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There are 3 CDs considered in this review

Te Papa
Three versions of Te Papa: (1) with full orchestra; (2) log drum'n'bass mix; (3) urenui mix
New Zealand SO/Kenneth Young

Gareth Farr (b. 29 Feb 1968) is a composer and percussionist born in Wellington, New Zealand. He has studied composition, orchestration and electronic music and has an M.Mus from the Eastman School of Music. He has performed with many world class orchestras including with the LSO under Leonard Bernstein. In addition he has performed with Indonesian Gamelan ensembles. He has also worked as a professional drag artist in Rochester, New York, and New Zealand.

In this CD single we get three different 'takes' on Farr's piece Te Papa (our place). The first is the full orchestral version. Over a thunder of drums an ecstatic Hadley-like line is sung by tenor and soprano- a setting from Charm - an anonymous New Zealand Poem. This music is suggestive of a sort of Maori Song of the High Hills (Delius) though more earthy - not so ethereal. The collision of cultures (wild Maori cries meshing with the English choral tradition) works far better than I would have guessed. There is plenty of visceral excitement on offer. Te Papa seems to protest a world in turmoil and the movement of great tectonic plates. There is a touch of Orff about this music: simple but magnificent. The first two versions are exciting. The third version involves a 'funky' 1970s disco-beat underpinning the Maori strangeness with burbles and gurgles - not completely dismal but pretty bad! Stick with the other two tracks.


Rob Barnett


GARETH FARRorchestral music
From the depths sound the great sea gongs (1996)
Waipoua (1994)
Le temps est à la pluie (1995)
Tabuh Pacific (1995)
Queen of Demons (1997)
New Zealand SO / Gary Farr

From the depths is in two sections. The first - The Invocation of the Sea - pummels us with the drums of Rarotonga, caresses the ears with Balinese gamelan tintinnabulation and soothes with the fragility of the Japanese Taiko. The hammered pummelling of the drums and the muscular celerity of the Hakas of Aotearoa mingle with Holst's Jupiter and Copland's El Salon Mexico. Farr is a sculptor of big sounds. The marine flicker of E J Moeran's Symphony, the eruptive upwards strike of geysers, Messiaen's Turangalila and Ravel's wind writing are encountered as we move through the piece. The second, Thus Spake the Sea Gongs,  is gamelan-dominated with wind playing fitfully around the gamelan 'carpet'. Then, Hovhaness-like, the great gongs arise and shake before falling back into the sea amid a bleak Sibelian threnody for strings. The music peals in string terraces replete with the stony authority of Shostakovich. This is music in a mildly avant-garde casing - a bit episodic but rising at the end to a major statement - sappy, joyous and with the stamp of Leonard Bernstein.

Bruised and battered after the first piece we are thankful for the drowsy Finzian Waipoua with Mary Scott's balm-laden solo clarinet. The instrument just can't help being lyrical and healing. This would make an easy 'hit' on Classic Fm.

Le Temps  est à la Pluie demonstrates the great amplitude of this recording. A threnody to the victims of French nuclear testing in the Pacific it is not sunny. Dark and cloud-hung would be better description. This is a sad hymn in which the strings play a prominent role and carry a crushing emotional weight punched home at the close by the angry drums reminiscent of those cannonading drums in Bliss's Morning Heroes. This is, in some measure, like Waipoua, an essentially melodic piece with some passing similarities to Barber's Adagio.

Tabuh Pacific slips almost seamlessly into focus almost as a continuation of Le Temps. Soon however it rears up as an exercise in voodoo rhythms - Reichian minimalism thrumming with the chatter of ringing gamelan. The piece is built around the interlocking rhythms of two gamelan ensembles. Of all the pieces on the disc this one suffers from a little monotony and outstays its welcome.

The Queen of Demons is a reference to Lilith. It refers to the Hebrew myth of the demonic Lilith with its glutinous darkness, streaming clouds of demonic succubi and mountain-top fanfares out of Herrmann's music for the film 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'. Along the way we are treated to a hint of Purcellian chaconne and Arvo Pärt's Cantus. There is no gamelan influence this time. The work is more 'conventionally' orchestral though with a high percussion presence. It makes a real display vehicle having similarities, in that sense, to Te Papa.


Rob Barnett


GARETH FARR   chamber music
Shadow of the Hawk (1997)
Kembang Suling (1995)
Sepuluh Jari (1996)
From Forgotten Forests (1994)
Cadenza (1993)
Piano: David Guerin Flute: Alexa Still Percussion: Bruce Mckinnon Violin: Doug Bellman Clarinet: Andrew Uren Cello: James Tennant

Farr repeatedly proves himself a most imaginative craftsman although probably more at home with the comparatively unrestricted resources of the orchestra he also writes attractive chamber music.

If you know Bernard Herrmann's music for the film The Day The Earth Stood Still you will have a sense of déja-vu when you hear the opening of the Hawk piece. The flight of the hawk, fast and slow, diving and floating effortless, breasting the gales, sliding and wafted upwards is all there amid some music I associate with Copland's Vitebsk. (Katharine Austin piano and James Tennant cello).

Kembang Suling features the composer's marimba and Alexa Still's flute. The soft incessant hammers of the gamelan are there amid the low stabs and naïve songs of the flute. I can imagine that this piece would be a natural for Evelyn Glennie.

Sepuluh Jari is for Michael Houstoun's solo piano. It is glum, oleaginous, coal-black - relieved by some Latino sleight of hand (Bernstein and Gershwin) and by gamelan at the hammered climax of the piece.

Carolyn Mills (solo harp) conjures From Forgotten Forests a Gallic, icy and subtle vision. These are smoked glass images of times unreachably ancient, of unfamiliar birds and of forgotten calls long dissipated amid primeval trees.

Cadenza (for instrumental ensemble) represents a television out of the control - cycling through channel after strange channel - each nightmarish and seething with the strange rhythms: Weill, graveyard jazz; the ghoulish activity of electrode-induced shock. There is a Semitic cast to the music with splashes of Nyman, Vitebsk (again) and Frankel's Five Bagatelles and Elégie Juive.

Overall I did not find this disc as powerful as the other two but none of them lack for life and imagination.


Rob Barnett


Morrison & Co Music Trust
PO Box 135
New Zealand


Russell Armitage Management
PO Box 320
New Zealand
fax +64 7 853 6504
phone +64 7 853 6503

all Gareth Farr's works are available from

Promethean Editions
PO Box 7348
Wellington South 6039 NZ
phone +64 4 473 5033
fax +64 4 473 5066



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