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NZSO’s Timeless performance of the great composers

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Hamish McKeich

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Timeless

Auckland Town Hall

October 23

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s latest concert, “Timeless” was an opportunity to hear significant compositions from three major composers  but it also provided an insight into the ways that music changed in a short period. The three works on the programme spanned less than fifty years from Haydn’s Symphony No 64 1773 and  Mozart’s Symphony No 40 of 1788 to Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue of  1826.

Over that time the nature of music changed  dramatically. The architecture of the music composition changed as did the emotional power which flowed from their compositions.

Haydn’s Symphony No 64 came from the period when the composer was experimenting with the form and while there is drama in the work the movement are generally constructed  around single themes or motives with a  formal  classical structure. There is a strong sense of balance and orderliness along with wit and clever juxtapositions which is profoundly satisfying. Conductor  Hamish McKeich  was able to emphasise these aspects as well as  guide the orchestra through the dynamic changes of the first movement  and the restrained,  at times mournful second movement.

By comparison Mozart’s Symphony No 40 is intense, highly coloured, and unconventional, notable for the number and variety of themes which build through the work. His writing was also more flamboyant  as he dissected, reworked and elaborated on his themes. The success of the work also owes much to Mozart’s interest in opera and the work is filled with melodies which  seem to be taken from or designed for the opera voice.

From the opening voluptuous  sequence to the final movement which prefigures Beethoven and point the way towards 19th century romanticism the orchestra gave a dazzling and coherent performance.

While Mozart created a sense of emotions, partly through the urgency of the “voice” In his Grosse Fugue Beethoven plumbs an emotional depth which reveals a personal angst  which is both disturbing and enriching.

One of the greatest achievements of Mozart and Beethoven was the development of their compositions into a distinct, sophisticated and almost dramatic art form. The Grosse Fugue It is a work which  is uncompromising and enigmatic, with arts of it sounding like twentieth century music , no wonder that  Igor Stravinsky said that the Grosse Fugue was absolutely contemporary and would stay contemporary forever.

McKeich ensured that the complex orchestration, the overlapping of themes, the abrupt changes in tempo and texture, the almost dissonant passages, the sequences which seemed like collapses  were, at all times controlled

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APO’s “Reflections” concert filled with nostalgia and joy

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Reflections

Auckland Town Hall

October 22

Debussy’s Prelude a L’après-midi d’un faune (“The Afternoon of a Faun”) is based loosely on the poem by he Stéphane  Mallarmé which describes the sensual experiences of a faun waking up from his afternoon sleep and reflecting on  his encounters with several nymphs in a dreamlike monologue.

Their delicate flesh-tint so clear,

It hovers yet upon the air

heavy with foliage of sleep

Its images like these opening lines that Debussy put to music and the APO captured this dreamy quality with the opening notes played by flautist Melanie Lancon, the orchestra Principal Flute. Along with the languid sensual tones of the work there were other harsher aspects as in the lines;

The secret terrors of the flesh

Like quivering lightning

This idyll which is full of contrasts and ambiguities, has passages of  melancholy and regret which can be heard in the woodwinds but underlying the work is an impetus which carries the work along with a dance-like lushness.

The second work on the programme was the world premiere of Canadian Gary Kulesha’s ”Oboe Concerto” a piece that blends avant-garde techniques with traditional forms and references. It was played by Principal Oboist Bede Hanley who gave a thrilling performance

The work in some ways seemed an extension of the Debussy Prelude with a description of an individual immersed in a landscape and ambience but a place with moreshadows.

Much of the time the orchestral sounds were dramatic and slightly menacing, creating a brooding sound with a combination of Big Band sound and the aggressiveness of Benjamin Britten’s operas.  Bede Handley’s oboe danced through the orchestra his playing effortlessly ranging over the  playful, lyrical and soulful,  at times providing intense shards of light and extraordinary riffs. In his long faultless solo he managed to span the full range of the instrument, both musically and emotionally.

Prokofiev’s Seventh Symphony was the final symphony written in an attempt to win the Stalin Prize of 1952 and repair his reputation with the authorities. It sounds as though in the attempt to write something which would appeal to the judges, he fell back on some of his previous compositions so the symphony has echoes and themes from works such as his Romeo and Juliet ballet.

From the first movement it sounds like an evolving narrative, a nostalgic look back to better times in the composer’s life, the past tinged with sadness. In the second movement the lively dance rhythms were responded to by conductor Bellincampi  dancing around on the podium.

There are moments of tenderness, passages of playfulness as well as of contemplation. There were times of lightness and others reaching a fever pitch and in the final movement the various groups instruments seemed engaged in a competition as they passed the musical themes between them.

Bede Hanley had given a lively encore after his performance which is usual but at the conclusion of the Prokofiev Maestro Bellincampi provided an encore from the audience who played the march from the composer’s opera, For the Love of Three Oranges.

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Boutique Chamber Music Festival in Mt Eden

Mt Eden Chamber Music Festival
Mt Eden Village Centre
October 30 – November 1


Eden Arts has announced the concert line-up for this year’s Mt Eden Chamber Music Festival. The Festival in the heart of Mt Eden Village has become one of Auckland’s must-see cultural events and has had audiences thrilled with the concept, programming and quality of performances. Now in its fifth year, the event features some of the country’s major chamber music performers with three programmes over the weekend. The concerts take place over the weekend of the 30th October, starting on Friday evening though to the final Sunday afternoon concert.

Artistic Director Simeon Broom (violin), who founded the Festival in 2016 in collaboration with the Eden Arts Trust, is joined by Auckland musicians James Bush (cello) and David Samuel (viola) on Friday evening for a trio performance of J.S Bach’s famous Goldberg Variations.

The Saturday evening concert will be a song recital, with a young singer already hugely popular in the world of opera and song in New Zealand and abroad, Amelia Berry. She is joined on piano by Rosemary Barnes, who has been a leading figure in vocal collaboration for many years. Their programme features a variety of song repertoire, from the emotionally laden Proses Lyriques by Debussy to Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

On Sunday afternoon there will be a performance by the internationally acclaimed New Zealand String Quartet. Their dynamic and compelling performances have been at the forefront of chamber music in this country for over 30 years. Honouring the 250th  anniversary of his birth, their first work is one of the great early quartets by Beethoven, Op.18 No.6.

They follow this with Smetana’s 2nd String Quartet. The hour-long  concerts take place in the beautiful historic church of the Mt Eden Village Centre, which has proved to be an ideal acoustic and setting for audiences to enjoy and fully experience the intimacy of the performances.

There is a discount for the full 3-concert series and it is recommended you book early due to the limited seating. The Eden Arts Trust has supported the arts in the wider Mt Eden area for over 30 years. For more information visit http://www.edenarts.co.nz For ticket bookings, email edenarts1@gmail.co

Friday, October 30, 6.30pm

J S Bach, Goldberg Variations

Simeon Broom (violin), David Samuel (viola), James Bush (cello)

Saturday, October 31, 6.30pm
Barber, Debussy, Rodrigo, Strauss

Amelia Berry (soprano) and Rosemary Barnes (piano)

Sunday November 1, 3pm
Smetena String Quartet No 2

NZ String Quartet

For ticket bookings, email  edenarts1@gmail.com

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InterFusions: passionate and intelligent playing by the NZ Trio

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

NZ Trio, InterFusions

Auckland Concert Chamber

October 18

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

It is hard to imagine the shock, surprise or elation of audiences in the past confronted by new music. We know of the riot which happened  on the first night of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring  and  the bafflement on encountering John Cage’s 4”33” of silence. But there have been other moments during the classical periods with composers, shocking audiences with music which we now see as mainstream. Several of the works of Beethoven  shocked audiences but led to major shifts of perception with his innovative symphonies and chamber works.

NZ Trio in their latest concert “Interfusions” recreated one of those moments playing Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C Minor, a work which his teacher Joseph Haydn had advised against publishing. Compared with the traditional trios of Haydn and Mozart this broke with the traditional model, changing the nature of the form for ever.

With this work he  added a movement to the normal three movement form  and gave the strings, notably the cello, a  more independent role.

The work opened in an ominous  mood which changed after few bars with a more hopeful second theme. Throughout the work the instruments each had an opportunity for a virtuoso display and the various  motifs  were passed between the instruments building tension and moods swing from they were able to create emotion al moods from the soothing through to the feverish and enigmatic. The tumultuous to the carefree. There was little of the nuanced style of a Haydn trio with more drama and emotional, qualities that the three players interpreted with vigour.

While cellist Ashley Brown played much of the time with  a precise  earnestness he occasionally lapsed into a more languorous style and violinist Amalia Hall played with a breath-taking savagery.

Pianist  Somi Kim  who provided the solid base for the more flamboyant strings  had some passages where she displayed dexterous skills with some delightful trills.

Also on the programme was  Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor, one of the great examples of modern of piano trios. Finished at the outbreak of World War I there are premonitions of the coming war the harsh, often discordant music in the latter part of the work.

It is a work of enormous strength and the four movements are elaborately constructed with musical themes drawn from a variety of sources -Basque folk music Malaysian and nineteenth century classical.

It  is technically demanding of the players with each  of the instrument requiring virtuoso displays. All three gave it a passionate and thoroughly convincing performance, creating emotional moods from the soothing through to the feverish and enigmatic. At times the players gave it a rich orchestral sound  as they played multiple, overlapping themes and Somi Kim’s initial playing which was whimsical and dreamy then flowed into some  harsh, but never uncontrolled sounds.

There were three shorter works on the programme as well – Christos Hatzis’ Constantinople: Old Photographs, Dinuk Wijeratne’s Love Triangle and Salina Fisher’s Kintsugi

Hatzis’ work which draws on his Greek heritage is filled with music which touches on remembering and romancing deriving   its 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 morphed, 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

Playing the Wijeratne’s work derived from the melodies of the Middle East and the rhythms of classical Indian music the trio produced some plaintive Middle eastern sounds with  Ashley Brown making his cello sound like an oud

The trio also played a  new commission from Salina Fisher. The innovative  work Kintsugi, relates to the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and dusting the new work with gold. The music focussed 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  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.

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Jane Ussher photographs examine the natural world

Rebiewed by John Daly-Peoples

Nature – Stilled,

Jane Ussher

Te Papa Press

RRP $70

Visiting the natural history section of the museum is always a rewarding experience, seeing what constitutes the ecosystem we live in. Strolling around the collections reveals some remarkable treasures although we often overlook the smaller, less interesting things. Why spend time looking at bits of coral or lichen covered rocks when there is something more spectacular around the  corner – an elephant or whale skeleton

But these lesser examples of the inhabitants of the ecosystem have been given a bit of a new life thanks to a new book of photographs  by award-winning photographer Jane Ussher. Recently she  spent several weeks in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’s natural history collection storage areas shooting hundreds of images

The book “Nature – Stilled” consists of  157 images of the insect, fish, mollusc and botanical specimens that represent  Te Papa’s vast and scientifically important collections.

Accompanying the images are texts by the museums curators and collections managers giving concise and unique insights into the fascinating characteristics of each of them.

The book also has information about the museum itself and its development, so we learn it now has a collection of 11,600 skins of New Zealand birds ranging across 290 species and while we know about the demise of the huia population, the South Island piopio became extinct even before the huia.

With many items in the collection it is only by pausing and examining the creatures that we gain an understanding of the design, structures and colourings of them. Ussher’s photographs make one stop and observe in a way that is not possible viewing things in a glass case under poor light conditions.

The photographs of birds are the most interesting with images of many species including huia, yellowhammer, albatross and kākāpō. Ussher has included images of huia and kakapo which are life-size so their plumage can be seen in great detail.

There are  a range of moths both indigenous and foreign including the Puriri moth which we normally only see at night as a brown insect. Seen in the light its natural  yellow colouring and intricate wing patterns make it a much more interesting  example.

The range of butterflies provides examples of Natures glorious colours and designs as well as the insects ; crickets, grasshoppers and locusts we don’t normally pay all that much attention to. But their colouring design and structure are fascinating. and there is also a slightly surreal collection of fleas found in Utah, evidence of the dedication of a true collector.

One set of photographs is of x-rays of fish which provide eerie images of their skeletal structure and one image of a couple of dozen snapper juveniles looks like a shoal of swimming fish.

As well as the “living” creatures there are examples of shells, mosses, and lichens including an unexciting a group of lichens on shards of rock which were collected in the 1950’s from Antarctica. Another items which would normally attract little attention is an ordinary pressed shield fern. The note to this item reveals that it one of the actual ferns collected by Joseph Banks during Cooks first voyage.

Quite incidentally the original wrapping containing a lichen specimen is a copy of a newspaper from 1886  which provides snippets of information from 150 years ago – mention of Sir Randolph Churchill, the Egyptian Question and the partition of Zululand. These and other notes give a context to the museums place in the scientific and cultural changes which have happened since its establishment.

All the photographs are exquisite and they are laid out on the pages in a  sympathetic way with the designer, Arch MacDonnell making the book into a treasure trove of new delights being revealed as each page is turned. The contrast of colours, designs and shapes is like looking through an art catalogue and the book is an art object in itself.

Many of the Ussher’s images of the collection whether they are of local or international creatures seem foreign, as though we have entered an exotic world where the familiar seems novel and exotic.

Papilio blumei (Peacock swallotail)
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The NZSO’s Monumental concert of Strauss and Tchaikovsky

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Emma Pearson

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Monumental

Auckland Town Hall

October 10

The NZSO’s Monumental concert opened with Strauss’ ”Metamorphosen” which he had written as World War II was coming to its tragic conclusion. It is something of a requiemdedicated to what the composer saw as the destruction of the cultural life of Germany that had been so much art of his life and heritage. While he may have been lamented the devastation of the cultural buildings and institutions the music also touches on personal feelings of  grief, loss and despair.

The texts for Spring, September, and When I Go to Sleep are settings of poems by the Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse. At Sunset is by Jose Eichendorff.

The work is scored for ten violins, five violas, five cellos and three double basses with all the violin and viola layers stood as though honouring the death of German culture. At times it sounded as though each of the instruments was playing independently, each in their own orbit of sound but then they merged in groups with overlapping themes and textures, sometimes sonorous at other times close to chaos. Throughout there was an intensity and poignancy.

As the sounds of the instruments morphed from light to dark and then to light again  so too it seemed the composer grappled with notions of life and death. While the work may be a requiem there are also hints of a resurrection and there are ethereal touches of the transcendence of Wagner.

Also on the programme was Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” sung by Emma Pearson. The work, composed after World war II  is linked thematically to “Metamorphosen” but has more of a psychological dimension which probably relates to the composers feelings about Europe’s release from the horrors of World War as well as being meditation on the beautiful moments that life can offer and a self-conscious farewell to existence,.

The various poems at first glance seem to be straightforward with Hesse’s Fruhling a description of the arrival of Spring where the poet describes the natural world emerging out of Winter but he poem has  deeper emotional resonances which are revealed by the singer.

Singing “Fruhling” Pearson’s voice was taut with emotion. At times her voice was overwhelmed by the orchestra as though responding to her wretchedness but then her voice would rise above the tumult of the orchestra.

With “September “there was soul searching to her voice but it was the orchestra, notably at the end of the song which provides the drama. With “And When I go to Sleep “she displayed a joyous entreating voice and with “At Sunset” her face and posture seemed to indicate a  state of wonderment  tinged with sadness.

Throughout she captured the emotional nuances of the songs, sympathetically  using her hand movements to emphasis  her feeling. At times she appeared quite enigmatic and at others she conveyed a sense of rapture as though in a trance.

The major work on the programme was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5 which saw conductor Hamish McKeich and the NZSO at their finest. The work is full sensuous melodies, intense emotions and dramatic climaxes which make it one of the composers more invigorating works.

McKeich was like a master craftsman, assembling, ordering and refining as he guided the orchestra in building musical images, of landscapes, seasons and events creating a world of sensation  and emotions.

From the anguish of the first movement through the graceful mid-section on to the final tumultuous fourth movement the orchestra provided a rich and satisfying performance.

While the orchestra was expertly conducted and the players superbly coordinated there were some stand-out performances by the bassoons, flutes, clarinets and French horns.

Future NZSO Concerts

Podium Series  –  Timeless

Napier October 21, Taupo October 22, Tauranga October 23, Auckland October 24 and Wellington October 25

Hamish McKeich Conductor

WA Mozart, Symphony No. 40
Haydn, Symphony No. 64 Tempora Mutantur
Beethoven, orch. Weingartner Grosse Fuge

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A night of passion and betrayal showcases NZ opera talent

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Amitai Pati and Natasha Wilson

APO at the Opera, Tales of Passion and Betrayal

The Trusts Community Foundation Opera in Concert

Auckland Town Hall

October 9

One of the upsides to the Covid crisis is that many of our world class singers are marooned in New Zealand at the moment. Simon O’Neill is normally performing at the big opera houses of Europe as are several other singers who have developing international careers such as Amitai Pati who had his European debut last year singing at the Philharmonie de Paris. So, mounting an evening of opera meant that some great talent was available and the Auckland Philharmonia took  advantage of that to mount the ambitious concert “Tales of Passion and Betrayal”.

A concert which goes under the title of Passion and Betrayal manages to include virtually every opera of the nineteenth century as falling in love and then encountering some form of betrayal often followed by death are at the centre of those operas.

This concert which took the romantic highlights from several operas presented the ways that various composers and librettists went about conveying notions of love through music and poetry.

Simon O’Neill hosted the concert noting that the evening was not just about celebrating the best of opera . It was also a chance to showcase New Zealand artists who have international careers as well as an opportunity to hear the APO and its talented  musicians.

O Neill was resplendent in his multi coloured smoking jacket designed by Liz Mitchell, one of a number produced by the gifted local designer for all the singers.

The Covid crisis also meant that Holly Mathieson who has just been appointed the music director of Symphony Nova Scotia was also in the country and able to conduct the APO.

She was a nimble guide, conducting with a mix of precision and flamboyance and at time she seemed on the verge of dancing across the podium inspired by the music. Throughout the concert she was attentive to the singers ensuring that the orchestra never dominated.

The evening began with Mathieson conducting the orchestra in the overture to Bellini’s opera “Norma” leading them with balance and care providing an electrifying opening to the concert.

The first aria on the programme was from Bellini’s “I Puritani” with Oliver Sewell looking like a 19th century Parisian flaneur singing the role of Arturo. He dealt with the  floating lines and full-bodied lyricism with great poise,  bringing an authenticity to the role. Then it was Natasha Wilson in the role of Julietta from Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette”  singing aria “The rapture of youth lasts but a day”. She captured the sense of a young ingénue delightfully, inhabiting the stage comfortably. She was then jointed  by Amitai Pati with his expressive warm voice. Together, singing the balcony scene with their tentative gestures and expressive faces they provided a thoughtful and sensitive depiction of young love.

This scene of the birth of love was  explored later in the evening with Anna Leese and Amitai Pati in the roles of Mimi and Rodolfo from Puccini’s “La Boheme”. The sequence, close to fifteen minutes gave enough time for the two singers to really explore the roles. Anna Leese’s voice moved her Mimi from the reticent and modest to the mature and voluptuous, from child to woman in the course of their brief interchange. Pati provided a towering, unaffected voice along with a genuine comic approach in his hiding of a lost key.

There were a couple of other extended sequences which allowed for an almost potted version of the opera with four scenes  from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliette and three from Verdi’s Rigoletto. This was a much better approach than the usual best hits approach to such concerts.

Simon O’Neill had one solo piece as Otello, railing against the world over his belief that his wife, Desdemona had betrayed him. Here he showed off the quality  of his vocal talent with a voice filled with rage as though crying out from a personal pit of despair. In a previous scene he sang with Anna Leese (Desdemona)  after he has sent everyone away so he can be alone with her. The two sang the sensuous duet, “Già nella notte densa” — “Now as the dark deepen” in which they speak of a pure and secure love which provides a contrast to later scenes.

Natasha Wilson had another solo aria with “Caro nome” from “Rigoletto” giving an exquisite reading with a voice which captures the various aspects of love, the ecstasy the brooding contemplation and helplessness.

The finale of the night  saw the five singers joined by Kristin Darragh to sing one of the highlights of “Rigoletto” with a torrent of sound which had the audience  on its feet for a sustained ovation.

Future APO Concert

Thursday October 22

Auckland Town Hall

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi
Oboe Bede Hanley

Debussy, Prélude à L’Après-midi d’une faune
Gary Kulesha, Oboe Concerto (world premiere)
Prokofiev, Symphony No.7

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David McCracken & Darryn George show new exalted work

Review. John Daly-Peoples

David McCracken, Exalt in Transmission

David McCracken, Exalt  in Transmission

Gow Langsford Gallery (Lorne St)

Until October 24

David McCracken’s latest exhibition features five large metal sculptures which look at first sight like rusted, large, toothed constructions, remnants of the industrial age.

The toothed wheel or belt is central to the development of mechanical technology and is the often unseen component of everyday objects which use gears. McCracken’s sculptures are representations as well as monuments to the industrial revolution.

However even though these reconstructions look impressive the way the artist has designed the twisted constructions means they are impracticable. Rather than reproduce the normal  toothed belt he has made it in the form of a Mobius Strip with the toothed belt flipping on itself. This is most obvious in “”I’m going to be arrogant when I grow up” ($55,000)

The simplest of the works is “Meat puppets made me this way” ($45,000) a circular work  which is also the one work in the exhibition which conceiveably could be part of a working machine.

The most dramatic piece is “Just get me off” ($45,000) where a looped form like a zipper is suspended between two pillars in the gallery with the notions of flexibility and rigidity in conflict.

The works are a variation on the idea of the found object or the readymade being identified as art object and these works look as though they could have all come from a defunct industrial plant. This approach which in some ways similar to that of Glen Hayward draws attention to the common object focussing on the notions of design, texture, colour which can be overlooked or under-appreciated.

The size and precision of these works is impressive especially when considering that these are not manufactured for industrial scale purposes. The artist’s design expertise and engineering skills are exceptional and alongside those parctical aspects he brings insight and  understanding into the way in which objects interact with their environment.

The artist says of the sculptures, they are  “an enquiry into the beauty and complexity of machined mechanical gears. The physics of mechanical gears have a rigorous mathematical precision to them so that the surfaces of meshing teeth never lose contact with each other when they’re under load. It is something I have come to see as a metaphor for communication, the need being to maintain contact.”

Darryn George, A River Flowing out of Eden

Gow Langsford (Kitchener St)

Until October 24

Darryn George who recently recieved the  Second Award in the Wallace Awards has produced a new body of semi abstract works in which the  rigid geometry of past paintings has morphed into more recognisable natural and architectural elements.

Under the title of  “A River Flowing out of Eden” he has created a flamboyant set of works which owe much to folk art with its use of bold colours, and  elementary structures and designs. They also have links to Primitivism  and  Naïve artists like Henri Rousseau and Séraphine Louis.

A River Flowing out of Eden #4”  ($24,000) is a large mural-like work which features a crowd of coloured abstracted figures standing before a series of abstract circles topped with architectural features including onion domed roofs. Above this is a landscape with a forest or orchard (Eden). Centrally places is a column of multi-coloured stripe reminiscent of the artists’  previous abstracts.

Mara #25 ($9800) has more of an emphasis on botanic design with a nod to the floral works of Frida Kahlo while “Garden of Eden – 17.1.2020” ($3000) has something of  an art nouveau feel to it.

“Cloud 2” ($9800) with its scribbled clouds and looming sun is like a child’s view of the sky, the artist seeming to aim for a symbolist approach to his work.

Where in his previous work he combined aspects of traditional Maori art and contemporary abstract painting the artists visioin has expanded so that underlying these new  works was is connections to a Maori world view along with his Christian beliefs. So these new works are like a refinement and reworking of traditional  Christian stained glass windows with their biblical stories which have often had parallels with Maori spirituality.

The artist writes: (My) series of artworks around the topic of ‘Innocence’… grew out of watching the news and having a sinking feeling about the brokenness and hurt that is an everyday reality. The vehicle or subject that came to mind was the Garden of Eden, a place of purity before the Fall and to convey this innocence, I decided to draw the garden in a childlike manner.

Darryn George, A River flowing out of Eden #4
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Jersey Boys is back in town

Jersey Boys
The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Auckland, The Civic
17 April – 9 May 2021

 
Wellington, Opera House
21 May – 6 June 2021

Jersey Boys which is one of the great musicals of the 21st century is having a return season to Auckland next year. The show  tells the story of how four blue collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop sensations of all time The show was on in Auckland back in 2012 and next year will tour to both Wellington and Auckland.


Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi joined forces in the 1960’s to become The Four Seasons, writing their own hits and developing their unique sound, going on to sell over 175 million records before they were 30!
 
They were just four guys from New Jersey, until they sang their very first note. They had a sound nobody had heard before and one that radio stations just couldn’t get enough of. But while their harmonies were perfect on stage, off stage it was a very different story — a story that has made them an international sensation all over again.


Having smashed New Zealand box office records when it first visited in 2012, the show has been the. winner of fifty-seven major awards worldwide, including the Olivier Award for Best New Musical, their story was so good it was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and grossing $67 million at the box office.
 
When it showed at Auckland ‘s Civic Theatre in 2012 I gave it a five star review which I include here in full.
 

“Not many people have heard of Francis Stephen Castelluccio so it’s just as well he changed it to Frankie Valli (that’s with an “i” and not a “y”, because all Italian words end in “i”).

His name is synonymous with the Four Seasons, the group which along with the Beach Boys changed the American music scene in the 1960’s.

They inserted themselves in the universal consciousness like the Beatles so that everyone knows the words of their songs even if they can’t remember the name of the group. The string of hits they had included “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” “Walk Like a Man” and “Oh What A Night”, making them one of the great bands of the 20th century.

Now with the international success of the musical “Jersey Boys”, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, including Bob Gaudio, Tommy de Vito and Nick Massi, are once again becoming household names and they will live on forever because the show will be one of the great musicals of the 21st century.

Back in the 1960s, Bob Gaudio (and the rarely mentioned Bob Crew) wrote a string of songs which went into the top 10 slots for weeks on end.

These songs were bittersweet reflections on life and love and they expressed many of the feeling of society’s youth of the day.

One of the problems with many musicals is that songs even that are great often don’t really relate to the story.

The disconnection between the two means that there is a lack of drama with the songs not enhancing the story.

With “Jersey Boys” the songs are an integral part of the musical. The narrative follows the lives of the members of the band and so the high points of their careers are their major hits.

While the songs were not written about the lives of the band members, in this carefully constructed musical they become reflections on their interconnected lives.

The story is largely centered on Frankie Valli but each of the band members gives their own take on the success of the band.

There is the slightly mad Tommy de Vito who manages the group but is always in trouble with the mob, and the bass player, Nick Massi who is always keen to leave and set up his own group.

Then there is the incredibly intense Bob Gaudio, who understood how to write songs which were just so right.

While this combination of a great voice, great song writer, hard-headed manager and a great solid bass player is what made the group, it is the extraordinary falsetto voice of Frankie Valli which gives the show the incredible vibrancy which makes for an extraordinary performance.

The whole story is threaded through with their personal problems, marriages, divorces internal wrangles, the run in with the mob and the band’s breakup.

The show at times feels like a documentary showing how the band evolved.

We get a sense of how bands get to be successful with the various components of song writer, singer, manager and musicians all having to contribute and fame comes when all those people with their skills line up to create a hit.

It’s a fast-paced show with multiple mini set changes, great visuals, great dialogue, great jokes and a string of crowd-pleasing songs which had the audience applauding every number.

The singing is fabulous and their act is quite possibly slicker than the original band.”

For tickets register at www.JerseyBoys.co.nz
 

Categories
Reviews, News and Commentary

Garry Currin’s Dramatic Landscapes

Garry Currin,This Earth I

Garry Currin, This Earth

Whitespace Gallery

Until October 8

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Gary Currin’s  landscapes can be seen as a continuation of the apocalyptic paintings of the nineteenth century artist such as J.M.W. Turner and John Martin. Their approach saw the  landscape depicted in a theatrical fashion  with an emphasis on dramatic events and panoramas depicting both the actual and the imaginary. They were often allegories or metaphors for social and political ideas or reflections on the artists concerns.

While his paintings are descriptions of the landscape they are also attempts to understand the land and the forces which have created it. They suggest that we are at the mercy of Nature and the elements

Currin creates landscapes which are in a state of turmoil, the earth  agitated by internal forces . In “The Weight“ the land seems to be on fire  and in “Weight III”  with its great ball of fire we seem to be witnessing a cataclysmic event. In “This Earth” this upheaval looks as much like roiling sea as scoured  earth

Other works are less dramatic as with “The Earth I” where the central detail of the painting is of the land is ripped with an almost photographic depiction of soil slump. This is like the instances in some of the great classical paintings where a minor incident within the painting references larger concerns.

Central to his work is light which heightens the drama in his landscapes. There is the light which illuminates his scenes but also light which issues from the land itself. It is used intensely in some cases and delicately in others, in some cases revealing textures and details in the landscape at other times veiling them. Many of the images feel as though they are conjured from memory, through a haze of history and fiction.

The surfaces of his paintings are alive with  subtle nuances of colour which help create spectacular atmospheres sometimes claustrophobic as with the smaller “This Earth II” or panoramic as with the larger “This Earth II”. Depending on the viewers distance from the  surface, the works morph between realistic depiction and abstract fields of colour and shape. It is this balance that the artist achieves that make the works so startling and rewarding.

Garry Currin, Weight III