Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 13. 1964.
Music At Festival
Music At Festival
There were several notable performances in Victoria's contribution to Arts Festival. On the opening night the choir sang a selection of madrigals. They turned on some fine singing in Upon a bank of roses by John Ward, and Draw on sweet night by John Wilbye.
The two madrigals by Monteverdi were not so successful. The slight lack of balance in the choir's tone due to a scarcity of tenors was more noticeable in these pieces. The difficulty of the music sapped much of the life from the singing. Conductor Robert Oliver tended to exaggerate entries at the beginning of sustained notes. These occasional explosions of sound in the midst of the calm progress of Monteverdi (especially in Non Si leva ancor) seemed as out of place as squibs at a coronation. Firm but not exaggerated entries are necessary.
In the final concert. Rosemary Barnes's playing of Bach's Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue was deservedly well received. Her rendering was a big improvement on an earlier performance given in one of the Music Club's lunch hour concerts. She played with assurance and vigour, balancing the grace of melody in the work against its passages of technical turbulence.
Organist Anthony Jennings gave sensitive, well executed performances of three of Bach's Chorale Preludes in the St. Matthew's Church concert. His playing of the Prelude and Fugue in G minor by Buxtehude and the Toccata in B minor by Gigout was likewise noteworthy for its clarity and power. Mention must also be made of Alan Simpson's playing, especially in Nun Komm by J. S. Bach and Unto Us Has Come Salvation (Anon.).
Also at this concert the choir, together with a combined Victoria and Auckland orchestra, performed O Sing Unto The Lord by Purcell and Magnificat by Buxtehude. In a building well suited to sound of this music, the choir and orchestra gave both these pieces plenty of life. It was good to hear the soloists this time, since in the previous performance of these works at Wellington's new Anglican Cathedral the soloists, with a single exception, had been either inaudible or unintelligible.
Other Victoria participants in the Festival included Nelson Wattie (bass), who did not seem to be in quite as good a voice as usual. He sang some songs by Schubert and Douglas Lilburn. Theodora Hill played Scriabin's Nocturne for Left Hand, and played it well. But not even a Richter or a Rubenstein could conceal the poverty of the music. A new piece by Britten, the Night Piece (1963) was played by Murray Brown, who also provided very accomplished accompaniments for Nelson Wattie.
A word now about the final concert of the Festival which was given in the Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber. This concert saw the first performance of a cantata by Ronald Tremain, commissioned by the Auckland University Music Society. The cantata Tenere Juventa (Tender Youth) was for choir and two pianos. The best that can be said of this work is that it is harmless. No doubt the singers enjoyed singing it, but I doubt if we will ever hear it again. The text (in Latin) was taken from the Carmina Burana, a collection of mediaeval Latin songs, which has provided Karl Orff with material for his composition Carmina Burana.
In fact, Mr. Tremain's music seemed to be heavily under the thumb of Karl Orff's style, in a pallid sort of way, of course. The cantata was performed twice and did not improve with acquaintance.
The most interesting feature of this concert was the presentation of several works by Anton Webern. At one time the least noticed of the Viennese trio of Webern, Berg and Schoenberg, Webern now seems to be eclipsing the other two. Yet even among a supposedly sophisticated audience such as was at the Concert Chamber, his music drew titters from a few.
The Auckland contingent are to be congratulated on tackling this difficult music. It was especially interesting to hear the Symphony played by the Auckland University Chamber Orchestra conducted by Michael Wieck. This work, like all of Webern's music, packs a lot into a few notes and a small stretch of time. Despite its modem sound and the fact that it is written in the twelve tone system the music retains a surprising number of more "orthodox" characteristics.
The repetition, inversion, development, etc., of themes are readily recognisable at first hearing; the overall form is orthodox. Webern's music teaches a sound lesson in the effective and economical use of the orchestra.
In this concert, also, the Auckland University Chamber Orchestra played Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. Michael Wieck seems more successful as a violinist than as a conductor. The playing in this and other works the orchestra did was too often mechanical and wooden. Sound consisted of loud and soft with little in between, and a limited range of timbre.