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Ensemble Polymnia

An exciting programme of New Zealand music, a blend of traditional string and orchestral music with stunning modern works!
Ensemble Polymnia, Sarah Bisley, Conductor - Charlotte Fetherston, Viola, works by Douglas Lilburn, Christopher Blake, Alfred Hill, Nigel Keay and John Ritchie

'Matariki' - the group of stars also known as the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. It marks the traditional Maori New Year; with the sighting of the constellation and the new moon in early June.

No such programme would be complete without works by Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001) whose Canzonas I and IV will be opening our concert. Canzona I (1943) was originally composed as incidental music for the Players' Mime in 'Hamlet', in a Ngaio Marsh production. Canzona IV (195) was composed to accompany a reading of 'The Lay of Love and Death of Cornet Rilke'.

Our second piece is the hauntingly beautiful 'Angel at Ahipara' for String Orchestra (1997), by Christopher Blake. It is part of a series of compositions inspired by the painter Colin McCahon and moving black and white photographs of Northland captured by Robin Morrison.
To quote the composer: "In the isolated settlement of Ahipara in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand, a tiny white church sits on a hillock... In the cemetery below an angel stands on a pedestal at the head of a grave... The music captures the hope and desolation of the angel and the memory of the soul over which she stands guard..."
'Angel at Ahipara' is divided into seven movements, in each of which the angel exemplifies an exalted spiritual state, bringing messages of praise, joy and comfort.

To conclude the first half we present the 'Concerto in A minor for Viola and Small
Orchestra' (1940) by Alfred Hill (1869-1960). Our soloist is the remarkable young viola player Charlotte Fetherston, who is currently completing a doctorate on the works of Hill at the Sydney Conservatorium.

Hill is one of Australasia’s first formally trained composers and his output of compositions was prolific, totalling over 2,000 works. Hill’s musical output was shaped by his German Romantic compositional training in Leipzig and his interest to instill European musical culture and education into colonial New Zealand and Australia.
The Concerto in A minor for Viola and Orchestra, composed in Sydney, contains three movements, Moderato, Andantino and Decisivo and adheres to conventional Romantic norms in its formal structure. The first movement is in minor key sonata form. The second movement is a theme and variations work, based around melodic material from the beginning of the movement and heavily influenced by Ernest Chausson’s Piano Quartet in A major Op. 30 (not acknowledged). The finale, Decisivo, is in the style of a typical 18th-century concerto fast movement Rondo.

We open the second half with Nigel Keay's 'Serenade for Strings'(2002). Sarah Bisley conducted the world premiere of this innovative work in Paris in October 2004 - this will be the New Zealand premiere. The Serenade has four movements, Moderato - Allegro - Adagietto - Vivo, each of them exploring the extraordinary tonalities of stringed instruments with a vibrant mixture of tonality and atonality.

To conclude our concert we pay tribute to another one of our 'founding fathers' of New Zealand composition, John Ritchie (b. 1921).
'Aquarius: Suite No.2 for String Orchestra'(1982) was commissioned by the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand for the Schola Musica.

John Ritchie writes: "The title 'Aquarius' recognizes the founding date of the orchestra, February 1961. It also conveys an image of An, the ancient sky god, who poured waters of immortality on the earth, thereby establishing the tradition of the water carrier."
The first movement, Allegro Vivace, has Baroque origins. The second, Andante Pastorale, has the character of a folk song while the third, Allegro moderato, is dominated by the interval of a major seventh which develops into a tight fugato.