Stroma presented an intriguing programme of new and unusual works including two premiere performances.
Swiss saxophone player Lars Mlekusch was the featured performer in a new work by Michael Norris, Splinter Cells, which has a raw and grainy quality. The strong rhythmic drive, which utilised Mlekusch's agility (on alto and baritone saxes with an ensemble of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, piano, violins, viola, cello and double bass), added plenty of tonal colour to the clever writing.
The piece is influenced by the major seminal modern work Cells by German avant-garde composer Hanspeter Kyburz which we heard later.
Grab It! by Jacob ter Veldhuis is a very quirky piece for solo tenor saxophone and ghetto blaster, with raging beats and sample sounds. It is a touch strange at first with the swirling, shrieking sax but the street sounds and chanting earthy human voices mingling with the sax is arresting, if a little too long, once the idea and point are made. Chris Watson's Carrick Bend added harp, guitar and percussion to the ensemble with Mlekusch on tenor and soprano saxes.
It is an undulating piece with imaginative flow, interweaving sounds and momentum. Untitled (Counterfeit Readymade #1) by Dugal McKinnon is derived from baritone sax improvisations by Wellington based master saxophonist Jeff Henderson. The baritone sax of Mlekusch was joined by the vibrant marimba of Arnold Marinissen.
This too is an interesting piece, although the sax interjections of Mlekusch were not as loud and penetrating as I would have liked and didn't capture the wildness that Henderson can convey.
Cells by Kyburz was the final work — and what a striking piece it is, musically very clever and quite analytical and mathematically structured. The performance was mesmerising and technically very difficult to carry off, but McKeich and the ensemble gave an outstanding performance.
The varied percussion along with piano gave drive and momentum. Mlekusch demonstrated his astonishing virtuosity on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. The whole was a real tour de force.
— Garth Wilshere, Capital Times, 21 August 2005