Jonathan Fuller's Music Box was a trippy welcome to Karlheinz Company's Sunday concert. Electronically whisking up childhood memories and sensations, Fuller fused clever spatial effects, throbbing bass sonorities and a bevy of bells into six minutes of captivation.
Felsic mafic, by Sarah Ballard, delved into geological mysteries. Conducted with mesmerising precision by John Elmsly, it opened with clarinetist Alex Eichelbaum setting off the shapeliest of musical lava flows.
A mostly confident performance highlighted Ballard's colour craft, blending ingeniously different tintings from the seven instruments, with trails of stalking chords a la Messiaen.
Hot Stones by Will Eisma was only a mildly warming experience. Recorder soloist Kevin Kim dazzled when the work fired up, but elsewhere was lumbered with instructions for a "static, cold manner of playing".
Neville Hall's Lifeless air becomes sinewed couldn't have had a better advocate than bassoonist Ben Hoadley. A title from Ezra Pound lent literary cred, but its breathy introduction was overlong and old-fashioned. Things only heated up when Hoadley created a sense of dialogue with bold register shifts.
The peak of the first half was Eddie Giffney playing Berg's Piano Sonata.
Giffney gave us Berg's slow and beautiful death of romanticism in just 11 minutes. He searched out anguish and avoided sentimentality, despite extremely fluid tempi.
Playing from memory, he made it all seem, more than ever, like a heady, inspired piece of jazz improv.
The concert ended with the Rothko Quartet playing Alfred Schnittke's Third Quartet, showing the form that won the young Aucklanders last year's Pettman/ROSL Arts International Scholarship.
The four players run a tight ensemble and know just how to connect with Schnittke's brand of visceral drama. They ably dashed through centuries in a few bars, tilting from reedy Renaissance cadences to a shattering major chord that falls in upon itself in self-induced sonic demolition.
There was tenderness when a funeral march edged its way into the texture and, watching these musicians attack this provocative and challenging music with such ardour, made one realize what chamber music is all about.
What: Karlheinz Company
Where: University Music Theatre