Classical Guitars and Strings
Students from Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music
Friday 15 April 2016, Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University Wellington
A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs
Sonata No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001 – Adagio – JS Bach (1685-1750)
Nickolas Majic, violin
Cello Suite No.2 in D minor, BWV 1008 – Prelude – JS Bach (1685-1750)
Jordan Renaud, cello
Sonata in D Major – Allegro; Grave – Santiago de Murcia (1673-1739)
Serenata Espanola – Joaquin Malats (1872-1912)
Royden Smith, guitar
Violin Partita No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004 – Allemande – JS Bach (1685-1750)
Anna Lee, violin
Lute Suite in E minor, BWV 996 – Prelude & Presto; Sarabande – JS Bach (1685-1750)
Joel Baldwin, guitar
Cello Suite No.2 in D minor, BWV 1008 – Minuet I & II – JS Bach (1685-1750)
Rebecca Warnes, cello
Gyftiko for solo violin – John Psathas (b. 1966)
Sophie Tarrant-Matthews, violin
Concierto de Samba – Klaus Wüsthoff (b. 1922)
NZSM Guitar Trio (Amber Madriaga, Emma Sandford, Joel Baldwin)
Rather than the ACR (Adam Concert Room) at Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music, the venue of this lunchtime concert was another building endowed by Verna and Denis Adam: the Adam Art Gallery. Is it a graceful, svelte structure with several multipurpose rooms and a long, narrow and lofty two-level gallery. The acoustics are very bright, so the resonance of the solo instruments was very clear and reverberant. Unfortunately, all the sounds and noises were picked up as well, including incidental conversations and clomping footsteps!
I was quite astounded by the performance level of the instrumentalists. Most of the players have only one or two years at university. Scrub that – it is only April! So the first year players have only six weeks experience with the university system.
It was good to note that the players have a good grounding in JS Bach – five of the nine works were composed by this maestro. And I noted that only three of the players – the guitar trio excepted – relied on music scores. When the players are not focused on their musical score, they can convey their consequent energy and vitality to the audience.
Jordan and Rebecca played their movements of the Bach solo suite admirably. Some slips in intonation and glitches in their bowing techniques bruised a perfect performance but their phrasing and musicality were dominant features.
Nickolas and Joel were assured and competent in their pieces. I would like to have some more flair in their playing, and as time goes by I am sure that will develop that facet in their performances.
Royden, as a 4th year player, certainly has that flair. His fine dynamic range and use of rubato was superlative. De Murcia’s Grave had a luminous changing chord structure, and Royden’s use of ornamentation and rubato masked the absence of rhythm variety – all the note values were the same! With the Serenata Espanola Royden picked up the pace, with melismatic phrasing and idiomatic Spanish themes. I especially like the way he defined the bass part, inner parts and the melody so clearly – it was like three different instruments.
That was not a problem with the Trio! Each of them had aspects of the melody, bass part and inner parts and percussion parts as well: knocking on the body of the guitars, slapping, tapping with their nails on the ribs. Their ensemble was very fine – together, synchronised and balanced.
Anna Lee, a first year violin student, was impressive. She handled the movement of the Bach Violin Partita with aplomb – clear tone, intonation accurate, strong bowing. She almost had a combative attitude to the piece, or at least forthright and blunt. Her rhythmic accuracy was notable – especially at the close of the piece with the quavers turning to triplets to semiquavers.
With Gyftiko by John Psathas, Sophie had a hit on her hands!
Gyftiko was the solo violin Test Piece for the 2011 Michael Hill International Violin Competition. While the resonance of the Adam Art Gallery simply amplified the other instruments, with this piece it enhanced it. At the start of the piece, John has rapid melodies culminating with forte double stops and pizzicato chords. When Sophie delivered them, the sounds reechoed about the room and she waited to the last minute to continue with the next phrase. The melody increases in range and intensity, with bowing and plucking alternatively. The Greek character that colours much of John’s music is paramount, a jazzy, syncopated rhythm like a Greek bluegrass band with Sophie providing the fiddle, the banjo and the bass combined. Throughout the piece picks up the pace and Sophie’s performance was amazing. A tour de force.