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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 1. March 02, 1950

The Musical Horizon

page 4

The Musical Horizon

Now that "Salient" will be published more frequently, it will be possible to run a regular column on the musical activities of Wellington. It is my intention to turn this space into a "fireside talk," as it were, discussing coming events, delivering some criticism on works and artists heard, and, incidentally, putting in a word or two on broadcasting programmes and new gramophone record releases—all this, without any regular pattern so far. Nor are these weighty pronouncements made by an expert: they stem from an amateur in music listening and music making, and if they evoke fierce criticism on the part of "Salient" readers, so much the better ...

The season is only just emerging from its long siesta, and all I can do today is to discuss forthcoming events. The National Orchestra has announced an outline of works to be played, and, quite recently, I heard one of its first broadcasts from 2YA, under the baton of Dr. Bainton. It was not much fun, I thought—as if the component parts of our main music-making body were grudgingly reassembling in the unfavourably hot weather of mid-February. I was a bit late in tuning in, but managed to listen to Smetana's famous "Bartered Bride" overture, and it was a far from pleasant experience. There was neither unity of playing, nor freshness of rendering. However, it is certainly too early to judge the orchstra and its new conductor. The programmes so far outlined are in-teresing enough, and soloists as Colin Horaley and Cara Hall hold some promise. Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto will be a healthy change from the romantic thundering on the keyboard which was one of last year's main crops—Tschaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, etc. I am also looking forward to Vaughan Williams' Sixth Symphony.

Beethoven and Willner

The prospects for chamber music are most alluring. Gerhard Willner has already started on the complete cycle of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas under, the auspices of the Regional Council for Adult Education. This is a musical experience of the first order, and one which, right at the outset of the season, will set a standard not only for excellent playing, but also for disciplined and concentrated listening. We are in great need of both. It is only too often that visiting artists, endeavour to please too large a public by judiciously (?) mixing the very good with the facile and showy type of music. To play these 32 sonatas falls into a different category altogether, because in them the composer has expressed himself during all the periods of his life: from the simplicity and joyfulness of his early years—as in the Opus 2—to the majestic mystery of his late creative period—as in the "Hammerclavler" Sonata—we can follow Beethoven, but it is a far from easy task. Gerhard Willner has done well to dispense with the chronological order, and to present four sonatas on each of the eight recitals, taken from different periods of the composer's life. Thus the contrasts and the continuity of the total work can be studied on each night. And again, to play these sonatas in their entirety means more than just music making: It means that the artist must have lived through them for many years, and this fact must have become clear to all listeners of Willner in former years. His rendering of Beethoven ranks very highly indeed, and all I can do here is to invite as many people as possible to attend these recitals. It may be as well to listen to some of the later works as recorded by Arthur Schnabel—available in the music room of the Public Library—before going to the actual performance. Tickets for the cycle are available at Beggs, Manners Street, at 30/-for the eight recitals, which take place at the R.S.A. Hall, Victoria Street, on the following dates:—February 27, March 2, 7, 14, 18, 23. 28, and April 4. I do regret the very close spacing of' the recitals, which make attendance at all of them rather a strain—but then I think that I may have become lazy and need to educate myself again to what I called disciplined listening.

Chamber music

The Wellington Chamber Music Society has announced a fine series of performances, and I would like to advise students interested in the society to join, especially since special Students' Concession subscriptions are available at £1 per year. The Musica Viva ensemble from Sydney are scheduled for the first part of the season, the English Masterman Piano Quartet (travelling under the auspices of the British Council) will present British chamber music, and of local groups, the Alex Lindsay string orchestra can be expected to maintain their considerably fine chamber playing later on in the year. Francis Rosner and associates are likewise scheduled again, and since I heard, them last at the opening concert of the Society for Contemporary Music, I have nothing but praise for their cultured and imaginative playing of modern works.