Karlheinz Company's Composing Now concert opened dramatically.
Sitting in a dimmed auditorium, we were immersed in the world of Chris Cree Brown's No Ordinary Sun, projected from nine speakers.
The full text of Hone Tuwhare's poem was saved until the end.
Cree Brown first gave us the landscape that might not always be there. Ricocheting birdcalls eventually succumbed to apocalyptic screeches of pain; did the many potent silences offer hope or perhaps a warning?
Helen Bowater's Rangitoto is a piano piece of Lisztian bravura. Gemma Lee skilfully navigated gnarly textures and avalanches of octaves as well as illuminating moments of reflection.
Thanks to the smooth blend of John Elmsly's ensemble, the cool, seemingly unconnected chords in Samuel Holloway's Hard Science came across as a diverting six-minute exploration of ideas that were less convincing in his recent Things.
Orbicularis by Chris Watson was a dazzling duo. Working from a score of some complexity, flautist Luca Manghi and pianist Dean Sky-Lucas played with an uncanny synchronicity.
After the interval, Jason Post's Cataphora toyed with our perceptions and expectations. It was fascinating to persist with pianist Kento Isomura's harmonic stream, occasionally warped by Jonathan Cruz's electronic tamperings, while the other four musicians appeared determined to draw us away from those pulsating piano chords.
Celeste Oram's Mirror & Echo seemed more performance art than regular music. Three sensory-deprived musicians (two string players listening to white noise and a blindfolded percussionist) reacted to their new imposed soundworlds. Among a number of happy accidents was Samuel Girling's ingenious response to spiky col legno strings.
The evening had opened with the cautionary verse of Hone Tuwhare; it closed with the radiant Jennifer Maybee singing Louise Webster's full-scale setting of the Irish lament Grief of a Girl's Heart.
Inevitably, one hears the provenance of Britten and Gillian Whitehead in this fine score, but Webster has fashioned a gripping portrait of a woman's obsession. Four instrumentalists, under Elmsly, took inspiration from the vivid, imaginative writing while Maybee was totally assured in everything from expressionist waltzes to eerie speechsong.
What: Karlheinz Company
Where: University Music Theatre