As the final weekend of the Adam Chamber Music Festival approaches we welcome a new blog contributor, but a man who is no stranger to chamber music in NZ. Retired Professor Les Holborow is a past member of both the Chamber Music NZ and Musica Boards and long term attendee of the Adam Festival and the Summer School. Les is currently the chair of the Board that runs the Lilburn composer residence.
Waitangi Day, Friday 6 Feb – from Les (written 7 feb)
Suddenly it’s Friday and there are only two days to go before its all over. But the day ahead is full of an even more diverse range of opportunities than normal.
We begin at ten with a conversation with the expatriate Kiwi pianist Nicola Melville, focussing not just on her own career in the US but also on her experience of the late Judith Clark as a teacher.The session is dedicated to acknowledging Judith’s work and influence and appropriately begins with a tribute from her colleague Elizabeth Kerr. Elizabeth then leads Nicola through an informative account of how things were nearly thirty years ago,and how much less information was available about overseas opportunities.
The concert which follows at one contains three works commissioned to enable Nicola to present a musical tribute to Judith Clark, with contrasting affectionate pictures painted by Ross Harris, Gareth Farr and Eve de Castro Robinson.
Nicola added some favourites of her own, including Douglas Lilburn‘s Three Sea Changes which span his compositional life, with some clear contrasts of style. The concert concluded with three North American pieces of extroverted syncopation.
The next offering at 3pm continued the theme of enlightened teaching with a masterclass in which the principal piano guest of the Festival Kathryn Stott showed how to inspire two young pianists with a fascinating combination of attention to textual detail and broader advice about how to connect with an audience. Her own career summary earlier in the week had amazed some of us with an account of the Menuhin School’s practice of spending weeks of lessons on a single piece – we now saw how this could be done without endless repetition of the same material.
Finally after a break for rest and dinner (unless one also went to hear a young quartet play beforehand) it was time for the evening concert in the Cathedral. The imaginative programming let us hear the song used by Lilburn as the theme for his early, prize-winning Phantasy for Quartet sung by the Song Company before the work was played by the NZSQ. But the highlight was undoubtedly the rendition in the second half of the programme by a sextet comprising the NZSQ and the two Ying brothers of the Schoenberg Verklarte Nacht. Fortunately not many of the Festival audience were deterred by the composer’s reputation for distributing box office poison – and why should they be when the work is revealed as a passionate depiction of human forgiveness and reconciliation. There are bleak sounds but there is also an almost mellow central section and impressive power which is able to soar in the expansive acoustic of the Cathedral. The musicians deserved an extra bow for eliciting a standing ovation for the much feared composer.
Video: Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht, in this clip performed by the Hollywood String Quartet in 1955.
So to tomorrow…..