Reviews, News and Commentary

NZSO’s passionate concert filled with events, ideas and emotions.

John Daly-Peoples

Amalia Hall

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra


Auckland Town Hall

March 14

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“Passione” was the first NZSO concert to be held in Auckland this year celebrating its 75th anniversary. James Judd led the orchestra, fifteen years after he conducted them for its sixtieth-year anniversary in 2007.

The three works on the programme were all linked to other creative works which explored stories about passion where the music conveyed events, ideas and emotions.

The first work on the programme was Strauss’s tone poem “Don Juan” which captures  the philandering exploits of the hero. The  frenzied swelling of the opening represented the lustful  Don Juan’s while the passionate voices of the harp, sprightly flutes and woodwinds painted expressive portraits  of his female lovers.

The second work on the programme was John Corigliano’s “Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra” written for  the score of the film The Red Violin which  traces a rare violin from Cremona, Italy, where a violin maker adds a secret ingredient to the varnish – his wife’s blood.

The work was filled with haunting themes that echo the moodiness of the tale with soloist Amalia Hall taking on the role of the violin itself. The work opened with Hall playing a tingling melody representing the birth of the instrument with tentative chords and then later playing some achingly beautiful passages which  revealed an intense fragility with a sense of the violin itself being filled with despair. Throughout the work with the soaring voice of the violin contrasted with the orchestra’s sounds full of drama and shocks.

Her voice prevailed over the onslaughts of the orchestra at times with a pure romanticism while at other times her playing was indignant and insistent as she seemed to battle with the orchestra, a battle which came to a close as she outplayed the orchestra in the final moments the of the work.

The main work on the programme was a selection of pieces from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Prokofiev’s ability to create drama, romance and grief makes the music to the ballet one of the most powerful orchestral works.

The opening work “The Montagues and Capulets” captured the mood of power and drama with an underlying attention to dance movement this was followed by a transition to the Aubade with the romanticism of the piece  conveyed by flutes and then to the light dance of Juliet herself where the sprightly orchestration creates a entrancing image of a young girl.

They also played “The Death of Tybalt” one of the most impressive and moving pieces. From the opening sinister sounds through the almost playful and hectic fight scenes  and onto the dramatic and tragic death, the work pulses with emotion.

James Judd ensured the orchestra provided a performance with an almost symphonic scope while ensuring we appreciated the balletic  nature of the work, conveying the scores colour grace and excitement.

Future NZSO Concerts


Vesa-Matti Leppänen Director
Anna van der Zee Violin
Malavika Gopal Violin
Simeon Broom Violin
Alan Molina Violin

Vivaldi The Four Seasons
Piazzolla orch. Desyatnikov Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)

Hamilton May 20 & 21

Nelson May 26

Reviews, News and Commentary

APO’s Tall Tales concert featured two remarkable story telling solioists

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Jeno Lisztes

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Tall Tales

Auckland Town Hall

May 5

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The APO’s “Tall Tales” concerts opened with Zoltan Kodaly’s “Háry Janos Suite, an impressionist tale of the quixotic, Hungarian folk hero.

The Empress Marie Louise, wife of Napoleon, falls in love with Háry and takes him to Vienna. France  declares a war on Austria in which Háry single-handedly defeats the armies of Napoleon but he realizes  he can find happiness only with his village sweetheart, Orzse, so he dismisses the Empress.

The work is a dream about the personal search for glory but also a search for nationalist pride. It is these qualities which Kodaly tries to express in the work. At the centre of this musical search is the cimbalom, a Hungarian musical instrument played by soloist Jeno Lisztes

There are sequences of  drifting landscape and militaristic display with lots of animated Hungarian melodies and atmospheric passages.

There were sequences of sorrowful strings, blasting trombones and lots of clashing cymbals as well as some jazz like interventions. Along with brass and timpani was the cimbalom which sounds like a mixture of the harp and the xylophone with conductor Gilbert Varga seemingly carried away by some of the dance sequences.

Jeno Lisztes then performed one of his own solo improvised works with a dazzling display of music and some remarkable technical skill. The cimbalom is played with two sticks but Lisztes’ speed and agility meant that it sounded as through there were at least two players  creating an avalanche of intertwined sounds and themes. Several of his variations were based on Hungarian themes but one could also detect a  clever riff on pokarekare ana.

Clara-Jumi Kang

The major work on the programme was John Adams’ Scheherazade 2

A lot of John Adams major compositions have strong political and social purpose such as “Nixon in China” and “The Death of Klinghoffer”. His “Scheherazade 2” is no different. The work is about the violence  that women suffer, even at the hands of the people who should care for them.

In the mythical  stories of the Arabian nights Scheherazade tells her murderous husband a new tantalizing tale each night for 1001 nights, thus sparing her life a day at a time. Adams saw that this account of brutality had resonances with the present day.

The four movements work has no  explicit  narrative but each part has a description with enigmatic titles. Some of these – “Tale of the Wise Young Woman – Pursuit by the True Believers” and  “Scheherazade and the Men with Beards” gives a sense of the oppressive nature of the sultans’ court while “A Long Desire” and  “Escape, Flight, Sanctuary” speak more of her personal reactions.

With the orchestra providing a lush sensual backdrop to the stories  violinist Clara-Jumi Kang  or rather her violin became the embodiment of Scheherazade in an electrifying performance. Her violin along with Lisztes cimbalom displayed a strident voice which conveyed the emotional aspects of the storytelling as well as a feeling of adventure.

In many ways this was mini opera with Kang’s  voices expressing the qualities of the heroine, moving from the harsh to the lyrical. She conveyed  through her  playing various dreamstates, sadness, coquettishness, and sensuality, morphing from  quiet introspection to rage.

In the final movement “Escape, Flight, Sanctuary,” Kang enveloped by brass and wind instruments expressed a  fierceness and vulnerability  with some frenzied bowing,

Next Town Hall concert

May 19

Conductor Gilbert Varga
Harp Ingrid Bauer

Saint-Saëns Le rouet d’Omphale
Debussy Danses sacrée et profane
Tailleferre Concertino for Harp and OrchestraMilhaud Le boeuf sur le toit
Satie (orch. Debussy) Two Gymnopédies
Ravel La valse

Reviews, News and Commentary

Robin White: A life through art revealed in new book

Reviewed by John Peoples

Robin White: Something is happening Here 

Edited by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan and Nina Tonga

Te Papa Press & Auckland Art Gallery
RRP ($70.00)

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In “Soon the tide will turn” one of her large collaborative barkcloth works Robin White included a small image based on a painting of hers from fifty years before. It is of the building which dominates “Mangaweka” but without the old Bedford truck sitting outside. The two works illustrate her commitment to recognising place and her links to the land across time. For many artists their work is an expression of and a contemplation of their physical, emotional and spiritual connections. With White the images she has created constitute a visual diary of the places she has lived, the environments she has inhabited and the people she has encountered.

As she has previously said of her work “A consistent thread in my work it that it’s made in response to place and what’s happening around me – physical and social environments provide raw material, the inspiration and the starting point”

The new book “Robin White – Something is happening Here” brings together many of her images in a survey of her life’s work greatly expanding the readers appreciation of the artist’s work.

The book follows her career from the early successes, selling work to the University of Auckland and The Dowse through to her relocation to Kiribati. It traces out  the development of a personal style and shows the various influences on her work including her friendship with the poet Sam Hunt, high school teacher May Smith and Colin McCahon at the Elam School of Fine Arts. Threaded  though all these aesthetic influences were the teaching of Bahai which affected her social and political ideas.

Her work up till 1982 when she moved to Kiribati is quite distinctive from the latter work she would produce. Her work of the 1970’s includes images of building and landscapes of the places she encountered – Bottle Creek, Porirua,  Mt Eden, Dunedin and Harbour Cone. Some of these paintings recall McCahons line about landscapes with too few lovers but they also hint at Rita Angus’s Cass.

Robin White, Mana

The large portraits of that time set in landscapes seem to link to the portraits and religious depictions of the Renaissance where the backgrounds perform a symbolic function as well as providing a sense of place.

The work after 1982 when she began living in Kiribati, touring the Pacific and the world have a different style and different outlook. As she says about arriving in her new homeland “You look one way and there is the ocean, and the other way and there is more ocean. It’s just the sense of vastness and the nothingness of space.”

A lot of these works focussed on the domestic and everyday life on the island. A series of woodblock prints from the 1990’s was inspired by a young woman with “Nei Tiein goes for  a walk” and  another of The Fisherman loses his way.” The Nei Tiein works are linked to the poems of Yeats and Blake and the Fisherman series look like Pacific reworking of biblical images and narratives.

Robin White and Ebonie Fifita, Soon the tide will turn

Many of the  significant works she produced were collaborations. The first of these was with her artist friend Claudia Pond Eyley and their set of woodcuts “Twenty-eight day in Kiribati.” Later collaborations were with female artists of the island as well as artists from Tonga Fiji and New Zealand. Some of these large-scale works were on barkcloth , the images made from earth pigments and natural dyes  featuring a range of stencilled motifs of Western and Pacific art. In “Soon the tide will turn” which featured her own work she also includes Henri Matisse’s shoes and hat, a reference to the time the Frenchman spent in the Pacific.

The book provides an insight into a wide ranging and multi-layered  life where everyday life and experiences meld with symbols and metaphors creating work where the deceptive simplicity conceals a depth of enquiry and comprehension seeing order and meaning in the world.

The book itself is a beautiful production  with more than 150 full colour reproduction, numerous photographs. While the main text of the book is  by Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan and Nina Tonga there are also  a number of shorter essays on particular works and aspects of the artist life by other commentators including Peter Brunt  Helen Ennis, Gregory O’Brien, Justin Paton , Linda Tyler and Haare Williams.

Robin White, Clouds, Hill and Claudia

A major retrospective exhibition featuring more than 70 works from across White’s 50-year career – Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here – will open at Te Papa on 4 June, followed by Auckland Art Gallery in late-October 2022.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Heavenly Beings: The icons which helped create a Christian brand

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Onoufrios of Neokastro, Royal Doors with the Annunciation, Albania or Northern Greece. Private collection London.

 Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World

Auckland Art Gallery

Until September 18

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World” consists of 118 icons of the Christian Orthodox faith drawn from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East.

These examples of devotional art which are from the mid fourteenth century through to the beginning of the nineteenth century are icons by some of the masters of the time such as Angelos Akotantos, Andreas Pavias, Nikolaos Tzafouris and Constantine Tzanes many of whom followed in the styles created by more significant artists such as Andrei Rublev.

These exhibition shows how icons had a place  in the lives of ordinary Christians, pilgrims and priests of the time. They also relate to the systems of prayer and everyday liturgical events in churches and at shrines.

Viewers of the exhibition should bear in mind that at the same time as these works were being created, artists like Piero della Francesco, Leonardo de Vinci and Titian were producing very different art works.

Where the artists of the Renaissance and later sought to create complex narratives with emotional connections as well as conceiving of a doctrinal basis and history for the church  the icon painters saw their works as a way of directing prayers.

While they  represent the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and events Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the images so that they are not naturalistic. This is done in the belief that the works look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event.

The purpose of icons was to assist in worship and the church allowed that they could be venerated although  it was never intended that they be worshiped, a distinction which often confused and divided the church authorities, Initially there was a fear that the viewer would misdirect their veneration toward the image rather than to the holy person represented in the image and for many years the veneration of icons was banned. This approach failed and to this day many in the Orthodox religion worship the physical objects and have strong beliefs in their curative powers.

The invention and development of icons can be seen as  parallel to the construction and elaboration of the complex beliefs and  liturgy of the Christian church itself. This entailed using iconography to support teachings and writings so the icon is part of the widespread public relations exercise by the church to create a brand and a belief structure which would appear to be consistent.

The church needed to have images for veneration and instruction but this also created problems. One of the main issues was how to depict The Trinity, Christ, his mother and the saints so they could be seen as divine or special but also in human form . Were these invented people like the previous iterations of gods? Did they have human characteristics or were they a different form of deity?

While the church leaders / advisors often laid down what the depiction or iconography should look like many of the aspects were left to the individual artists who followed the models of Greek and Roman gods or copied the work of previous Orthodox artists and were not concerned with innovation or originality and the exhibition also shows how the artists over this period developed their iconography, often unclear as to how to depict individuals and events.

In  depictions of the Annunciation there were issues around who were the main players. While Gabriel normally  makes the announcement to the Virgin there are different representations of the divine.  In the work by Onoufrios of Neokastro, three  shafts  from above signify The Trinity but in another a dove represents this while in another it is represented by the sole distant figure of god,

The problem of the depiction of The Trinity can be seen with other icons. In one three figures sit at a table in others there are obvious distinctions made between Father Son and Holy Spirit. There is also a problem of depicting the Trinity in scenes such as the Nativity where god is essentially separated between the heavenly figures and the earthly based Christ child.

There were  also minor technical issues such as the depiction of halos. Were they a sign of divinity? Who were they to be used on? Should they contain symbols and what size and shape should they be? Were they are some form of physical attachment to the head or merely an aura, what shape should they be and how should they  be displayed in a three-dimensional manner. The Western tradition later solved some of the  problems by dispensing with halo altogether.

Saint George and the Dragon, Crete, circa 1500. Egg tempera, gold leaf and gesso on wood. Private collection, Canberra.

The invention of stories and an allied iconography can be seen in the myth of St George. The story seems to have had  pre-Christian origins but early on was depicted as a Roman soldier with  the dragon sometimes including a princess whom he saves. The dragon presumably based on the Devil / Snake and an evolving George became a myth which fitted into Christian notions of good overcoming evil and then adopted by various parts of the church and societies ending up being the patron saint of England a long way from his Middle East origins.

Another area which had to be invented by the artists was the appearance of Christ, the Virgin and the many saints and prophets. The saints were dealt with by having their attributes or symbols attached to their “portraits”.  A more challenging aspect was the depiction of Christ  which was aided by some early appearances of his image supposedly “made without hand” which are said to have come into existence miraculously. There is no consistency to the images but this was a useful means of having an image of Christ without the artist being responsible for the accuracy.

The Virgin’s image was based on Greek and Roman models but the icons of her only occur from the fifth century. However, once a formula was created for her appearance it became a template for  other artists to use.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Christian Li: Boy Wonder and the APO

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Christian Li and the APO

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Christian Li Plays

Auckland Town Hall

April 21st

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The “Christian Li Plays” concert with the APO was the first concert this year with no restrictions on audience numbers so there was an almost full Auckland Town Hall of eager listeners.

When Christian Li took to the stage it was obvious that he was a diminutive fourteen-year-old and like all teens of that age there was a mixture of the gauche, bewilderment and astonishment to his face and posture.

But as soon as he started playing it was as though this person had been taken over by a 24-year-old. This transformation meant that his every movement and expression seemed to be channelling the  emotional energy and technical brilliance  of a mature  musician.

The  first work he played was Saint-Saëns’ “Introduction and Rondo capriccioso” which  is a showpiece allowing the violinist to display their skills. Li was technically agile producing  warm tones and taut rhythms. Following the musical notations can allow a player to show a certain level of skill but that only takes them so far. Li demonstrated that his understanding of the music meant that he was able to transform the work into something that was truly capricious with sudden changes of mood and style which resulted in an electrifying performance.

Ravel’s Tzigane is also a very difficult piece being a frenetic gypsy tune which also lightly mocks the genre. From the unaccompanied opening Li imbued the work with an exquisite yearning. As the work progressed the tempo increased and Li was involved with some hectic  tussles with the orchestra. At times he appeared trancelike as though taken over by the music while at others time there was an impish playfulness.

The concert had started with Faure’s “Pelléas et Mélisande: Suite”. From the first movements surging romantic solo cello and woodwind which capture the love of Mélisande through to the wistful well-known third movement and onto to the tragic last movement where the  clarinets and flutes sounded a final lament for her, conductor Vincent Hardaker guided the orchestra confidently and stylishly.

After the interval there were two Russian works on the programme Mussorgsky’s “Night on the Bare Mountain” and Borodin’s  “Symphony No2”. With both works the orchestra captured the essence of Russian music of the time with traces of folk and an ever-present nationalism .The Mussorgsky expresses the human experience of exposure to the elements, and the eventual relief as the terror abates with the coming of dawn. This was all dramatically conveyed by the orchestra.

With the Borodin the orchestra was in fine form capturing the heroics of the first movement, the joy of the sprightly second  movement, the ethereal and dramatic third and the energy of the carnivalesque final section.

Next APO Town Hall Concert, May 5th

Conductor Gilbert Varga
Violin Clara-Jumi Kang
Cimbalom Jenő Lisztes

Kodály Háry János: SuiteJenő Lisztes Improvisation for CimbalomJohn Adams Scheherazade.2

Kodály’s operetta tells the heroic adventures of a Hungarian peasant Háry János

Central to the piece is the sound of the cimbalom, the Hungarian zither.

Inspired by the Tales of the 1001 Nights, John Adams riffed on Rimsky- Korsakov in a ‘dramatic symphony’ for violin and orchestra about ‘a Scheherazade in our own time’, ending with ‘escape, flight, and sanctuary’ from the barbaric men subjugating her.

Reviews, News and Commentary

The Hundertwasser Art Centre: The art of transformation

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Hundertwasser Art Centre, Whangarei

The  newly opened Hundertwasser Art Centre, which includes the Wairua Maori Art Gallery is one of the major projects by Friedensreich Hundertwasser who had worked on the design for several years. His vision was translated into the present form by the German architect Heinz Springmann along with Grant Harris of HB Architects based in Whangarei.

The building avoids the rationalism and geometry of much contemporary architecture in favour of fluidity, novelty and a  creativity which is  in harmony with nature. A desire for ecological sustainability has seen the use of 40,000 recycled bricks, 1600 cubic metres of recycled timber, 500m recycled pavers along with 3000m square metres of locally made tiles.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was one of Austria’s best-known artists and Vienna has many of his buildings including a Hundertwasser Museum. He moved to New Zealand and  lived in the Bay of Islands for 24 years until his death in 2000. He was a New Zealand citizen,  committing himself to the preservation of the natural environment.

Hundertwasser, Save The Rain

His work and his life was focussed on transformation, even his name was part of this notion. Originally his surname was Stowasser, a Slavic name for hundred waters, changing it to the more acceptable German of Hundertwasser gave more relevance and meaning to him and illustrates the artist’s love of water and concerns about planetary ecology. In his art he often referred to water and its many forms – the sea, the river, the rain and tears.

Hundertwasser, The Small Way

Hundertwasser has often been referred to as “the doctor of architecture” because of the way he reinvigorates  existing buildings giving them a new purpose. The new museum is the repurposed Northland Harbour Board  Building

He regarded contemporary architecture as sterile, being opposed to the straight line which is antithetical to his own thinking. He even objected to the writings of fellow Austrian architect Adolf Loos who sought in his architecture to  eliminate ornament from useful objects and the built environment. For Hundertwasser the decorative was the way to enliven architecture and lives, an approach which  is close to some of the Viennese architects of the Jugendstil period.

The great modernist architect, Le Corbusier saw dwellings as “machines for living in”, efficient tools to help provide for the necessities of life with no decoration. Hundertwasser saw them more as environmental wombs which allowed people to develop.

Hundertwasser architecture is innovative in the way that he generally applies an aesthetic cloak to his buildings and structures rather than design an original organic structure. All his buildings including the Art Centre certainly look organic but  it is  a pity he was not able to give full rein to the notions of creating a completely original organic  structure rather than adapt an existing structure composed of the rectangular forms that he so despised.

Some of his work links to the aesthetic of the Spanish architect Gaudi who made use of bright colours, hand-created decoration, distorted lines along with a desire to be in touch with nature. Like Gaudi his work has not resulted in a “School of Hundertwasser” although his ideas of recycling and decoration have prompted many designers  in similar directions and his bulbous pillars have featured in the work of several post-modern architects.

Unlike much architecture the building can be viewed and appreciated from all sides and angles. Walking around the exterior as well as through the roof garden and ascending the tower offer new perspectives of the buildings structure, its dramatic contrasts of colour and form as well as its quirky detailing.

The galleries devoted to Hundertwasser’s work outline the development  of the gallery and several of his other architectural works. There are also a number of his original art works and posters which he used to promote conservation concerns such as Save the Whales and Save the City.

His art like his architecture is distinctive deriving from various influences such as Art Nouveau and the work of artists such as Alphonse Mucha and Gustav Klimt with their highly decorative approach. This influence is particularly noticeable in the posters which he created for numerous environmental concerns.

There are only a few of his major paintings in the exhibition but they are a couple of great such as “The Small Way” which is a plan view of a town, a mix of Vienna with the Danube  snaking through and Venice surrounded by water with a canal and  a couple of  campo. In many of the paintings he combines faces, the sky, landscape, water, images of the city in plan and  elevation

Part of the exhibition  shows some of the artists early works and show the development of his original style. There is a small watercolour from 1945 when the artist was seventeen of  “Terraced Landscape near Stiefern”

Hundertwasser, Terraced Landscape near Stiefern

which shows the use of  striated colour which came to dominate his later works. There is also an interest in structure, something that was to be another feature of his work. There is also the drawing “Camping in Front of the Entrance Gate near Pompeii” of 1949 which features stylised bulbous trees, sinuous landscape forms and oddly shaped buildings

Hundertwasser, Camping in Front of the Entrance Gate near Pompe

As part of the  Hundertwasser Art Centre is the Wairau Māori Art Gallery which provides a Māori art gallery dedicated to profiling Māori artists and curators.

The current exhibition Puhi Ariki curated by Nigel Borell showcases works by  significant  senior contemporary Māori artists along with more contemporary practitioners. . There are two large colourfield work series Ralph Hotere from his Zero series paintings along with works by Emare Karaka, Selwyn Muru and Israel Birch. 

Israel Birch, Ko te mauri o Nga Puhi he mea huna ki te wai


Reviews, News and Commentary

APO’s Dvorak concert filled with delicacy, aggresssion and potency

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Victor Julien-Laferrière

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Dvorak Cello Concerto

New Zealand Herald Premier Series

Walker, Lyric for Strings
Dvorak, Cello Concerto
Lutosławski, Concerto for Orchestra

Auckland Town Hall

April 7th

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The APO’s latest concert at the Auckland Town Hall was the first under the new Covid 19 setting which allows for up to two hundred people at indoor events. With two performances, the “rehearsal” in the morning and the evening concert this meant that 400 people were able to hear the concert. Hopefully next week will see a move to orange setting and the concert with Christian Li will have a completely full Town Hall.

The morning concert opened with a rendition of Happy Birthday and another after the interval. They were for birthday celebrations of a 99-year-old regular concert goer and Carl Wells one of the orchestra’s horn players.

The main work on the programme was Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with soloist Victor Julien-Laferrière, replacing the  Russian cellist, Anastasia Kobekina.

Conductor Shiyeon Sung in her first appearance with the APO. guided the orchestra effortlessly through the work with Julien-Laferrière producing a lovely, polished tone from his cello. The orchestra created a sense of an immersive Nature into which Julien-Laferrière, inserted a thread of personal angst.

Throughout the work he played with a mixture of techniques. At times he seemed to caress his instrument with a delicate touch while at other time there was a fierce aggressiveness

He displayed lightning speed in parts of the first movement followed by a  lovingly deliberation on the evocative landscapes of the second movement, and some heroic playing in the finale.

The first work on the programme was the 1946 composition  Lyric for Strings  by the African-American George Walker. The piece had the  original dedication of “To my grandmother”, a woman he had known in his youth and who had been a slave (as was his grandfather).

The poetic slow work is a contemplation on her life and a reflection on Americas past and  owes a little to his classmate, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings

The piece alternates dramatically between lush harmonies and stark solo passages, the warm voluptuous sequences intersected by passages of foreboding and menace. Overall, the work displayed  a remarkable breadth of  sounds produced from  the string orchestra.

Also on the programme was Polish composer Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto written only a few years after Walker’s work but at a time in  Eastern Europe where modernism was censured. While the work  was developed from folk tunes, they were given new harmonies with some added atonal features.

The work blazed with precision, clarity and  potency allowing all the instruments to display their individual  virtuosity.

The blaring woodwind sounds of the first movement seemed as though a massive steam train was bursting into the auditorium followed by an extraordinary mixture of mechanical and natural sounds from the shimmering strings. The final explosive movement which owed much to Prokofiev and Shostakovich was filled with moments of mystery, rogue experimentation and some intriguing sounds from the piano and harp.

Next Concert

Christian Li Plays

Auckland Town Hall

April 21st

Conductor Vincent Hardaker
Violin Christian Li

Fauré Pelléas et Mélisande: Suite
Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo capriccioso
Ravel Tzigane
Mussorgsky Night on the Bare Mountain
Borodin Symphony No.2

Reviews, News and Commentary

Portrait of a City. Wellington Architecture: A Walking Guide

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Wellington Architecture: A Walking Guide

John Walsh and Patrick Reynolds

Massey University Press

RRP $30.00

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

John Walsh and photographer Patrick Reynolds have just launched “Wellington Architecture, A Walking Guide” their third book in the series of architectural walking tours following on from their books on Auckland and Christchurch. It is a great addition to books which explore and explain our built environment.

 John Walsh in the introduction notes that he was born in Wellington which was as “compact and confined as a medieval city-state, intensely impressed itself on me, in the most impressionable part of my life. My mother had moved to Wellington where she met my father, and they were married in the church at St Gerard’s Monastery. I remember the Freyberg Pool, where I learned to swim; the summer lights strung on the Norfolk pines along Oriental Parade; and the council yard where my father worked, next to the Herd Street Post and Telegraph Building. My high school was near the old National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum; we’d be sent to mass at St Mary of the Angels and, in blazers and ties, despatched from Wellington Railway Station on rugby expeditions into the hinterlands of the Hutt Valley.”

Public Trust Building

This reviewer also grew up in  Wellington, living in the National Hotel  across from  the corner of Stout St and  Lambton Quay. From our front room we had an impressive architectural vista including The Public Trust Building The Government Departmental Building and The State Insurance Building. Further down the street was the Wellington Railway Station  and the Seamans Mission Building.

On my way to school I passed  Ernst Plischke’s Massey House, The Old Supreme Court, The Old Government Building, The Beehive, Parliament building, the General Assembly Library, Turnbull House and the rather unfortunate Cathedral of St Paul. These were the background to my life at the time and it was only when I moved to suburban Karori that I noticed the difference in my daily environment.

Shed 7, Wellington Harbour Board

The place of architecture in our environment and in our personal and social history is important often more noticeable when we are in foreign cities. A city’s buildings are important in defining the nature of a place. When visiting a place for the first time the visitor will map a city through its buildings. The materials, the orientation, the colours, the decoration and the forms all help create the language of the way the city is perceived.

The buildings of Auckland Wellington and Christchurch have many similarities but the accumulation of the various periods of construction and styles in each of those places has created very individual environments.

“Wellington Architecture, A Walking Guide” features more than 120 significant buildings describing their purpose and history as well as  providing a background on  the architects who designed them. The buildings are grouped into five self-guided walking routes, each with a map together with itineraries which collectively create a portrait of the  city.

St John’s

The building are  a mix of colonial, nineteenth century Gothic, mid-century modernism and buildings of the last fifty years illustrating the changing nature of the architecture along with the changing nature of New Zealand and the city. The buildings are banks, businesses, government departments, churches, apartment buildings libraries, hotels, apartments, and a few  private houses.

One of the tours features several of the government institutions surrounding Parliament including the Old Government Building (now the Victoria University Law School) and one on the largest wooden buildings in the world, all those other buildings I passed on the way to school along with the more recent  brutalist National Library and the modernist Freyberg Building.

Several architects feature with a number of buildings such as Gummer & Ford, Thomas Turnbull and Ian Athfield who is represented by the Wellington Library (soon to be demolished), his quirky First Church of Christ Scientist and his Oriental Parade flats as well as a few, often controversial,  additions he made to existing buildings

DeLoitte, 20 Customhouse Quay

While all the buildings are significant there are a number  scattered through the  walk which have importance beyond their architectural qualities. There are the Dixon Street Flats which were the first multi-story modernist block of flats created under the First Labour Government which show the influence of overseas trends introduced to New Zealand by Plischke.

There is also the remarkable Futuna Chapel designed by John Scott the Māori architect who managed to combine aspects of Māori and mainstream architecture. Walsh notes that Futuna is  one of the few buildings one could refer to as “iconic”.

Walsh writes in an informative style, providing wide ranging information to provide a context for the buildings so that while the book is an ideal complement to a walking tour of the city it is also provides a potted history of the social, political and aesthetics development over 150 years in the city as seen through the buildings.

The photography of Patrick Reynolds enhances the text with many of them showing an appreciation of the design elements of the buildings, 

Anscombe Flats
Reviews, News and Commentary

Belinda Griffiths portraits emerge from chaos

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Belinda Griffiths, Gesture IV

Belinda Griffiths, Exhale

Föenander Galleries, Mt Eden

Until April 20

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Belinda Griffiths latest exhibition “Exhale” at Föenander Galleries is largely of figures or portraits, employing gestural marks which derive from both the rigorous marks of the calligrapher as well as the emotional and spontaneous gestures of artists such as Max Gimblett.

We are rarely aware of the action of exhaling but when we focus on the way we breathe we become conscious of our environment and our connection with it in a much intimate way, aware of the physicality of the activity. So, with these works she  touches on the nuances of the person, and their awareness of their environment – physically, cerebrally and spiritually.

The gesture in art has been a way for artists and performers to embellish or emphasise their intentions. Actors making grand flourishes, composers with extravagant chords,  musicians with ostentatious ornamentation while visual artists employ colour, contrast and brush strokes to catch the eye.

The gestures of Griffiths range from the light touch  to the dramatic providing a sense of the individual surrounded by or emerging from unrest and  disorder, evoking Milton’s lines from “Paradise Lost”

“ In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos

With many of her faces the individual is in a meditative pose lost in their own thoughts or reveries but around them swirl lines which emanate from the body or from an outside presence .

The gestural mark of the brush in “Gesture III” ($3000)  becomes the swell of sinews while in “Exhale” ($6800)  these marks may be the outline of exhaled breath and equally the swirling thoughts of the individual.

In Gesture IV” ($3000) the paint itself seems to lift of the surface creating a three-dimensional effect and in “Drift” ($2500) the gesture becomes the dramatic hair style of the figure. With “Intertwined” ($6800) the figure is almost obliterated by the swelling brushstrokes.

A couple of the works don’t relate to the figure and more to the chaos around them with the more abstract “Unwind” ($2200) and “Windswept” ($2200) describing a rugged  landscape with ragged clouds.

There is also a small suite of works in which  figures are  set in landscapes. In “Inhale #6” ($700) a solitary figure seems to confront a swirling  cloud  while in “Inhale #3” ($700) the figure is either emerging or disappearing into a  churning mist.

The small  works in the show are all monotypes but she has also used the technique on some of the larger works and one work “Untethered” has been applied directly to the wall of the gallery.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Mt Eden’s boutique chamber music festival on in April

John Daly-Peoples

NZ Trio

Mt Eden Chamber Music Festival

Mt Eden Village Centre

Friday 29 April to Sunday 1 May

John Daly-Peoples

Next month will see the return of the boutique Mt Eden Chamber Music Festival which has been delayed twice because of Covid.
The festival offers three one-hour concerts over the course of the weekend, featuring an impressive line-up of New Zealand’s top classical musicians including two important chamber ensembles along with APO Section Principals.

Friday 7pm


Amalia Hall (violin), Ashley Brown (cello) and Somi Kim (piano)

Christos Hatzis, Old Photographs

Salina Fisher, Kintsugi

Brahms, Piano Trio No

Brahms’s Piano Trio No. 1 began as a  youthful work which was completing in January 1854, when he was 21. This trio version was substantially revised in 1889, 35 years later, so it is a work separated by three-and-a-half decades of experience.

Hatzis’ work is part of his larger “Constantinople”  which  draws on his Greek heritage. It is filled with music which touches on remembering and romancing with sounds from gospel, Sufi and mediaeval chants, along with Greek folksong. The work opened with Somi Kim playing an achingly lovely passage, filled with longing which gradually morphs, along with the other instruments into a Piazzolla style with many tango rhythms such that the work could more aptly be titled “Buenos Aires”.

Parts of the work became quite frenzied which then turned into slow languid passages before returning to more passionate tangos where Hall and Brown engaged in a ferocious bowing competition. Throughout there was a sense of photographic images being examined some blurred, some ripped, some black and white, some filled with colour as well as ancient sepia toned ones

Salina Fisher’s innovative work Kintsugi, relates to the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and dusting the new work with gold. The music focused on the gaps and fragments highlighting the fragility of the process as the piece was slowly assembled. While the violin and cello seemed to describe the colours, textures and contours of the bowl or vase the piano picked out the seams of the material bonding the broken shards and the shimmering gold.

While describing the physical changes in the pottery the work with its delicate, brittle sounds acted as a metaphor for the ability of humans to mend broken bodies and minds.

Stephen de Pledge, Bede Hanley, Melanie Lancon

Saturday 7pm

Melanie Lancon (flute), Bede Hanley (oboe) and Stephen de Pledge (piano)

Works by Gaubert, Richard and Clara  Schumann, Faure and Dring

NZ Chamber Soloists

Sunday 3pm

NZ Chamber Soloists 

Lara Hall (violin), James Tennant (cello), Katherine Austin (piano)

With Simeon Broom (violin)

Janacek, Sonata for Violin and Piano

Schubert, String Trio D471

Janacek’s  Sonata for Violin and Piano was written in response to the Russian invasion of Hungary at the beginning of  World War I. The Sonata is typical of the mature Janacek in its general style, in the way melodic fragments are tersely repeated and juxtaposed. The first movement, with its dramatic opening on solo violin and agitated piano accompaniment, seems nearest to his depiction of the war. The Ballada, with its long, lyrical main theme is among Janacek’s most romantic inspirations while the ensuing Allegretto has echoes of folk music in its gypsy-like violin slides.

Among the first Romantic era composers of Germany, Franz Schubert served as an important figure in the transition from the Classical era into the Romantic era. This String Trio  was only partly written by Schubert, and has been finished by the Schubert expert Brian Newbould, creating acharming  full length trio in the style of Schubert and using quotations from other Schubert works, as Schubert himself did on occasion.

Simeon Broom

For bookings email

Vaccine passes are required for all visitors to the Mt Eden Village Centre.