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Five world premieres mark NZ Music Month

Five world premieres mark NZ Music Month

New Zealand Music Month really kicked off with five world premieres on the first weekend alone! In Wanaka and Wellington audiences were treated to first performances of works by Maria Grenfell, John Psathas, Rachel Clement, Kenneth Young and Hannah Curwood.

Sneaking into NZ Music Month, MENZA [Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa], the newly reformed professional body for music educators, staged an official launch in Wellington on Saturday evening. Participants of all ages and backgrounds joined forces to play instruments or sing in the first performance of Hutia te rito o te harakeke by New Zealand composer Maria Grenfell. The large scale choral and instrumental work was especially commissioned for the MENZA launch and was a joyful and appropriate item for this occasion.

On the following day, Sunday 1 May, the New Zealand String Quartet gave the world premiere of John Psathas’ new work, Kartsigar. The two movement piece was a commission from the Wellington Chamber Music Society in honour of their 60th Anniversary year. An ebullient and effervescent work, the quartet clearly enjoyed playing it as much as the audience enjoyed witnessing its first performance. Based on transcriptions of traditional improvisation-based Greek music, Kartsigar ranged widely in its technical and emotional contexts, brought together in a wonderful blend of Greek traditional, jazz and contemporary classical elements.

Southward, in Wanaka, three more world premieres were being held on the same day. The Festival of Colour was winding up its fantastic array of artistic activity with concerts in the afternoon and evening. Following an earlier ‘Away’ concert, pianist Michael Houston presented a ‘Home’ concert in which all the pieces were from Kiwi composers. Among these was the premiere of Kenneth Young’s Five Pieces for piano. The other works on the programme were Douglas Lilburn’s Chaconne, Michael Norris’ in tempo di guerra, in tempo di tristezza and Jettatura by John Psathas.

In the evening, a concert by the Central Otago Regional Choir and Central Otago Regional Orchestra presented the world premiere of Rachel Clement’s Taking Off. This work was a SOUNZ Community Commission, an annual project managed through SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, in which professional composers and community groups are brought together. Using a text by poet laureate Brian Turner, Taking Off was a fitting anthem to close the 2005 Festival of Colour. Wanaka’s own Hannah Curwood also had a world premiere at the concert with a choral work called High Country.

The range in style and depth of music by New Zealand composers is certainly something we can celebrate, particularly in NZ Music Month. There are many more opportunities to do so in coming weeks with more world premieres to come. This Friday, for example, the NZSO play an all-NZ programme in which Kenneth Young will conduct the world premiere of his own Symphony No. 3. For more information about these and other events involving the music of New Zealand composers go to the website of the Centre for NZ Music:


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