Classic CD: Henry Wong Doe

By William Dart

Henry Wong Doe Landscape Preludes (Rattle)

Verdict: A fascinating range of New Zealand landscapes magnificently caught, in a recording that no Kiwi CD player should be without.
CD cover: Henry Wong Doe.
CD cover: Henry Wong Doe.

It has been a long wait, but an amply rewarded one, for Henry Wong Doe's Landscape Preludes. This set of 12 New Zealand piano pieces has grown and triumphed on the concert stage in the decade since Stephen De Pledge made his first commissions.

Now, thanks to Rattle Records, with simpatico producer Kenneth Young and studio wizard Steve Garden, this iconic collection is available on CD, played by Wong Doe.

Wong Doe is a pianist who tempers flamboyance with poetry; in Gillian Whitehead's Arapatiki, flames flicker among mellow, mysterious surroundings.

When a virtuoso is called for, Wong Doe is your man.

Lyell Cresswell's Chiaroscuro streaks in brilliantly hued fury while the heavy industrial density that opens Michael Norris' Machine Noise sparks and fires.

Dylan Lardelli's music can be testing but Wong Doe ensures we sense a Bachian tangle under the meteorological malevolence of Reign.

Similarly, the pianist carefully streams and shapes the cycles of spilling out and retraction in Samuel Holloway's volatile Terrain Vague.

Heard in its entirety, one can pick up special relationships between tracks.

The slow-burn impressionism of Gareth Farr's A Horizon from Owhiro Bay finds echoes in the glistening sound web of Eve de Castro-Robinson's This Liquid Drift of Light.

Wong Doe catches the brooding soliloquy of Ross Harris' Landscape with too few lovers and enjoys bringing out those "deep earth gongs" that tremble under the surface of Jenny McLeod's Tone Clock XVIII.

There is mischievous humour in Sleeper by the high-profile John Psathas, which plays on three possible definitions of its title. In Jack Body's The Street Where I Live, Wong Doe's piano flirts and skirts around the composer's own voice, whimsically extolling the joys of his Wellington home.

After a captivating 50 minutes of infinitely varied and fascinating "landscapes", Victoria Kelly's Goodnight Kiwi is the perfect conclusion.

One of the first of the set to be written, this piece deals out a nostalgia of both time and place, designed to touch the Kiwi heart in all of us.

If you buy just one classical CD this year, make it Landscape Preludes.

- NZ Herald

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