Modern classics bring down the house

Wow.

Last night, a comfortably filled Marama Hall reverberated to the ensemble Stroma, and the many sounds of modern classical music.

Stroma was formed in 1999 by Michael Norris, Bridget Douglas, Hamish McKeich and Phillip Brownlee. Michael Norris is the Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago, Bridget Douglas is the NZSO principal flute. Hamish McKeich was our conductor for the evening.

The programme began with the world premier of Flute Quintet (2002) by Lachlan McKenzie, which featured the first of many stunning performances by Bridget Douglas. Flute Quintet is McKenzie's honours composition work, for which he must have passed with flying colours or there is no justice in the world.

Hungarian composer György Ligeti featured through the programme. His first pieces on the bill, Continuum (1968) and Hungarian Rock (1978), highlighted Donald Nicholson's outstanding ability and phenomenally dexterous fingers on a harpsichord.

The highlight of the evening in my opinion were both of Michael Norris' compositions. His first, Wind Shear (1999) is a solo piece for flute, which he dedicated to Bridget Douglas, who returned the compliment by playing the piece with her whole body. She swayed in to notes like an alluring snake charmer. The world premier of the Michael Norris piece Scintilla (2002) brought the first half to a close, and the house down, for the first time.

Part two began with Three Poems of Janet Frame (2002) by the late Jack Speirs. The piece is a fitting tribute to a man whose influence at the university, and in Dunedin music in general, will continue for some years. Soprano Kate Lineham sang the poems beautifully.

The last word was left for György Ligeti. His milestone piece, Chamber Concerto for 13 Players (1970), is one of the foremost pieces of 20th century composition. The music flows, soars, shrieks and crashes, sometimes simultaneously. His use of cross rhythms and micropolyphony (the simultaneous playing of many chromatic tunes with small intervals), make the piece vary from easy on the ear to ear splitting.

The night ended with many hands sore from clapping, matching many hands sore from playing.

— Darryl Baser, Otago Daily Times, 6 November 2002

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