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Morrison Trust or Sounz

Ross HARRIS (b.1945)
Ka wawara te hau …(2004) [10.47]
John ELMSLY (b.1952)
Dialogue 1 (1988) [11.07]
Three Doubles (1995) [7.20]
Michael NORRIS (b.1973)
BADB (2005) [6.44]
John RITCHIE (b.1921)
The Snow Goose (1999) [5.05]
Sweet and Sour (1984) [4.11]
Gillian WHITEHEAD (b.1941)
Taurangi (2000) [13.14]
Christopher BLAKE (b.1949)
Little Dancings (1991) [19.11]
Maria GRENFELL (b.1969)
Four Pooh Stories (1992) [10.09]
Anthony RITCHIE (b1960)
Tui (2005) [4.05]
Dorothy BUCHANAN (b.1945)
Flute Song for the Birds (1990) [7.05]
Philip BROWNLEE (b.1971)
Harakeke (1999) [8.16]
Chris Cree BROWN (b.1953)
The Watertable (2002) [8.31]
Paul BOOTH (b.1967)
Lament (1997) [3.37]
Douglas MEWS Snr (1918-1993)
Tango Fantastique (1985) [3.11]
Bridget Douglas (flute)
Rachel Thomson (piano)
rec. Ilott Theatre, Wellington Town Hall, November-December 2004
MORRISON MUSIC TRUST MMT 2063-64 [66.11 + 56.29]
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More enlightening patronage here from the Morrison Music Trust in its promotion of a double set of contemporary New Zealand works for flute and piano.
Ka wawara te hau, Ross Harris’s opener, means “The Wind Whispered” in English – a constant refrain in this and other albums of contemporary music is how often composers employ Maori titles and embrace Maori myth and history in their works. Chimes and microtones whisper through this one, with the flute protagonist fleetly accelerating or gently slowing down. John Elmsly cuts a more obviously forthcoming stance – warm piano triads and an especially limpid section half way through generate real tension; tempo increase is highlit by the rhythmic play of the piano.
Michael Norris’s influence is Messiaen and the overblown birdcalls are redolent of Irish myth. Badb (though capitalised in the title) was an Irish war goddess and the hag and carrion crow cries are visceral in their immediacy. I enjoyed John Ritchie’s programmatic or at least narrative The Snow Goose with its adept writing; rather French. We hear the aerial delicacy of the bird’s flight and then the sounds of gunfire as the goose crosses the channel to Dunkirk in wartime. The inspiration was Paul Gallico’s novel and the piece was originally written for orchestral forces.
Gillian Whitehead’s piece gives the disc its title and her Taurangi is unsettled in places and employs some searching avant-garde techniques - the pianist also has to play inside the piano in that modish way. There are compensatory moments of limpidity and colour but the demands are generally unremitting. Altogether lighter on its feet is Christopher Blake’s Little Dancings with its tarantella tints, canon, a threatened fugato, evocative slow movement and spirited Thai dance.
Wonderfully deft characterisation marks out Maria Grenfell’s Four Pooh Stories. I’ve drawn attention to this composer in another Morrison Trust review (see review) and the energy and humour of her writing is a constant delight – let’s have a single disc devoted to her, if there isn’t one already. Rich birdcall marks out Tui by Anthony Ritchie and Dorothy Buchanan is similarly taken in Flute Song for the Birds. With tempo fluctuation and some verdant writing, this last has ecstasy in the forest and makes imaginative play with the flute/piano forces. 
Harakeke by Philip Brownlee evokes sway in the wind and forestry cries whilst John Ritchie, in his second contribution, conjures the languorous long line and contrasting drive in the humorously titled Sweet and Sour.  Chris Cree Brown introduces taped sounds in his work, along with what sound like ethnic flute blowing techniques. Paul Booth’s 1997 Aids Lament remains undesolate and unflinching and the selection ends with Douglas Mews Senior’s sly tango rhythms.
The soundscape is excellent and captures the intrepid Bridget Douglas and Rachel Thomson with sensitive immediacy. The biographical notes are complemented and enhanced by the composer’s own comments.
Jonathan Woolf


Morrison Trust



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