CH & DN only)
* Jack Body: Songs and Dances of Desire (Norio Sato, Xiao Ma, Anna Pierard, APO/Kenneth Young – 8 March)
* Jack Body: [new work for solo violin] (Michael Hill International Violin Competition semi-finalists – 2-3 July, Queenstown)
* Claire Cowan: [new work for piano trio] (NZTrio – 8 May)
Lyell Cresswell: Concerto for piano and orchestra (Stephen De Pledge, CSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 March, CH)
Phil Dadson: MAYA (CSO/Tecwyn Evans – 16 Feb, CH)
* Eve de Castro-Robinson: the glittering hosts of heaven (NZSO/Pietari Inkinen – 21 June)
* Robbie Ellis: Relish in Immature Bombast (Tim Noon, Jono Sawyer, APO/Hamish McKeich – 23 May) THAT’S ME 🙂
David Farquhar: Short Suite from Ring Round the Moon (NZSO/Tecwyn Evans – 12-19 October, Wellington, Otago & Southland only)
* Gao Ping: The Mountain (CSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 March, CH)
Gao Ping: Su Xie Si Ti – Four Sketches (NZTrio – 24 March)
Gareth Farr: Ahi (NZTrio – 8 February, Nelson)
Gareth Farr: The Nor’West Arch (CSO/Tom Woods – 31 August, CH)
* Gareth Farr: [new work for string quartet] (Goldner String Quartet – 3 October)
(*) Gareth Farr/Richard Nunns: Ngā Kete o Toru (Horomona Horo, NZTrio – 24 March)
* David Hamilton: Chimera (John Wells, APO/Hamish McKeich – 23 May)
* Ben Hoadley: Huia (Indra Hughes, APO/Hamish McKeich – 23 May)
* Samuel Holloway: [new work] (some or all of Jack Liebeck, Victoria Sayles, Julia Joyce, Andrew Joyce & Stephen De Pledge – 15-31 July, closest is Hamilton)
Ross Harris: Chaconne for solo viola (Gillian Ansell – 2 February, Nelson)
* Ross Harris: String Quartet No 5, Songs from Childhood (New Zealand String Quartet – 6 February, Nelson)
* Ross Harris: Symphony No 5 (Sally-Anne Russell, APO/Eckehard Stier – 15 August)
* Ross Harris: [new work for flute, saxophone & piano] (Rebecca Steele, Debbie Rawson & Diedre Irons – 2-9 March, closest is Hamilton)
* Martin Jaenecke: Meditation (instrumentation TBA – 8 February, Nelson)
* Victoria Kelly: Toi Huarewa/Suspended Way (Horomona Horo, NZTrio – 24 March)
Douglas Lilburn: Drysdale Overture (APO/Nicholas Altstaedt – 5 September)
* Jenny McLeod: [new song cycle] (Jenny Wollerman & Emma Sayers – 6 February, Nelson)
* Philip Norman: Mahy (Juliet Reynolds, Tainui Kuru, CSO/Kenneth Young – 4 May, CH)
Larry Pruden: Soliloquy for strings (NZSO/Pietari Inkinen – 12 April)
John Psathas: Abisheka (New Zealand String Quartet – 9 February, Nelson)
John Psathas: Helix (NZTrio – 6 February, Nelson)
John Psathas: Orpheus in Rarohenga (Jenny Wollerman, Paul Whelan, Orpheus Choir of Wellington, NZSO/Tecwyn Evans – 25 May)
John Ritchie: String Quartet (Penderecki String Quartet – 6 February, Nelson)
Craig Utting arr. Owen Moriarty: Onslow Suite, 2nd mvt (New Zealand Guitar Quartet – 9 February, Nelson)
* Ed Ware: Duo for saxophone & viola (Martin & Victoria Jaenecke – 8 February, Nelson)
* Ryan Youens: Tiraki (Nicholas Forbes, APO/Hamish McKeich – 23 May)
* Anthony Young: Thirteen – Theme and Variations (Rachael Griffiths-Hughes, APO/Hamish McKeich – 23 May)

Living Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

What I most want to see: Kalevi Aho’s piano concerto is fifty-odd minutes of childlike play. I can only imagine what his percussion concerto with Colin Currie will be like. (Photo: fennicagehrman.fi)

John Adams: Harmonielehre (NZSO/Tecwyn Evans – 25 May)
Thomas Adès: Three Studies from Couperin (APO/Garry Walker – 30 May)
Kalevi Aho: Sieidi (Colin Currie, NZSO/Osmo Vänskä – 13 July)
Sérgio Assad: Uacarena (New Zealand Guitar Quartet – 9 February, Nelson)
Chen Yi: Tibetan Tunes (NZTrio – 24 March)
Ross Edwards: Symphony No 1, Da pacem Domine (NZSO/Tecwyn Evans – 24 April, Wellington only)
Marc Eychenne: Cantilène et Danse (Rebecca Steele, Debbie Rawson & Diedre Irons – 2-9 March, closest is Hamilton)
Sofia Gubaidulina: Lied ohne Worte (TBA who… probably Martin Jaenecke on saxophone, but it’s a trumpet & piano piece? – 8 February, Nelson)
Christos Hatzis: Quartet (Penderecki String Quartet – 9 February, Nelson)
Ian Krouse: Antique Suite after Neusidler (New Zealand Guitar Quartet – 9 February, Nelson)
Ram Narayan (arr Kronos transc. Ljova): Raga Mishra Bhairavi: Alap (Kronos Quartet – 11-14 March, WN CH & DN only)
Arvo Pärt: Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten (NZSO/Osmo Vänskä – 13 July)
Einojuhani Rautavaara: Cantus Arcticus (APO/Eckehard Stier – 7 November)
Steve Reich: WTC 9/11 (Kronos Quartet – 9 March)
Wolfgang Rihm: String Quartet No 11 (Minguet Quartet – 3 February, Nelson)
Paul Schoenfield: Café Music (NZTrio – 8 February, Nelson)
Bright Sheng: Four Movements for piano trio (NZTrio – 8 May)
Valentyn Silvestrov: String Quartet No 3 (Kronos Quartet – 11-14 March, WN CH & DN only)
Tan Dun: Ghost Opera (Wu Man & Kronos Quartet – 9 March)
Tan Dun: Martial Arts Trilogy (Ryu Goto, Tan Wei, Yingdi Sun, NZSO/Tan Dun – 15 February)
Mark-Anthony Turnage: Scherzoid (APO/Eckehard Stier – 21 February)
Aleksandra Vrebalov: …hold me, neighbor, in this storm… (Kronos Quartet – 11-14 March, WN CH & DN only)
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Piano Trio (NZTrio – 8 May)
Wu Man/David Harrington/Chen Shi-Zheng: A Chinese Home (Wu Man & Kronos Quartet – 9 March)

Dead Foreign “New Music” Composers’ Music

What I most want to see: The Rake’s Progress. How badass is the APO for putting that on? (Picture: wikipedia.org)

Alexander Arutiunian: Trumpet Concerto (Brent Grapes, APO/Eckehard Stier – 28 February)
Béla Bartók: Music for strings, percussion and celesta (APO/Rory Macdonald – 4 July)
Béla Bartók: Rhapsody No 1 for violin & piano (Douglas Beilman & Péter Nágy – 7 February, Nelson)
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No 5 (Penderecki String Quartet – 7 February, Nelson)
Béla Bartók: String Quartet No  6 (Tokyo String Quartet – 14 June)
Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story Symphonic Dances (CSO/Tom Woods – 23 November)
Benjamin Britten: Violin Concerto (Kolja Blacher, NZSO/Lawrence Renes – 28 September)
Benjamin Britten: Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (NZSO/Joana Carneiro – 8 November)
Benjamin Britten: War Requiem (Orla Boylan, Timothy Robinson, Ivan Ludlow, Voices NZCC/Karen Grylls, APO/Eckehard Stier – 23 March)
Paul Hindemith: Cello Concerto (Johannes Moser, APO/Michał Dworzyński – 16 May)
Zoltán Kodály: Dances of Galánta (APO/Nicholas Collon – 20 June)
Erich Korngold: Piano Trio (NZTrio – 2-16 May, closest is Hamilton)
Erich Korngold: Symphony in F# (APO/Eckehard Stier – 1 August)
György Ligeti: Trio for horn, violin & piano (Robert Johnson, Helene Pohl & Péter Nágy – 3 February, Nelson)
Bohuslav Martinů: Julietta Suite (APO/Eckehard Stier – 1 August)
Bohuslav Martinů: Madrigal Stanzas (Jack Liebeck & Stephen De Pledge – 22 July)
Ástor Piazzolla: Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (CSO/Tom Woods – 25 May CH, 26 May TIM)
Francis Poulenc: Flute Sonata (Rebecca Steele & Diedre Irons – 2-9 March, closest is Hamilton)
Francis Poulenc: Les Biches Suite (APO/Eckehard Stier – 24 October)
Arnold Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande (APO/Eckehard Stier – 25 July)
Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht (APO/Eckehard Stier – 14 November)
Alexander Scriabin: Symphony No 4, Poem of Ecstasy (NZSO/Pietari Inkinen – 22 March, Wellington only)
Alexander Scriabin: Twelve Preludes (Péter Nágy – 2 February, Nelson)
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird, 1919 version (CSO/Benjamin Northey – 23 March, CH)
Igor Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress (Andrew Goodwin, Madeleine Pierard, Paul Whelan, Liane Keegan, Helen Medlyn, Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus/John Rosser, APO/Eckehard Stier – 9 August)
Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (CSO/Tom Woods – 31 August, CH) START A BLOODY RIOT
Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (APO/Eckehard Stier – 14 November) START A BLOODY RIOT Take 2
Igor Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale (Julia Milsom, Emma Johnston, George Parker, CSO/Hamish McKeich & Peter Falkenberg – 18 & 19 September, CH)
Jenő Takács: Two Fantastics (Debbie Rawson & Diedre Irons – 2-9 March, closest is Hamilton)
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Assobio a Jato (Bridget Douglas & Rolf Gjelsten – 2 February, Nelson)
Kurt Weill: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny Suite (APO/Eckehard Stier – 24 October)
Kurt Weill: The Threepenny Opera Suite (APO/Eckehard Stier – 24 October)


– The Penderecki Quartet in Nelson Lakes National Park (5 February) – includes works by Erwin Schulhoff & Marjan Mozetich
– Richard Nunns at the Adam Chamber Music Festival in the morning, and in the evening with Whirimako Black (6 February)
– Wu Man at the Auckland Arts Festival (10 March) – lots of major composers have written for pipa for her
– NZSO National Youth Orchestra/Richard Gill (31 August) – includes “NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composer Awards Commission”
– APO Sanctuary Series: Percussion & Friends (7 & 9 October) – likely to include “new music”
– The Tallis Scholars (23 October) – performing works by John Tavener & Arvo Pärt.

Upbeat on Upbeat

28 Sep

Just had an interview with Eva Radich on Radio New Zealand Concert’s Upbeat programme. I talk about:

Eva joins the list of people who don’t like the title ‘Relish in Immature Bombast’. I suggest it’s still no less ridiculous than ‘Concerto for Organ, Drum Kit and Orchestra No 1’.

Listen below:

Upbeat – 28 September 2012 – Robbie Ellis

When plans change.

11 Sep

I'm probably not supposed to do this to the logo.A month ago I was informed that my application for the 2013 University of Otago Mozart Fellowship was unsuccessful.

Given the largely consistent pattern in the last decade of Mozart Fellows having two years on the trot, I was under the illusion that a second term was assured as long as you were doing good work and got your application in on time.

Obviously I was wrong – all applications are assessed against each other fairly and without favouritism. Consequently I offer my congratulations to composer Samuel Holloway and the four other fellows just announced.

I’m grateful one of the selection panel rang me to break the news personally. Extending the courtesy of a phone call sure beats the terse two-sentence letter subsequently posted to me by the university’s HR department.

Still, it hardly lessened the effective kick in the guts. I went into a disbelieving stupor – after all, two years in a row was standard. What the hell had I done wrong? How was my application deficient? Had I made an irrevocable departmental political faux pas at some point? Had I spent too much time outside Dunedin? (..he asked during his fourth trip to Auckland that year.)

Fortunately for me, I had to put all that bullshit aside and project positivity onto two high school music events later that day. At lunchtime, the St Peter’s & St Mary’s Sinfonia rehearsed my piece General Intransigence and I contributed the composer’s opinion. In the evening, I definitely needed an upbeat demeanour to present the monstrously large Westlake Music Gala, part of my high school’s 50th Jubilee: four hours of music from 17 different ensembles over two sessions.

In the intervening month, when I haven’t been wallowing in my own pity and being unproductive, I’ve had time to think about what I could get up to next year. I’ve reached the following conclusions with myself:

  • Shit happens. You had no divine right to a second year.
  • You’ve still got just half of your Fellowship time left. Pull your head in and do some more bloody work – that’s what you’re getting paid for.
  • Sometimes it’s nice to have your plans messed with. As Patti Stiles would say, every offer is a gift.
  • As annoying as it is to move cities twice in one year, Dunedin is not the place for a theatrico-comedic composer to make a freelance living. Without full-time employment, full-time study or any family ties here, I’ve got to move away. The lease on my unit comes up on 31 December, so it’s got to be before then.
  • As much fun as the busy annual summer festival season is (Wellington Fringe, Auckland Fringe, Dunedin Fringe etc), it’s financially a slow start to the year if you’re not in full-time employment. It’s not essential to my livelihood to be around for it.
  • It’s high time I did some sustained overseas travel. Consequently I will go to Central and North America from January to May next year, moving from south to north as the weather improves. First to Mexico to hang out and indulge my once-upon-a-time obsession with all music Latin American, then onto major hubs such as LA, Chicago, Toronto, NYC, etc for improv theatre and sketch comedy. Take some workshops, sit in on some gigs, see what comes.
  • The first commitments I have in 2013 are both in Auckland (reminder: APO Organ Spectacular, 23 May 2013, Auckland Town Hall), so it’s high time I based myself in the city of my birth for a while. Since moving away in 2008, I’ve continually kept up useful professional connections there, so I have enough opportunity to make a freelance living. Let’s do that then.
  • Despite working within in a university department this year, I still have no grand desire to embark on further postgraduate study. But if I change my mind, depending on what I want to pursue, the University of Otago and Dunedin would be quite pleasant places to work indeed. I will keep them in mind.
  • Nobody can hold the Mozart Fellowship for more than two years. Being rejected for 2013 means that I can apply for a second term some years in the future. If I’d retained the Fellowship for next year, I wouldn’t have that opportunity.

On that optimistic note, I leave you with this YouTube embed. Two years ago I went through a relationship break-up. At the same time, I had recently seen the episode of Making Tracks where Nick D visits Trinidad. Sitting at my desk at RNZ, unable to do any work, I played this relentlessly positive Soca hit over and over and over again. Actually, “hit” is an appropriate word – every time I played it, it was like getting a dose of cheeriness morphine.


What would you go without, Auckland?

23 Aug

Given that an increase in government funding for orchestras is unlikely ain’t gonna happen, all we can think about is redistributing a fixed amount of money.

In all the hoo-ha about the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s review of the professional orchestral sector, one idea that has wide popularity is to reduce the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s touring obligations outside of Wellington. The costs saved would be passed to the other orchestras to improve quality overall.

Auckland is arguably quite well served for orchestral concerts: the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra delivers a comprehensive yet adventurous subscription programme year on year. On top of that, the NZSO does more in Auckland than any other city except Wellington. But do they need to?

Given that the APO is arguably meeting Auckland’s bread-and-butter orchestral needs quite nicely, perhaps some NZSO gigs are superfluous to requirements. To offer fewer concerts overall is not ideal, but let’s consider the proposition, shall we?

This year the NZSO’s 2012 season brochure (warning: 16MB PDF file) lists 13 performances in Auckland, not including the National Youth Orchestra’s tour. I’m going to go through them one by one, considering the value they add to Auckland’s orchestral calendar.

NB: This is a theoretical exercise treating each concert (mostly) in isolation. I realise there’d be many knock-on effects for scheduling, particularly when it comes to smaller North Island centres.

NB 2: I have my own musical preferences and biases. But this is my turn at playing Fantasy Orchestral Manager, so I get to be arbitrary. You are welcome to disagree in the comments.

NB 3: See my post of 24 July for my declaration of orchestral interests.

Friday 3 February – Chinese New Year Concert
Jenny Wollerman (sop), John Chen (pno), NZSO/Perry So
Ross Harris: The Floating Bride, The Crimson Village
Xian Xinghai: The Yellow River Concerto
Luddy van Beethoven: Symphony No 6, Pastoral

Ross’s song cycle The Floating Bride is bloody gorgeous, and Auckland missed out on the 2010 Made in New Zealand programme which premièred the orchestral version. (The NZSO was supposed to take MiNZ to Auckland that year but Anthony Marwood, soloist in Ross’s Violin Concerto, couldn’t fit the extra gig in his schedule.) As for the rest of the programme, the Yellow River Concerto would be no big loss not to see and Beethoven 6 is, well, Beethoven 6. John Chen’s in Auckland all the time, and the APO does do quite a lot by Ross. Also, scheduling two Asian guest artists does not a truly Chinese concert make. My most conflicted decision of the year is the first.
Verdict: CUT.

Fri 30 March – Carmen Suite
NZSO Soloists/Vesa-Matti Leppänen
Kenneth Young: Portrait (named as “new commission”)
Tōru Takemitsu: Rain Tree (not mentioned in programme)
“This” Arvo Pärt: Fratres (string orchestra + violin solo version, I think)
Rodion Shchedrin: Carmen Suite (credited as “Bizet/Shchedrin”)

This showed off the percussion section with a reduced orchestra playing rep that we don’t see much. Shchedrin is championed heaps by Gergiev, for instance, but NZ hasn’t heard much of him. Fratres gets done all the time, but otherwise this is a worthy addition to Auckland’s calendar.
Verdict: KEEP.

Fri 27 April – La Mer
Measha Brueggergosman (mezzo), NZSO/Pietari Inkinen
NB: Brueggergosman cancelled, Sasha Cooke sang instead.
Benny “Hill” Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes
Ernest “Rutherford” Chausson: Poème de l’Amour et de la Mer
Jean “Why did Avid fire all the developers of” Sibelius: The Oceanides
Claude “Bussy Galore” Debussy: La Mer

Really, nothing that the APO wouldn’t do in any given year – right down to the world-class singer cancelling a couple of weeks out. The NZSO continues their quest to have Pietari stamp his mark on every note that Sibelius ever penned, and finishes with a work that is played heaps as it is.
Verdict: CUT.

Sat 28 April – L’Oiseau de Feu
Measha Brueggergosman Sasha Cooke (mezzo), NZSO/Pietari Inkinen
Douglas Lilburn: Symphony No 3
Gustavo Dudamel Mahler: Songs of a Wayfarer
“Prince” Igor Stravinsky: Firebird

While Lilburn 3 is often forgotten about (for such a short work it really should be done more), it doesn’t quiiite compensate for the rest of the rep, although Pietari conducting Stravinsky’s Firebird is a reasonably major artistic statement. I reluctantly deliver my…
Verdict: CUT.

Sat 12 May – For the Fallen
Lynn Harrell (cello), NZSO/Andrew Grams
Felix “The Cat” Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture
Eddie Elgar: Cello Concerto
Bob Schumann: Symphony No 4

Jeez, the Elgar concerto has been like orchestral audience crack since Du Pré nailed it at the Proms bloody fifty years ago or however long. What’s really notable about this programme? Why should the NZSO bring it to Auckland? Well, Lynn Harrell is a big reason, but not big enough. Surely they could have had him do a slightly less overplayed concerto.
Verdict: CUT.

Sat 19 May – Alpine Symphony
NZSO/David Zinman
“Wolfgang West” Mozart: Symphony No 38, Prague
Richard “Not to be confused with Johann” Strauss: Alpine Symphony

Yesss, yes please. The first of the NZSO’s two “name conductor” gigs this year, this is the sort of big event that deserves to tour. Big artistic statement from the orchestra.
Verdict: KEEP.

Fri 8 June – Spellbound
Olivier Latry (org), NZSO/Rossen Milanov
Paul “Duke of Earl” Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Francis “Funky Chicken” Poulenc: Organ Concerto
Nikolai “Skyrim” Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherezade

None of these works by themselves are really justifiably essential to Auckland. Thomas Trotter did the Poulenc in 2010 on the new organ, but considering there are only about one-and-three-quarters organ concertos in the repertoire, what can ya do? Buuut… it’s Olivier Latry on the new Klais beast, which still has novelty value. And I like the rest of the programme enough for it to stay. Also, it further justifies keeping the following night’s gig.
Verdict: KEEP.

Sat 9 June – Made in New Zealand – Wonderland
Helen Medlyn (sop), NZ String Quartet, NZSO/Hamish McKeich
Chris Cree Brown: Celestial Bodies (NB: programme simply says “Brown”… really?!)
Lyell Cresswell: Concerto for String Quartet
Gillian Whitehead: Alice

It took so long for Made in New Zealand to become more than a Wellington-only affair that for Auckland to lose it would be a tragedy. Shit, it should be going to Christchurch too, but of course a composer would say that. Nice touch that Alice is getting another outing in Auckland, considering it was premièred when Gillian was the APO Composer-in-Residence.
Verdict: KEEP.

Sat 28 July – Die Walküre
Simon O’Neill (ten), Simon’s mates (singers), the Valkiwis (singers), NZSO/Pietari Inkinen
Tricky Dick Wagner: Die Walküre

Considering the rehearsal time that went into this, it’d be a crime to do only one performance in Wellington. Major artistic statement from the NZSO and Pietari. Must not be excluded from the Auckland calendar.
Verdict: KEEP.

Sat 18 August – Cathedral of Sound
NZSO/Simone Young
Wolfpack Mozart: Symphony No 36, Lint
Antonio Banderas Bruckner: Symphony No 5

World-beating antipodean conductor with the repertoire she’s making her own orchestra famous for. Why wouldntcha? Shows what the NZSO’s really capable of.
Verdict: KEEP.

Fri 28 September – Around the World in 80 Minutes
Stephen Hough (pno), NZSO/Andrew Litton
Anthony Ritchie: Diary of a Madman: Dedication to Shostakovich
Chamillionaire Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No 5, Egyptian
Dmitri “Emo Glasses” Shostakovich: Symphony No 5

Not a promising concert title, really – it makes you think that the New World Symphony is just round the corner (ooh cause it’s from North America!!). While the Ritchie would be good to play as widely in NZ as possible, it’s the sort of piece that’ll come around and that the APO would probably end up doing anyway, pairing with Shostakovich. Given Anthony’s prolific CD release schedule lately, it won’t be long until you can buy a copy.
Verdict: CUT.

Fri 19 October – Forbidden Love
Nicola Benedetti (vln), NZSO/Pietari Inkinen (edit: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, I got this wrong)
Ken Young: Dance
Peter and the Wolf Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
Lenny Bernstein: West Side Story Symphonic Dances
Peter Piper Picked a Pack of Pickled Tchaikovskies: Francesca da Rimini

Hrm… yeah… nothing that wouldn’t come around every few years, even counting this 1997 work from Ken (at a stretch). Leonard Bernstein doesn’t strike me as particularly Pietariesque repertoire either. (Edit: This changes the complexion for me… seeing the APO do the WSS Symphonic Dances in the Harth-Bedoya era was a seminal moment in my high school music education. Buut… overall verdict still doesn’t change.) No big loss to lose the Tchaik concerto this season.
Verdict: CUT.

Sat 17 November – Mahler 7
Pietari Inkinen (cond. & vln), Vesa-Matti Leppänen (vln), NZSO
Johann “Belle and Sebastian” Bach: Double Violin Concerto in D minor
Gustav Eiffel: Symphony No 7

The NZSO’s been on a Mahler kick these last few years and they’re trying to get through the whole repertoire with Pietari. Worthwhile enough to keep this in Auckland, and the Bach double is a nice touch which doesn’t come round quite as often as you’d think.
Verdict: KEEP.


So a quick recap:

Keep 7: Carmen Suite, Alpine Symphony, Olivier Latry, Made in New Zealand, Die Walküre, Bruckner 5, Mahler 7.
Cut 6: Chinese New Year, La Mer, Firebird, For the Fallen, Around the World in 80 Minutes, Forbidden Love.

In reality you’re keeping six trips and cutting five: Olivier Latry & MiNZ are on the same trip, as are La Mer and Firebird. Notably, in previous years, the NZSO has done two programmes on consecutive nights much more frequently.

So cutting five trips and six gigs would save… how much? Well, I wish I could hazard a decent guess, but when it comes to the touring the NZSO, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s discussion document goes into very little financial detail indeed.

That’s probably because the NZSO’s 2011 annual report sheds little light on the specific costs. The most relevant figures I can find are for “Direct Expenses from Orchestral activity”. Page 24 says those expenses were $6.31 million to the year ending 30/06/2011, and $3.74 million to the six months ending 31/12/2011. Their target for the year ending 30 June 2012 was $5.60 million (p.33).

It’d be interesting indeed to see a breakdown of that pretty hefty line item. It excludes personnel costs ($10.22 million annually), as well as general operating costs and property rental. I imagine it includes venue hire, as well as the many activities of the education programme. But within that very broad category, there will be a lot of flights, a lot of hotel rooms, buses, truck hires and ferry crossings.

I appreciate that four of my six “cut” programmes are being performed in smaller centres too. I don’t want to deprive Hamilton, Napier and Palmerston North of any of their concerts, and I’m sure that adding Auckland onto an existing tour is more economical than making a single run up from Wellington.

But the question remains: just how much does the average NZSO trip to Auckland cost? While the orchestra remains a Crown Entity and subject to the Official Information Act, an enterprising journalist would do well to find out.

Orchestral sector review

17 Aug

Just a reminder: I am continuing to update my original post on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s orchestral sector review.

If you click through to the piece from 24 July, you will now find over two dozen links to discussion papers, media articles, radio interviews and position statements. If there’s anything I’ve missed, please leave a comment and I’ll add a link.

A reminder that submissions close on Sunday 26 August. You can do that through the MCH website.

© Douglas Lilburn & Waiteata Music Press

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