John Rimmer is one of our senior composers, as happy to write operas and major orchestral commissions as he is penning smaller pieces, with aptness and affection, for young performers.
His 80th birthday was marked by a special concert from the University of Auckland's Karlheinz Company, an ensemble founded by Rimmer in 1978. It was a warm, generous celebration, skilfully put together by composer and erstwhile student, Eve de Castro-Robinson.
Rimmer's own music well revealed his individual and influential voice. It was rewarding to hear the 1983 quintet, De Aestibus Rerum, an international prize-winner in its time, with the composer himself playing French horn.
Uwe Grodd proved a spirited soloist in Rimmer's 1972 Composition 4 for flute and electronic sounds, one of the composer's pioneering works that humanised electronic music by putting live musicians alongside tapes.
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The electroacoustic Fleeting Images, with its more sophisticated mid-80s digital sound, cast contrapuntal pyrotechnics around the music theatre's proliferation of speakers, a consciousness-expanding experience that would have been even more so if house lights had been lowered.
While pianist Stephen De Pledge meted out virtuoso justice to three recent Character Sketches, six recorder players and two percussionists revived The Exotic Circle from 1974. It was a glorious mélange of sound, catching the flurry and flutter of the composer's cherished natural environment, with bird calls galore.
The evening was punctuated by spoken tributes and a bevy of musical miniatures composed for the occasion by former students. Among a series of engaging contributions from piano, guitar, recorder and bassoon, two stood out.
Not only did young soprano Te Ohorere Williams imbue a David Hamilton setting of Garcia Lorca with just the right creamy luxuriance, but she brought all the fun of the cabaret to Cheryl Camm's witty setting of her old teacher's educational precepts.
Williams accompanied herself on a balloon, deftly exploring its percussive potential until, after giving out her final piece of advice to "always start your pieces with a bang", she responded with an unseen sharp object, catching just the right birthday spirit for the evening.
What: Karlheinz Company
Where: University Music Theatre
Reviewed by: William Dart