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Album reviews: Horizon and Rozmowa Dialogue

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Horizon by Gareth Farr
Horizon by Gareth Farr

Gareth Farr: Horizon (Trust Records)
Adrianna Lis: Rozmowa/Dialogue (Atoll, both through Ode Records)

Verdict: Enterprising local chamber music releases do not always achieve a consistency of content and performance.

Gareth Farr is 44 and securely mid-career, but his flamboyant past is spectacularly revisited when Henry Wong Doe launches his CD of Farr's piano music with the daredevil defiance of Sepuluh Jari.

Wong Doe, now based in New York, delivers a powerhouse toccata and sustains the dazzle through to the final Ramayana, an early work that blends Beethoven and Indonesian gamelan with disarming nonchalance.

Farr's fixation with fast (and frequently fortissimo) can irritate, but his Shadow of the Hawk for cello and piano is a heart-in-the-mouth thrill, evoking the edgy relationship between bird and landscape. Here, alas, cellist Jisoo Ok lacks the flair and fire of James Tennant on the original 1997 recording.

The two movements of Nga Whetu e Whitu enlist American flautist Jesse Schiffman, who fails to delve beyond the surface prettiness, with none of the charisma that we might have expected from New Zealander Bridget Douglas who commissioned the work. And, while every composer is allowed his or her days off, five short Love Songs are like fleshed-out Richard Clayderman, woefully lightweight here.

Adrianna Lis' Rozmowa/Dialogue is a novel recital, placing New Zealand composers against those of her native Poland, with the indefatigable Sarah Watkins on piano.

Most of the Polish offerings are pleasant but slightly retro, especially a 2001 Sonata by Lukasz Wos. However, Roxanna Panufnik's unaccompanied The Conversation of Prayer showcases Lis' buoyant lines in unexplained reverberance. Michal Rosiak's The Melbourne Cup is a perky 1'45"; Lis' piccolo chirping cheekily over Vadim Simongauz's snare drum.

A Gao Ping Sonatina is easy on the ear but conservative for this Christchurch composer; four pieces from Jack Body's Rainforest are pattering, playful delights, while Anthony Ritchie takes devious twists and turns with a Chopin Mazurka.

Michael Williams' When We Fell catches Polish sorrows and suffering during World War II. A backing track mixes chimes, distressed bar-room piano, heartbeats, military drums and hints of tango. Lis, as well as contributing flute, recites a Polish text, sobs, and completes the emotionally involving narrative with the words of Nietzsche.

- NZ Herald

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