CoverThe Christchurch Symphony Orchestra is launching the Lamb & Hayward Masterworks Series on 17 March 2012 with a concert called Homecoming. It is a homecoming for two musical New Zealanders – violinist Martin Riseley and conductor Tecwyn Evans – both back from successful careers overseas.

Violinist Martin Riseley is a Canterbury graduate who studied at the Julliard and has a successful career performing with chamber groups, appearing with orchestras around the world and teaching. He is now Head of Strings at The New Zealand School of Music. Tecwyn Evans hales from Otago and initially specialised in composition. He began conducting in 1997 then moved on to became Chorus Master at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and then his current position of Concertmaster and Deputy Chief Conductor of Grazer Opera, Austria.

They are presenting a programme featuring Ritchie, Prokofiev and Brahms.

The season brochure tell us that the work by Ritchie was composed in 2009 at the request of Tecwyn Evans, so this is rather a unique chance to hear a piece written for the person who is conducting it.

CoverThe concerto is Prokofiev’s lovely second violin concerto which he wrote whilst living in the West, but not long before he returned to Russia (initially to acclaim, but later to endure the stranglehold of Stalinism). It’s considered one of his more conventional works and has a romantic pastoral feeling, featuring Russian folk and Spanish influences. Its early champions included Jascha Heifetz who recorded it twice and Berman. Later David Oistrakh and Perlman are also known for their interpretations.You can test out all these versions, and many others on Naxos before going to the concert.

Brahms’ Symphony is one of his best loved works. He wrote his four great symphonies later in life when he was at the height of his powers and the third symphony is the most optimistic of them. Rich, melodic and lyrical, it reflects his interest in both Beethoven and Schumann. Hans Richter, who conducted the premiere of the symphony, proclaimed it to be Brahms’ Eroica. Listen to performances by well known interpreters such as Bruno WalterKlemperer, Weingartner and Rattle on Naxos and get the feel of them before the concert.

Recent necrology, January/February 2012 (Music edition)

CoverA list of notable people who have died recently. Our necrologist has been super busy and as some pretty well known musicians have died recently I thought I’d do a special musos listing. We’ve all heard of Whitney Houston but how about Camilla Williams, the first black woman to star in American opera. How about catching up with the voice of the legendary Etta James, or perhaps go classical with the awesome trumpet technique of Maurice Andre.

The list reveals the depth and breadth of the collection we have for music lovers.

Short story surprise

coverI have never been much of a fan of short stories, I’ve always been a novel reading kind of girl. However I’m about to change my reading habits and all because I picked up a copy of Once upon a time in Aotearoa, by prize winning New Zealand author, Tina Makereti.

My eyes were initially drawn to it because of the stunning cover art, and a quick scan of the blurb on the back jacket convinced me to take it to the issues desk and get it out. On diving between the covers I was immediately pulled into a fascinating and compelling series of stories with a slightly otherwordly feel. The author has drawn inspiration for the stories and characters in this book from traditional stories which many of us will be familiar with, but has given them a modern twist, with her kōrero set in the present day.

Once I began reading I was completely hooked and found myself whipping it out of my bag whenever I had a spare minute, at the bus stop, in the doctor’s waiting room, at morning tea time … I enjoyed all the stories in this book but my two absolute favourites were Ahi and Skin and Bones.

The ease with which I could dip into the book for another delectable offering got me wondering why I have never really read short stories. With the benefit of hindsight, I am attributing the blame for that on the required English School Certificate readings I was subjected to. Anyway, I’ve now discovered a whole new vice I’m going to be sure to indulge in more often. Christchurch City Libraries have over 40 books of short stories written by Māori authors and that is where I am going to start. Next on my list to read is Huia short stories 9, followed by Get on the Waka.

Do you have a favourite short story or collection of short stories that you think is an absolute must read that I could add to my list?