1 Dec 2017

ANTHONY WATSON: Three Bagatelles

From Resound, 9:03 pm on 1 December 2017

Gordon Burt (presenter), Gordon Skinner (bsn), Valerie Rigg (vln), Carol McKenzie (vla), Chris Salmon (cello). Recorded by RNZ Concert, 23 April 1975.

Original manuscript of Three Bagatelles by Anthony Watson

Original manuscript of Three Bagatelles by Anthony Watson Photo: SOUNZ

Anthony Watson was born in Southland in 1933. After studying music at the University of Otago, he moved to Wellington, where he played viola with the National Orchestra (now the NZSO). His body of work is small, but musically substantial. He was largely independent as a composer, and works such as the Prelude and Allegro for strings, and three string quartets, show an awareness of international modernism in music. He was the first Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago, a position he held from 1960 to 1971.

Watson wrote Three Bagatelles in 1971, during his time as Mozart Fellow. It is one of his last completed works before his death in 1973. The piece consists of two scherzos framing a slow movement. Each is quite short but complex, compressing a lot of material into a short time frame. They show Watson's interest in serialism, which was apparent in his third String Quartet, as well as a debt to Bartók. The unusual combination of bassoon and string trio suggests the work was written for specific performers.

The Bagatelles are dedicated to the artist Michael Smither, who was Hodgkins Fellow at the same time as Watson was Mozart Fellow. Following Watson's death, Smither wrote in a tribute: ‘He was pedantic, spiky, intolerant, abusive and at times quite crazy with drink and depression, yet he was one of the most sympathetic, real men I have ever met, and I loved him.’

Kenneth Young introduces Three Bagatelles by Anthony Watson.

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