Classical review: 175 East, Q Theatre

By William Dart

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Britain-based Kiwi composer Dorothy Ker was saluted with a premiere and revival pieces. Photo / Moana Bianchin
Britain-based Kiwi composer Dorothy Ker was saluted with a premiere and revival pieces. Photo / Moana Bianchin

After pushing past posters and billboards for Jesus Christ Superstar and Chicago in Q Theatre's foyer, two flights of stairs took me to the Loft for a concert of new music by 175 East on Sunday.

We have few groups that can rival the almost political dedication of these musicians, taking on the more challenging music of today, delivering it in extraordinarily finessed performances.

It was good to revisit the ingenious textural paradoxes of Philip Brownlee's 1999 Tendril and Nebula. Reclaiming the sonic world of the electronic studio for acoustic instruments, he deals out whispers as well as explosions, lovingly gradated by conductor Hamish McKeich.

Britain-based Dorothy Ker was saluted with both a premiere and the revival of an earlier 175 East commission. Her 2004 Le Kaleidoscope de l'obscurite came with a daunting programme note that tags Proust and talks of shadowy space between material definition and immateriality. Despite difficult words, the sound world is imaginative and welcoming, from the scurrying percussive dance of Katherine Hebley's cello and Bella Zilber's double bass to the flying skirmishes of Donald Nicholls and Andrew Uren's clarinets.

Ker's new work, Reef, reflects her exploration of the volatile patterning effects of time and water on our coastal environment.

The filigree was unimpeachable, built around flautist Ingrid Culliford, her alto flute drifting from languor to flutter, her pert piccolo standing strong against ghostly string chords.

Visit the homepage of British composer James Saunders and you will meet a man interested in verbal notation, multi-part series and modularity. Terrifying? Well, relax ... he also blogs copiously about his marathon running.

The evening ended with Saunders' 511 Possible Mosaics, a 175 East commission from 2000. Alas, 20 minutes of seven players twisting a shortish playlist of ideas into 20-second fragments, did try the patience despite the boppy rhythms of Tim Sutton's muted bass trombone and a standout 20-second solo from Zilber.

- NZ Herald

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