GILLIAN WHITEHEAD (b.1941): Alice for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra, Karohirohi for Harp and Orchestra, the improbable ordered dance for Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 07R059
Reference: ACD 613
Description: Whitehead studied with Sculthorpe and Maxwell Davies in the 1960s. Insofar as traces of either influence is evident in these works from the mid-2000s, it is to the powerfully evocative spirit of time and place of the Australian composer that the most appropriate comparisons may be made. Alice is a large-scale monodrama setting extracts from the correspondence of an adventurous young woman who travelled to, and within, New Zealand in the early twentieth century. In eight sections, it recounts her travels, pregnancy, marriage, the death of first her father in England, then her husband in New Zealand, and so on. Much of the music is tonal, sometimes in a somewhat extended sennse, the composer adjusting her idiom from simply songlike to more complex to match the drama of the narrative, with recurring motifs acting as connecting threads between episodes. Karohirohi, meaning an iridescent shimmering, is a classically structured three-movement harp concerto in a single span. It contains unusually demonstrative harp writing, some unusual technical effects, and a greater sense of terse, dramatic dialogue between soloist and orchestra than the title might suggest. dance is based on ideas about the fundamental biological origins of music, and begins with a kind of primitive chaos - water sounds (rain-sticks) out of which a sinuous melody and drumming sounds slowly emerge. The piece is based on small 'cells' which accumulate density and texture; tumultuous nature and bird sounds provide a transitional section, leading to a powerfully rhythmic dancelike climax. No texts. Helen Medlyn (mezzo), Carolyn Mills (harp), New Zealand Symphony Orchestra; Marc Taddei.