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NZSO Dedicates Concert To Modern Masters In Hear & Far

11 April 2013 - NZSO Media Release for immediate release
NZSO Dedicates Concert To Modern Masters In Hear & Far

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra celebrates home-grown contemporary compositions alongside the works of international composers in Hear & Far, a fresh annual concert dedicated to Modern Masters.

American composer John Adams’ wonderfully strange, yet riveting piece, Harmonielehre, shares a complementary vitality and vibrancy with fellow Pacific composer, John Psathas’ work for choir and orchestra, Orpheus in Rarohenga.

Harmonielehre was composed in 1985 following an 18-month period of writer’s block. This beautifully textured three-movement work was inspired by a dream in which Adams’ was driving across the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge when he saw an oil tanker on the surface of the water abruptly turn upright and take off like a rocket. Each of its three movements reflects Adams’ feeling at the time: liberation (I), spiritual sickness (II), and grace (III).

Its powerful opening, featuring the minimalist repetition of E minor chords, forms the work’s recurring theme, before the cello section takes on an expressive melody eventually adopted by the entire orchestra. Famously, this impressive work, which means "study of harmony" in German, appears in the video game Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

“What is beyond doubt is that Adams is one of those contemporary voices we all need to hear and keep hearing.” The Guardian.

Composed only 17 years later, in 2002, Orpheus in Rarohenga shares Harmonielehre’s dramatic, “larger than life” quality.

“It’s like a movie without the visuals,” says New Zealand composer John Psathas. “It’s storytelling on a grand scale.”

Also constructed in three movements, Psathas’ major oratorio was commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of one of New Zealand’s most accomplished choral ensembles, the Orpheus Choir of Wellington. This NZSO performance will feature New Zealand soprano Jenny Wollerman, tenor Richard Greager, bass-baritone Paul Whelan, and successful New Zealand conductor Tecwyn Evans.

Orpheus in Rarohenga tells a unique tale of Captain James Cook’s 1769 voyage to the Southern Hemisphere, ostensibly to view the Transit of Venus but which also resulted in the European discovery of the islands of New Zealand. This voyage, and its resulting historical ramifications, are literally merged with the journey by the mythical figure of Orpheus to the Underworld.

Respected New Zealand poet Robert Sullivan, of Ngā Puhi and Irish descent, was commissioned to write the book-length poem Captain Cook in the Underworld as the libretto for Psathas’ Orpheus in Rarohenga. The poem offers fresh perspectives on the familiar story of Cook’s Pacific explorations with its broad bi-cultural (European/Polynesian) frame of references and bold risk-taking approach.

“The entire work is rhythmically driven and builds in momentum towards the moment of Cook’s death in the second movement,” says Psathas. “When Cook dies it’s like an action sequence with the choir engaged in the battle itself. Then, the story continues when Cook enters the Underworld in the third movement, guided by Orpheus – it’s mystical and other worldly.”

Enjoy the best of New Zealand with the best of the world and experience the voice of Aotearoa as it resonates with international voices in this innovative NZSO concert series Hear & Far.

“A moving, captivating and frightening work… Robert Sullivan re-ignites Cook’s Pacific explorations. This book will make many readers think deeply… Captain Cook in the Underworld really achieves its end through rhythm, intensity and extreme focus.” – Hamesh Wyatt, Otago Daily Times

NZSO Hear & Far
Modern Masters

PAUL WHELAN Bass-Baritone

JOHN ADAMS Harmonielehre
JOHN PSATHAS Orpheus in Rarohenga

WELLINGTON / Town Hall / Friday 10 May / 6:30 pm
TICKETEK / 0800 842 538 / TICKETEK.CO.NZ

AUCKLAND / Town Hall / Saturday 25 May / 7.30 pm
THE EDGE / 0800 289 842 / BUYTICKETS.CO.NZ

Composer John Psathas.

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