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Edwin CARR (1926-2003)

Auckland 71: Ode (1971) [11.08]

Heath Lees (narrator); Chamber Choir of the Orpheus Choir of Wellington

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Edwin Carr

Seven Elizabethan Lyrics (1980) [14.04]

Schola Polyphonica

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Edwin Carr

Piano Concerto No.2 (1986) [20.47]

Sally Mays (piano)

West Australian Symphony Orchestra/Geoffrey Simon

The End of the Golden Weather (1996) [13.01]

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Marc Taddei

rec. Wellington Town Hall, November 1986, Radio New Zealand (Ode; Lyrics); Australian Broadcasting Commission, Basil Kirke Studio, Perth, date unknown (Concerto); Symphony House, Wellington, December 1998, Radio New Zealand (End)



Edwin Carr comes from the first generation of New Zealand composers born, and gaining prominence, a decade after the father of New Zealand composition, Douglas Lilburn.


After studies at home, he came to London, on an NZ Government Bursary to study composition at the Guildhall with Benjamin Frankel. Further studies followed with Petrassi, in 1954, and Carl Orff, in 1957, whereafter he settled into a life of teaching in England and Australia. Returning to New Zealand in 1984, he moved to Waiheke Island in 1991 where he spent his final years. Despite the obvious time consumed by teaching and conducting, Carr managed to creative an impressive body of works - over 100 pieces, of which four Symphonies and a Sinfonietta (all recorded) stand as the pinnacle of his achievement - in all forms including opera and ballet.


The present disk brings together radio recordings of four representative works, all characterised by bright colours and an air of outgoing pleasure. As can be guessed from the title, Auckland 71: Ode was commissioned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the city. It's a spirited piece, quoting several well known tunes from the time of the founding and culminating in a delightful choral setting of words celebrating the city.


The Seven Elizabethan Lyrics are equally pleasing and if I have a complaint it is that each of the settings is too short - the songs range in duration from 1 minute 26 seconds to 2 minutes 21 seconds - and leave one wanting more. But there's nothing wrong with that.


In both these pieces the (I suppose) amateur choirs, despite some occasional throaty sounds, acquit themselves well and the composer gets the best from all his performers.


The Piano Concerto is a thornier prospect, based on serial principles. Shades of Stravinsky and, oddly, Les Six, permeate the score, which is, by turns, serious and light-hearted. Sally Mays, the dedicatee plays with total commitment.


For me, the prize of the disk is The End of the Golden Weather, a purely musical evocation of a monologue by Bruce Mason. Basically a nocturne in rondo form, it has flashes of light bursting into the texture for the briefest of moments - one quite disturbingly sounding like the Dawn Interlude from Peter Grimes! But don't let this worry you, the music is always Edwin Carr. Taddei directs a subtle and atmospheric performance.


Despite the various locations and the 13 years range of the recordings the sound is very well matched and has a wide dynamic range especially satisfying in a rich bass. This isn't music which is going to set the Hauraki Gulf on fire, but it is well-crafted, thoroughly enjoyable music written by a composer who knew how to please both his public and his performers.


I am very pleased to know Mr Carr!


Bob Briggs





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