Review of LNT116: New Zealand Women Composers
William Dart, New Zealand Herald
Lontano's New Zealand Women Composers is an outstanding venture offering substantial works by a quartet of our most individual composers (two expatriate, two NZ-based), brilliantly recorded with performances that positively gleam with professionalism. But then, with the charismatic Odaline de la Martinez conducting, could one expect anything less?
The most demanding is delivered first. Thirty-eight-year-old Dorothy Ker, the youngest of the group, has been based in Britain for just over a decade. Her The Structure of Memory explores the various paradoxes thrown up by the interplay of memory and time, caught in nervy, pinpoint textures and dramatic use of the stereo spectrum.
Jenny McLeod's For Seven is the most venerable of the four works, written in Europe 37 years ago for the sort of virtuoso players we Kiwis could only dream of in 1966. Lontano do McLeod proud; for 20 enchanted minutes one is struck by the incredible lightness of it all. The premise of the work may be numbers and equations - and there are charts and grids to prove it - but the composer tells us the piece is as much about scurrying bush life as mathematics. The Lontano players catch every flutter, skirmish and flurry to perfection, with Rowland Sutherland's flute deserving honorary native bird status.
There is always a strong feeling of narrative in Gillian Whitehead's music and her 1984 Ahotu (O Matenga) is no exception. It opens with a shimmer of percussion, and for 19 minutes she explores the way in which colours can shift and move around a musical ensemble. Textures come in and out of focus with the Lontano players making the most of Whitehead's characteristic moments of primal energy and pristine clarity.
Annea Lockwood's 1995 Monkey Trips looks east for inspiration, portraying the six Buddhist realms, from Heaven (an eerie violin solo) to Hell (unbridled percussion ending in a minute of what sounds like hysterical laughter). Lontano obviously enjoy their improv contributions and don't be surprised if you have a gentle chuckle at the menagerie of animal calls clustering around Timothy Holmes' bass clarinet solo.
This is one of the most approachable introductions to our music you could have. Investigation is highly recommended.