Landscape Prelude | Solo Piano

Rattle Records, the Wallace Arts Trust and the Victoria University Press have come together to release this wonderful recording by Henry Wong Doe of twelve Landscape Preludes by Dame Gillian Whitehead, Ross Harris, Lyell Cresswell, Gareth Farr, Dylan Lardelli, Eve de Castro Robinson, Jack Body, Samuel Holloway, Michael Norris, John Psathas, Jenny McLeod and me.

Originally commissioned by Stephen de Pledge and beautifully performed by Henry, this set of pieces is an incredible snapshot of contemporary music in this country. Twelve completely different musical voices explore their own experience of our landscape and produce twelve completely different perspectives on it.

I feel incredibly honoured to have been included in this company of composers. I love every single one of the preludes. They all have such diverse and extraordinary character and they represent what I think is the great beauty of being a composer in this country – the freedom to pursue our individual artistic ideals from within a genuinely supportive and nurturing community of artists – who are also friends. Stephen’s brilliant commission also illustrates the willingness of performers here to embrace a myriad of different musical approaches and to give them an opportunity to assemble without restriction and form their own whole.

My prelude – Goodnight Kiwi – is very personal. Stephen asked me to write this piece while my mother was in the final stages of a terminal illness. My idea of a ‘landscape’ was completely coloured by the experience of bidding a long goodbye to someone uniquely beloved to me and at that time, everything I saw and felt was coloured by the idea of memory, transience and the fleeting nature of time. So my response, I suppose, was to compose something lingering and nostalgic and to reflect on things that I would always remember with fondness and longing. It was the last piece I wrote that my mother heard –  Stephen recorded a performance of it for Radio New Zealand and I was able to take that recording into the hospice, just days before Mum died, and play it to her.

The fact that a simple, sentimental piece like mine sits alongside the incredible dexterities, complexities, translucencies, pragmatisms, reflections, equations and exuberances of the other composers represented here is part of the genius of Stephen’s commission which provided a point of departure that anchored us to each other, but which also placed no aesthetic chains or judgements on the directions we subsequently took. The complete set is like a thirteenth prelude in a way because it shows us the landscape from above, which really is every time, every season and every culture, finding form in a series of islands.

William Dart, who has long been a champion of New Zealand art and music wrote this super review in the New Zealand Herald (26 July, 2014):

“It has been a long wait, but an amply rewarded one, for Henry Wong Doe’s Landscape Preludes. This set of 12 New Zealand piano pieces has grown and triumphed on the concert stage in the decade since Stephen De Pledge made his first commissions.

Now, thanks to Rattle Records, with simpatico producer Kenneth Young and studio wizard Steve Garden, this iconic collection is available on CD, played by Wong Doe.

Wong Doe is a pianist who tempers flamboyance with poetry; in Gillian Whitehead’s Arapatiki, flames flicker among mellow, mysterious surroundings.

When a virtuoso is called for, Wong Doe is your man.

Lyell Cresswell’s Chiaroscuro streaks in brilliantly hued fury while the heavy industrial density that opens Michael Norris’ Machine Noise sparks and fires.

Dylan Lardelli’s music can be testing but Wong Doe ensures we sense a Bachian tangle under the meteorological malevolence of Reign.

Similarly, the pianist carefully streams and shapes the cycles of spilling out and retraction in Samuel Holloway’s volatileTerrain Vague.

Heard in its entirety, one can pick up special relationships between tracks.

The slow-burn impressionism of Gareth Farr’s A Horizon from Owhiro Bay finds echoes in the glistening sound web of Eve de Castro-Robinson’s This Liquid Drift of Light.

Wong Doe catches the brooding soliloquy of Ross Harris’ Landscape with too few lovers and enjoys bringing out those “deep earth gongs” that tremble under the surface of Jenny McLeod’s Tone Clock XVIII.

There is mischievous humour in Sleeper by the high-profile John Psathas, which plays on three possible definitions of its title. In Jack Body’s The Street Where I Live, Wong Doe’s piano flirts and skirts around the composer’s own voice, whimsically extolling the joys of his Wellington home.

After a captivating 50 minutes of infinitely varied and fascinating “landscapes”, Victoria Kelly’s Goodnight Kiwi is the perfect conclusion.

One of the first of the set to be written, this piece deals out a nostalgia of both time and place, designed to touch the Kiwi heart in all of us.

If you buy just one classical CD this year, make it Landscape Preludes.”

Henry Wong Doe

To purchase or preview the CD on iTunes, please click HERE.

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