Martin Lodge is a composer with a solid orchestral portfolio. Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra premiered his 1994 Symphony together with two shorter pieces, Hinterland (1998) and Aer (2002); the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra included his 2008 Winterset among its series of specially-commissioned "mini-concertos".
Of these, only Hinterland is available on commercial CD, so it is good to have a generous selection of Lodge's smaller-scale work on a new Atoll release, Toru.
The album's title comes from a 2003 trio for clarinet, cello and taonga puoro. The compositional processes are radical for a proven symphonist - Lodge has Peter Scholes, James Tennant and Richard Nunns weaving their music from a score that suggests rather than stipulates.
The sonorous 10-minute journey, beautifully captured by Matthew Crawford in what was once Radio NZ's Helen Young Studio, ranges from manic birdcalls to ingeniously investigating the rich potential of human breath. In a more traditional vein, Lodge's Summer Music, caught with just the right sense of the capricious by Lara Hall, Katherine Austin and Tennant, finds intriguing sounds and textures for the volcanic and touristic underbelly of Rotorua.
Many of the musicians on this disc have close personal associations with the Hamilton-based composer; this adds particular resonance to Tennant's vibrant take on Epitaph, a short tribute to Douglas Lilburn.
Aequora tuta silent pits Carrie Koffman's saxophone against Timothy Deighton's viola. The results are magical, with a subtle electronic overlay evoking the calm haven that the Virgil title suggests.
Acoustic and electronic have quite a tussle in Voices Within, its sense of the dramatic very much heightened by Wayne Laird's brilliant recording of Rachael Griffiths-Hughes' often fiery harpsichord.
Finally, how cheering it is to revisit Lodge's 2001 Pacific Rock. This virtuoso viola solo was commissioned and first recorded by Timothy Deighton in 2002; on Toru, Robert Ashworth reminds us that, a decade on, the visceral thrust of this key composition has not diminished.
Verdict: Local composer offers an attractive collection of wide-ranging chamber music