First performance: New Zealand Sinfonia, cond. Stephen Estall, St Johns Smith Square, 1976 Dedicated to the memory of Hans Juda.
Programme Notes to come.
Chamber orchestra, 121(+bs-cl)2;2000;timp;strs
Hoata was written in 1979, while I was composer-in-residence for Northern Arts and a Fellow of Newcastle University, for the Northern Sinfonia, who, conducted by David Haslam, gave the first performance during the Newcastle Festival later that year. I wrote the piece, named for the Māori phase of the moon when the new moon is barely apparent, while I was living on the Northumbrian moors north of Hexham. It was a cold winter, and the snow around the small remote cottage, which was not well insulated, lay on the ground for four months as blizzard followed blizzard, and something of the isolation and the environment seems to have got into the piece. Hoata consists of sections built up in a mosaic-like manner, separated by freer sections, which may be cadenzas, or have a degree of improvisation; there is at times perhaps a suggestion of birdsong.
Orchestra, 3 (3 doubling picc)333; 4331; timps, 3 perc; hp; strgs
“Resurgences was written during a six-week residency at Victoria University (Wellington) in 1989. For Whitehead, the piece is very much in the New Zealand tradition, inspired by the geothermal activities around Rotorua, phenomena which she sees as related to the tidal elements that inform other works, including her 1990 string quartet, Moon, Tides and Shoreline”.
“A densely layered piece, Resurgences features the various sections of the orchestra (including a colourful contribution from percussion) used as both polyphonic voices within the whole work and within their own group of sonorities. Underpinning the score are complex mensural canons, although the listener is not aware of such structural niceties, as volatile shifts of texture and tempo give the score the primeval energy of an Antipodean Rite of Spring”.
“The landscape is never far from sight. As the composer herself has commented, Resurgences is about 'living away from the sea and being drawn back to ideas of the sea, ideas that are very strong with all New Zealanders – looking out to distant horizons”.
First public performance: New Music New Zealand, BBCSSO, Edinburgh.
Written as part of a residency at Victoria University of Wellington.
Recorded by NZSO cond. Kenneth Young, 1995, on New Zealand Composers. Continuum NZ CCD1073 1
Full orchestra 3334;4331; hp, pf, timp, 3 perc; strgs
To listen to audio, click here
I wrote the improbable ordered dance in 2000 for the Auckland Philharmonia, when I was composer-in-residence with the orchestra. The title comes from a fascinating essay entitled The Music of this Sphere in Dr Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. Thomas believes that the urge to make music is as much a characteristic of biology as our other fundamental functions, and wonders what we might hear if we could experience the whole range of sound, most of which is inaudible to us, created by most living things. Thomas believes that the rhythmic sounds might be the recapitulation of something else – an earliest memory, a score for the transformation of inanimate random matter in chaos into the improbable ordered dance of living forms.
The piece grows from a quiet beginning, introducing first a cor anglais melody, contained within a close range, then a wider-ranging cello melody. A section suggesting birdsong leads into a chorale, and these ideas evolve and develop around the central energetic dance-like section before the piece moves back to silence.
Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducted the Auckland Philharmonia in the first performance, and the piece won the 2001 SOUNZ Contemporary Award.
Chamber orchestra and solo harp
2 (1+picc)222;2200 timps strings; harp solo
Karohirohi, which means iridescent, shimmering, the sparkling of light on water, is the point of arrival rather than of departure in this piece. Written for the forces of a classical symphony, Karohirohi draws on characteristics of classical form, and of classical concerto form, not so much in terms of exposition, development and recapitulation, nor in terms of the syntactical sentence and period structure (although these aspects are doubtless present), but more in the sense of classical style as it was perceived in the eighteenth century. At that time there was a gradual rather than an abrupt change away from the characteristics of Baroque music, and classical masterpieces drew on and seamlessly combined a variety of influences. In the background were the dance forms of the Baroque, but on to these were mapped remnants of older styles – learned style, such as fugue and imitation, styles from different genres, or forms of expression, such as brilliant or virtuoso style, singing style, or sensibility style, and even imitative styles, such as military fanfares and hunting calls.
Karohirohi, to my ears, like much music written today, is similarly eclectic, drawing on a range of reference appropriate to this time and place. Its single movement incorporates various aspects of three-movement concerto form, before dissipating in a coda.
Karohirohi commissioned by the NZSO, is dedicated to Carolyn Mills.
First performance: Carolyn Mills (harp) with Alexander Lazarev conducting the NZSO in the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, June 21st, 2006
chamber orchestra -2 picc, 2 fl, ob, 2 cl, bsn, timps, xylo, strings
I had written a set of pieces, for piano to celebrate the birthday of Barbara Henderson while I was living in Alexandra in Central Otago as artist-in-residence for the Henderson Arts Trust, and subsequently arranged them for CORO, the Central Otago Regional Orchestra, which at the time was low in numbers, so the scoring was rather idiosyncratic – an extravagance of flutes, no violas, and so on. There are five movements, based on surroundings of the residence where I lived for over a year - Hoar frost with fire siren, Taking a line for a walk, Landscape with quail, Outlines through rising mist, and River talk.
Thanks to Aart Brusse for some rearranging of the score to suit CORO; I have subsequently rearranged the score for a more traditional ensemble, but am happy that parts be reassigned to suit similar ensembles.
(Arrangement of five piano pieces - Hoar frost with fire siren, Taking a line for a walk, Landscape with quail, Outlines through the mist, River talk)
First performance: Central Otago Regional Orchestra, conducted by Aart Brusse, Cromwell, 12th December, 2009