Category Archives: News

Review of June 2018 Concert

SMCO in Brilliant Form

Although performed last the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major of Mozart was
undoubtedly the highlight of the recent concert of St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra.
The two soloists, Monique Lapins and Gillian Ansell of the NZ String Quartet
brought musicianship of the highest quality. From the opening introduction it was
apparent the orchestra was going to produce its finest playing as a worthy partner.
The entry of the soloists, high above the orchestra, followed by a descending phrase
are two of the most magical moments in all music – and likely to cause the hairs on
the necks of the listeners to rise in ecstacy. Lapins’ and Ansell’s blending of tone and
impeccable intonation was splendid indeed. Ansell produced a sonority and
expressive playing which was mirrored in Lapins’ brilliant and rich tone with
authorative dynamics. The instruments wove a question and answer pattern of
supreme beauty. The poignant and introspective slow movement was truly beautiful
with sensitive playing from the orchestra, ever watchful of the conductor and soloists.
Indeed, the rapport between conductor, soloists and orchestra was apparent
throughout. Of particular note was the polished playing of the horns.

The orchestra was led with panache by John Thomson and conducted by Justus
Rozemond. His clear beat and obvious accord with the orchestra demonstrated a
clearly bond with them. His fluid conducting style was perfect for the dance-like
works in the programme.

Opening the concert was Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 also in E flat major. The warm
string tone and in the first movement the conversations between the woodwind
ensemble and then horn and strings were impressive. The Menuetto was a lilting
dance with cellos and basses giving the country dance real feeling. Clear phrasing
and variations of tempo were accomplished well. The symphony ended with a brisk
Allegro with plenty of work for all sections and a happy warmth.

Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite is based on Pergolesi’s music of the 18th century.
Originally written as a full ballet, the movements are all dances. The suite opened
with a broad-toned Sinfonia introducing the cheeky Pulcinella. The woodwinds
handled the tricky ensemble work with their usual skill. Stravinsky used a solo violin
and string quartet in several movements. There were difficult rhythms well handled
and blending of themes between woodwinds and strings, and some brilliant tonguing
from the trumpet. The theme of the original Sinfonia appeared again in the Finale
with the trumpet re-introducing Pulcinella.

Congratulations to SMCO and its soloists. A really glowing concert and warmly
appreciated by the near-capacity audience. Review by Rogan Falla

Review of May 2018 Concert

UNIVERSITY  STUDENTS  DELIGHT  AUDIENCE

On a fine Sunday afternoon a near capacity audience gathered at St Matthews in the City for the second concert in the 2018 program.    It was a markedly different  program from their usual offering in that it featured  three instumental  soloists and seven young singers from the Auckland University School of Music.  The music presented ranged from Bach to Beardsworth (a talented young New Zealand composer).

The opening item was a 9 minute  long composition titled  ”Prelude in D minor” by the  young New Zealand composer, Matthew Beardsworth.  To quote the composer himself, “I wrote Prelude to challenge myself to write in a style other than what I usually compose in.  Instead of writing in a rigid and structured form, I started with the motif and allowed the piece to organically develop from there in seamless flow.”  Opening with the viola and cello sections, the music swept from one section of the orchestra to another in flowing style.  There was no dissonance, and meagre melodic line, but there was plenty of harmony and this demonstrated the composer’s skilful orchestration.    The composer was welcomed to the podium by the conductor to acknowledge the applause from an appreciative audience.

Schubert’s  Symphony no 5  was next, and this provided  37 minutes of graceful melody with clever development and beautiful harmony.  Conductor José Aparicio drew a superb performance of this popular work from the orchestra.  His conducting style was economic in gesture, but he gave positive direction where he wanted to give extra emphasis to the music.  This symphony is so well known and widely popular but this performance was an excellent reading and was very well received.

Following the interval two young flautists, Zoe Stenhouse-Burgess and Yunesang Yune were joined by violinist Danny Kim to present with a reduced orchestra a performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto number 4 in G Major. In three movements – Allegro, Andante, Presto – the conductor kept the orchestra volume at an acceptably low level so that the virtuosity of the three soloists could be heard to perfection.  They  performed brilliantly in the first movement, and then in the slower second movement  the minuet  tempo allowed them to accentuate the echo efffects  beautifully.   All three solosists were able to demonstrate their virtuosic skills in the final movement, and their performance was much appreciated.

We were then treated to a succession of opera arias by seven very talented young singers, most of whom are aiming to carve out a career as professional singers.  First up was Ella Ewen who gave a very sensitive performance of Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga” from the opera “Rinaldo”.   Tenor Nathan Hauraki gave us a fine performance of Monostatos’ aria from The Magic Flute.  His ringing tenor voice gave urgency to the Moor’s plea in his unrequited love for Pamina. In the next item, Ella Ewen was joined by Carla Camilleri in the “Letter” duet “Sull’aria” from The Marriage of Figaro.  Countess Almaviva is dictating a letter to her maid in which they plan to trap the Count  and expose his infidelity.    The two singers combined well and their performance was much appreciated.   The serenade, “Dei Vieni alla Finestra” from Don Giovanni was given a rousing performance by baritone, Alex Matangi.    The Pamina/Papageno duet from The Magic Flute was given a very fine reading by baritone Arthur Adams-Close and soprano Ella Ewen.   In the next item, from Donizetti’s opera “Daughter of the Regiment”, soprano Clare Hood dressed in a flame red frock, gave a saucy performance of the regimental song and demonstrated her command of the coloratura register.      In the nexy item,  Leila Alexander in a flared white frock gave a splendid performance of  “Meine Lippen” from Franz Lehar’s opera Giuditta, and also demonstrated her dancing ability.    In a flamboyant finale, all singers came on stage together with champagne bottles and glasses and gave a rousing performance of the Champagne Chorus from the Johann Strauss opera, Die Fledermaus.    They were given a noisy farewell from a warmly appreciative audience.

The usual well researched notes by Lois Westwood were of great assistance to the audience in their appreciation of the program.

Robert O’Hara.

Review of March 2018 Concert

A VIRTUOSO CELLO PERFORMANCE

St Matthew’s Church was well filled for the opening concert of the Chamber Orchestra, and the audience was treated to a wonderfully well balanced program.

First up was Mozart’s Ballet Music for the opera Idomeneo.  This gave the composer the opportunity to display his melodic invention in showy dance rhythms.   His Chaconne, a stately dance in triple time, featured woodwind and the brass section, followed by a Passepied, also in quick triple time leading on to an elegant gavotte.  The composer’s neat and tidy melodic invention was well presented and led on to a brilliant conclusion.

It is believed that Haydn wrote his Cello Concerto No 1 between 1761 and 1765 for Joseph F. Weigl, the principal cello of Nicholas Esterhazy’s orchestra.  It then disappeared from the repertoire for over 200 years until it was discovered in 1961 in the Prague National Library by musicologist, Oldrich Pulkert.  Its authenticity has been questioned but it is now generally accepted that it is by Haydn.   It is a virtuoso work that makes stringent demands on the soloist, and with Ashley Brown on the podium we were treated to a brilliant performance.   One of New Zealand’s leading cellists, his fingering was a joy to behold and the rich honeyed tones that he was able to coax from his 260 year old cello soared over the orchestra with total ease. He gave us an exceptional reading of this wonderful concerto and at the conclusion he was given deservedly rapturous applause by the audience.

The final work was Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 in D Major.  This work was completed in 1802 while the composer was living in Heiligenstadt.  Oddly enough this bright and cheerful work gives no hint of the anguish that the composer was suffering as a result of his incipient deafness.  In the traditional four movements, it opens slowly with several melodic themes which are developed and heard later in the work.  The symphony is bright and cheerful throughout, although it was not immediately accepted at its premiere in Vienna in 1803.  The Larghetto movement begins with a meltingly beautiful melody not unlike Schubert might have written.  To this is added a second and third subject to bring the whole to a powerful climax before returning to the first theme.  The Scherzo is in true comic fashion bright and breezy.  The final movement, Allegro molto continues in light hearted fashion with the woodwinds, especially the bassoon, floating above the scurrying strings.  A pizzicato passage in the coda offers a sense of mystery before the symphony is brought to a happy conclusion.  This work was a happy choice to conclude what proved to be a well-balanced program.

The next St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra concert on May 20th will feature Hawke’s Bay conductor, Jose Aparicio and Auckland University Students, the Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 4, various Arias and Schubert’s Symphony No 5.

Robert O’Hara

SMCO Composer Project 2017

SMCO Composer Project 2017 in association with CANZ and SOUNZ

The SMCO Composer Project is a collaboration between St Matthews Chamber Orchestra, the Composers Association of New Zealand and SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music. The aim is to encourage New Zealand composers at all career stages to write high quality works for nonprofessional orchestras. The selected works will be workshopped by the SMCO in March 2017 and performed in a concert at St. Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland on 30 July 2017.

Composer mentors from CANZ will attend the workshop in March and can give guidance to early career composers. Attending composers will have an opportunity to modify their score if needed. Final rehearsals will take place over three days on 27-29 July.

Call for Scores

SOUNZ is calling for scores from New Zealand based composers for orchestra made up of the following forces: 2222 2221 timp 1 perc. strings

Only small, common percussion gear available no large keyboard instruments. Please contact info@sounz.org.nz if you would like clarification of these limitations.

Composers are encouraged to attend the workshop in March and they must attend one rehearsal in July, relevant to their own composition. There is no funding for travel expenses, but accommodation with SMCO orchestral billet is available.

Notes and Comments

Preference will be given to recently composed works that are within the scope of nonprofessional orchestral players

The work may have been performed before

The work should be between 3 – 10 minutes in duration

The selection panel, facilitated by SOUNZ, will include representatives from SMCO and CANZ.  The panel’s decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into

Application Requirements

• Complete score in PDF format

• Recording, if available, in digital format*

• Completed application form

• Programme note and short biography of up to 200 words each in word document

* recordings and large-file scores should be delivered using an online file sharing service such as Dropbox.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: 5PM WED 1 FEBRUARY 2017

SMCO Composer Project 2017 in association with CANZ and SOUNZ

Application Form :

Your completed application must reach info@sounz.org.nz by 5pm Wednesday 1 February

2017. Late applications will not be accepted.

Selected Works

All composers who submit scores will be advised of the panel’s selections by mid-February 2017.

Composers of the chosen works must supply PDFs of the full score and all the parts to SOUNZ within three weeks of selection.

Following any revisions after the March workshops, PDFs of the revised final score and parts must be provided to SMCO by 29 May 2017.

If you have any questions about the submission process, contact info@sounz.org.nz

For information about St Matthews Chamber Orchestra visit www.smco.org.nz

 

 

The SMCO-SOUNZ Composer Workshop

We are pleased to advise you of the details for this year’s additional concert. Last year we held the “In house concert” featuring our own players as soloists, conductors and composers and this year we are to work with SOUNZ and NZ composers.

The SMCO-SOUNZ Composer Workshop is a new collaboration between the St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra and SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music. The aim is to create a collection of high quality resources for composers, non-professional orchestras and orchestra directors, to enable them to collaborate on new commissions in the future. The five works chosen will be rehearsed and work- shopped during the week and then performed at a one hour concert on the Sunday afternoon.

Details are as follows –

                                                        Concert
                                  Sunday 02 August 2015, 3pm

                                      Followed by wine and cheese.

Venue : St-Matthews-in-the-city Church, cnr of Hobson and Wellesley Streets
Entry : By gold coin donation.

The following works were chosen by a panel consisting of representatives of the SMCO and the Composers Association of New Zealand (CANZ):

Callum Blackmore: 3 vignettes for orchestra
David Hamilton: Solar Phoenix
Andrew McMillian: In the shadow of the dark moon
Denzel Panama: Time in Paradise
Alex Taylor: Silk/Gravel

A work of Louise Webster (composer and violinist in SMCO) will be played to complete the concert.

This collaboration came about as New Zealand has a large number of non-professional orchestras and music groups, most of whom are interested in playing new music. However there is no information available anywhere to guide composers in writing for non-professional orchestras. In 2014 the players of SMCO completed a questionnaire that asked for our views and experience on what made it easier for us to play contemporary music. Louise then presented the results at a composer’s conference (2014 CANZ Conference). SOUNZ then asked SMCO to run a composer workshop which SOUNZ could video and turn into a resource.

Our Musical Director Michael Joel, will be the conductor for this workshop and concert. He says –
“I’m delighted to be involved in this initiative. Supporting and encouraging composers to create new work is the life-blood of music and this is a wonderful opportunity for SMCO to bring these pieces to the ears of the audience, orchestra members and the composers themselves. I’m really looking forward to working on the five pieces we’ve selected and bringing them to life – what a privilege!”

“There are non-professional orchestras throughout New Zealand who are keen to play new music written with their capabilities in mind. I hope that this project will encourage them to commission and play new compositions, and also encourage New Zealand composers to write for such groups of interested musicians,” Louise Webster, composer and SMCO member.

 

Chairman’s Annual Report for May 2015

Chairman’s Report for 2014-2015 SCMO May 2015

This past year has been a very successful year for the orchestra. The momentum from all the hard work and improvements the committee has done over the past 2-3 years is coming to fruition.
One of the most obvious outcomes is the growth in our audience numbers at our concerts this past year, with our 2014 October concert setting a new record. With good audience numbers comes a real sense of confidence and pride in the orchestra and I suggest that this is now felt by all players. Evidence of this includes an increase in tickets sold by players, an increase in players that have paid their membership subs for 2015 and a very good attendance at the end of year dinner last November.

The increase in audience numbers comes down to the very hard work of Mary Greig-Clayton, our PR and Marketing person. Mary has a real passion for the orchestra and our success, and is determined that we will not remain Auckland’s best kept musical secret. Mary’s network of contacts continues to grow. The results can be seen at every concert and it is a delight to feel the buzz of a large audience in the church and to perform in front of one. Thank you Mary.

This confidence continues to show with the very exciting line up that we were able to secure for our 2015 Subscription series including 2 cello concertos, 2 soloists from the NZ String Quartet, 2 soloists from APO, and the Brahms violin concerto. Great work by Michael McLellan and the artistic committee and Michael Joel, our Musical Director, has seen this all come together and in record time. Thank you to all involved.

In 2014 we welcomed back ‘the piano’ to the church for 2 concerts. Works for piano are expensive to hold and we were fortunate to have the assistance of Epsom Girls Grammar School and David Guerin in supplying the pianos for these concerts. The ‘all Beethoven’ concert was a great success and we have David Guerin coming back to play Mozart with us in 2016. There were also two concerts that provided a performance opportunity for young performers. Our May concert had students from the University of Auckland playing works by Bach and Mozart and our October concert featured the Auckland Youth Choir performing the Faure Requiem.

In August 2014 we had our first in-house concert which was a great success and very well received by both players and audience. This was held as a result of feedback from players expressing a wish to play with the orchestra and it developed from there. It was lovely to be able to offer wine and cheese to all after this one hour concert and make it a bit of an occasion and I suggest that this will certainly be done again.

The initiative for this year will see us be involved in a ‘composers’ workshop’ in conjunction with SOUNZ. Louise Webster is the focal for this project. Details are still to be finalized, but this is another great opportunity to create a platform for us to perform different works, to different audiences and become involved with our extended community. This will culminate in a one hour concert on the 02 August in the church.

In late March the orchestra played to 2000 plus school children over two days, at the Southern Cross Campus and Mt Roskill School. Feedback received from the schools involved has been very positive indeed. We successfully applied for funding from the Auckland Council Creative Communities Scheme for these school’s concerts. They are an initiative of David Kayrouz and are proving to be an important part of our year, both as an income stream and being involved in our community. Thank you David for your passion and all your hard work in organizing these concerts, and making them happen.

Two other projects finalized within the past year have been our website and the storage of our timpani in the church. Our website was rebuilt and transferred to another host, and it is now up and running with the focus being as an information source. The church kindly agreed to allow us to build some shelves to store the 4 timpani and assorted bits and pieces in the area in and behind the kitchen. The shelving unit was donated to us by Dexion NZ. Thanks to David K and Michael McL for putting the shelving unit together. What a relief it is to walk everything around the corner.

I would like to thank everyone on the committee for their hard work and support this past year. The orchestra continues to be in very good shape and with the growing confidence of its members and audience we will continue to achieve great things. Planning for our 2016 season is already underway, communication with all players is a focus (player’s newsletters and Thursday rehearsal chats) and all opportunities will continue to be sought and welcomed.

Rebecca Stichbury
Chair
May 2015

SMCO 40th Anniversary Concert review

Paul Dukas is best known for his Sorcerers Apprentice, and although his fanfare for La Peri was not originally included in the St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra Subscription Series programme, its inclusion was serendipity. Just over 2 minutes in length, it provided a dynamic introduction and in the very live acoustics of St Matthews Church it kicked this programme off with great impact, as well as featuring the particular talents of the Wind and Brass section of the Orchestra . The fanfare has a crisp brilliance and incorporates some dissonant harmonies which somehow seem to be oddly appropriate in this context. It has become popular as a TV programme theme tune in North America.

Next up was Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks Display. This music was commissioned by King George II and a large crowd gathered to hear it being rehearsed in London’s Vauxhall Gardens several days before it was due to be performed on 27th April 1749. Since then it has had a number of arrangements, particularly by Leopold Stokowski and Sir Hamilton Harty, who was for a long time chief conductor of the Halle Orchestra. The opening movement is marked Maestoso (to be played in stately fashion). This had an uncharacteristically ragged beginning from the orchestra, and one wonders if the hackneyed popularity of the piece led the orchestra to skimp on rehearsal time. However they got things together and the second, third and fourth movements were tighter and lighter. It finished in appropriately grand ceremonial style.

The Brahms concerto for violin and cello proved to be the highlight of the concert. In the opening section of this work the plaintive cor anglais featured and then the cello soloist introduced the musical themes with the violin responding. Both soloists played some spectacular double stopping, which at times sounded like four solo instruments playing as a quartet. This concerto was composed when Brahms had attained maturity in his compositional life and the romantic beauty of his musical ideas contributed to the lasting popularity of this work. His passionate love of Hungarian gypsy music was evident in some of the fragmentary themes that were incorporated in the final movement. Cello soloist Rachel Atkinson and Violinist Isin Cakmakcioglu are husband and wife and their affinity with this work and their combined virtuosity was a real joy to experience. They received well deserved acclaim from a record audience. Indeed it is to the orchestra’s credit that they are able to attract such talented soloists to feature in their concert series.

The final item in this programme was the Cesar Franck Symphony in D Minor. In the opening lento movement, the bass instruments introduce the melody with the bass clarinet contributing to a rather sombre mood, this is developed and moves on to some more boisterous music, which builds up to a stately climax. During the symphony it ebbs and flows with a rather plaintive three note theme that is passed from one section of the orchestra to another in cyclical fashion. Franck uses this almost like a leitmotif giving it different instrumentation and harmonies but maintaining the tautness of the mood that he creates throughout the work. The cor anglais is used to feature the main theme and pizzicato strings are used very effectively.

This symphony projects a great depth of feeling throughout and it deserves to be heard more often.

To celebrate its 40th Anniversary the orchestra invited its supporters to join it at the conclusion of the programme to enjoy wine and cheese. Patrons were able to enjoy CoopersCreek wines a variety of cheese and mingle with the players. This is a significant milestone of which the Orchestra can be justly proud. I look forward to more imaginative programmes in 2013

Reviewed by Bob O’Hara

news

WELL BALANCED PROGRAM PLEASES AUDIENCE

Reviewer: Robert O’Hara

On a rare overcast autumn day it was pleasant to arrive early to be able to chat to old friends while the conductor took the orchestra through some passages that needed extra final polish. Rossini’s overture Semiramide was the last of his Italian opera overtures and it is clearly his best. Sometimes known as “Signor Crescendo”, Rossini wrote many spirited overtures which have been consistent favourites on the orchestral concert platform. Unlike some of his overtures which were co-opted to serve several operas, Semiramide was written specifically for the opera of that name based on a Voltaire play with a somewhat grisly plot, and contains many of the tunes that feature in the opera. Rossini’s orchestration was masterful but places some demands on virtually every section of the orchestra at some stage, and indeed also on the conductor throughout. Miranda Adams was a diminutive figure on the podium but her conducting was taut and precise, and one suspects that her experience as leader of the string section in an orchestra gave her the unique ability to choose tempi that the players were comfortable with. The first part of the overture features a horn quartet that moves on to solo passages from the clarinet to the flute, the oboe and the piccolo accompanied by pizzicato counter-melodies from the strings. These built up to the usual Rossini crescendi which the orchestra delivered with flair and balance. The four horns acquitted themselves very well and made the most of their opportunity to shine, while the clarinet, flute, oboe and piccolo projected well and were complemented by the string pizzicato. It is not easy to regulate the volume of a plucked string, but I did notice that at times the first violin section pizzicato did not come through as effectively as did the pizzicato of other string sections. The audience clearly appreciated this elegant overture that is a masterpiece of orchestral colour. Rossini at his very best.

New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie, the son of Professor John Ritchie head of music at Canterbury University and Anita, a very fine soprano, was destined to follow a career in music and is today one of New Zealand’s leading composers. His compositions include 3 symphonies, 7 concertos, an opera (The God Boy) and numerous works for guitar, and both solo and ensemble instrumental groups. His viola concerto has been particularly successful. Robert Ashworth was the featured soloist in the Anthony Ritchie Viola Concerto, and he has had a close association with the conductor Miranda Adams, as fellow members of the Jade Quartet/, and also as leading players in the A.P.O. Robert plays a viola that is shaped differently from the usual but his instrument clearly is very suitable for solo work as it projects its warm tone most effectively. The concerto has a tempestuous opening which gradually subsides and then moves on to simple straightforward passages that highlight the mellow sonority of the viola. While the concerto makes few virtuoso demands on the soloist, it does speak in simple but moving music that requires sensitive playing. The concerto is virtually in two halves – the first in a modern formal style, while the final section features dancelike jazz type rhythms with syncopation that is evocative of Blue Grass, and Country and Western folk music, which is in total contrast to the opening movements. The presentation of this concerto was sensible programming as it introduced the audience toNew Zealand made music that deserves wider exposure.

The final offering was Vaughan Williams’ 5th Symphony. Most people will be familiar with this composer’s “The Lark Ascending” and the “Variations on a Theme of Thomas Tallis” but fewer people will have knowledge of Vaughan Williams’ symphonic works. Those who are familiar with the dissonance of his Symphony No 4 would never believe that his Symphony No 5 was written by the same composer. This is gentle heavenly music. It was inspired by the West Country and the music suggests a spiritual peace and being at one with nature. Parts of the Symphony were “borrowed“ from the composer’s Opera “Pilgrim’s Progress” which was then still a work in progress. The St Matthews Chamber Orchestra’s reading of the Symphony was spirited and captured the character of the work, from the distinctive horn solo early in the Preludio through to the brass trombone and trumpet fanfares in the Scherzo and on to the haunting cor anglais solo in the Romanza. Miranda Adams’ total control of the orchestral resources was particularly evident in the final Passacaglia movement. All in all this was a concert to be savoured by music enthusiasts, of whom there were a number in attendance. There is still plenty of seating in the venue and anyone reading this review is encouraged to attend the next concert on Sunday 17th June at 2-30pm, when the orchestra will be conducted by cellist James Tennant, who will be joined by the brilliant young Columbian cellist Santiago CanonValencia in the seldom heard Vivaldi Concerto for two cellos. The colourful Saint Säens cello concerto also features in this programme.

Robert O’Hara