6 Jan 2017

Summer Playlist

From Upbeat, 12:00 pm on 6 January 2017

Pohutukawa Photo: Public Domain

Norman Meehan

Norman Meehan at Bill's piano

Norman Meehan at Bill's piano Photo: supplied

Jazz pianist and composer Norman Meehan (who is also responsible for that catchy theme to RNZ Concert’s ‘Upbeat’ programme) is due some down time. He’s just released a new book ‘New Zealand Jazz Life’, which includes extensive interviews with leading New Zealand jazz musicians.

Each summer Norman and his family spend two or three weeks more or less completely off-line in the forest where the only music is ‘live’ “We play it or sing it ourselves,” says Norman. “So lots of Christmas carols from our youngest, and lots of Nirvana songs on acoustic guitar from our oldest.”

This summer Norman’s headphone music will include expatriate-New Zealand saxophonist Hayden Chisholm’s recent boxed set Cusp of Oblivion.

Norman also recently read a biography of Brian Eno (On Some Far Away Beach) and has been slowly listening through to Eno’s extensive catalogue.

“I’m up to 1978 so I have about a twenty albums to go. I’ve long been a fan of the album he did in 1980 with trumpeter Jon Hassell (Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Music) so it will be interesting to hear that in the context of his wider discography.”


Sarah McCracken, Assistant Concertmaster - Christchurch Symphony Orchestra

CSO Concert Master Sarah McCracken

CSO Concert Master Sarah McCracken Photo: Charles Brooks

Sarah was familiar with the original version of Brahms’ ‘Piano Quartet No. 1' but she’d never heard Schoenberg’s orchestra arrangement until recently (the CSO are performing it this year). She thinks it’s “pretty amazing”.

“I had a bit of a violinist midnight ‘geek out’ recently, listening to hours of James Ehnes. He's absolutely glorious and plays the violin like something supernatural. His Bach especially is pretty life changing! “

Sarah listens to his recording of Bach’s ‘Ciaccona’ whenever she wants to be reminded of what the violin should sound like.


Ronan Tighe, APO - Director of Artistic Planning

APO Director of Artistic Planning Ronan Tighe

APO Director of Artistic Planning Ronan Tighe Photo: supplied

"I’ve been enjoying listening to Iranian harpsichordist, Mahan Esfahani, especially his most recent recording of J.S. Bach Goldberg Variations.  I love how he is unfazed by the limitations of the instrument and is fearless and innovative in his approach to programming."

“Even though I work for a symphony orchestra, I’m nuts about opera, and I’ll be listening to the recent Deutsche Grammophon recording of Puccini’s  ‘Manon Lescaut’, with Armiliato conducting the Munchner Rundfunkorchester and the wonderful Anna Netrebko as Manon. It’s the title we’ve chosen as our ‘Opera in Concert’ for 2017 and so I’m looking forward to getting to know this live recording. I’m a real fan of Netrebko, her vocal control, gorgeous tone, and the degree to which she inhabits every role she performs. And it is such a wonderful score!"


Salina Fisher, Composer, Resound Audio Curator at SOUNZ

Salina Fisher

Salina Fisher Photo: Supplied

“I can’t say how lucky I feel to be in the role of Resound Audio Curator at SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music, especially as a composer – I’m constantly being introduced to, and reacquainted with, some absolute gems from the NZ Composer Archive!”

Resound is a venture between Radio New Zealand Concert and SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music, funded by NZ On Air, which aims to unlock recordings of significant compositions by New Zealand composers from our archive.Salina has selected pieces that have captured her imagination from the Resound Audio Collection.

Gillian Whitehead’s harp concerto, entitled ‘Karohirohi’ means 'iridescent, shimmering, the sparkling of light on water’.

“I vividly remember hearing this work, as a twelve-year-old, sitting right near the front of the stage in the Christchurch Town Hall, looking straight up at this magnificent instrument and being completely awe-struck by the colours Gillian brought out of both the harp and orchestra. In particular, there’s a section around 10 mins in with an aleatoric string harmonic texture, and it was my first time hearing anything like it! I had no idea how she’d achieved it, and was of course very curious to find out. It’s incredible to hear this recording ten years on from that experience."

Another piece for harp and flute, which she enjoys is Michael Norris's: ‘14 Islands’ inspired by the stone garden at the Ryōanji temple in Kyoto. Here’s a piece by one of Salina’s “amazing mentors” Ross Harris: ‘At the Edge of Silence’ performed by Stroma. Another strong influence on Salina Fisher is the late Jack Body: ‘Rainforest’. Salina also recommends listening to Nigel Keay’s ‘String Quartet No.2’ and ‘For Young Nick’ by Leonie Holmes.


Amalia Hall, Concertmaster Orchestra Wellington

Amalia Hall at the Wieniawski Competition 2016

Amalia Hall at the Wieniawski Competition 2016 Photo: Supplied

Amalia has been in Israel for her best friend's wedding but is also busy preparing for upcoming concerts in Italy, America and Mexico. So she’ll be spending much of her downtime listening to upcoming concert repertoire:  Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi concerti, Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’, along with Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss Sonatas, and Stravinsky’s ‘Suite Italienne’.

“I love Isabelle Faust's recording of Beethoven’s ‘Violin Concerto’, and Christian Tetzlaff for Mozart’s Sonatas. Both of these performers have such fresh, stylistic and musical approaches to playing these two composers, who require a sensitive and deep understanding of their individual compositional languages. It is very difficult to express these pieces with enough emotion and simplicity at the same time, but these recordings really touch me with their raw vitality!”


Rolf Gjelsten, cellist NZSQ

Cellist Rolf Gjelsten with the NZSQ

Cellist Rolf Gjelsten with the NZSQ Photo: supplied

 “I keep repeatedly coming back with and without my son to ‘Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery’, an ingenious children’s/adult’s musical fantasy weaving a magical story in Venice with the music of Vivaldi, played superbly.

It’s a beautiful thriller with a surprise ending.  Susan Hammond, the producer, is a friend and fellow artist the NZSQ sees almost every July at the Festival of the Sound in Canada.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly Rolf’s playlist also contains some of his favourite cellists. His favourite recording of Steven Isserlis is his Schumann recording with pianist Christoph Eschenbach. 

Isserlis plays Schumann

Isserlis plays Schumann Photo: supplied

Rolf has an extraordinary connection to cellist Mischa Maisky’s recording of ‘Schelomo’ by Bloch, which is some of his favourite of Maisky’s playing.

“My cello, played by Russian cellist Alexandre Barjansky for Bloch in 1915, inspired this work by Bloch.  I can almost hear the dark timbres of my instrument reflected in this great work.  One of my teachers, Zara Nelsova, spent a summer in Portland with Bloch learning this work with him.”


Clarissa Dunn, Presenter Weekday Classics

"After some chance Youtube encounters and suggestions from enthusiastic friends, I’ve fallen in love with Georgian music and put the country at the top of my travel list.

My version of heaven now has singing Georgian men instead of angels. Hamlet Gonashvilli, known as “the voice of Georgia”, was a captivating performer of Georgian traditional music. He died in 1985 after falling from an apple tree. His version of 'Tsintskaro' meaning "at the spring water" is hauntingly beautiful.

I became a fan of composer Salina Fisher music after hearing RNZ Concert’s recording of her piece ‘Rainphase’, which won her the 2016 SOUNZ Contemporary Award. I'll be listening to our recording of one of her latest works 'Tōrino' (‘Spiral’), which is based on transcriptions of pūtōrino player Rob Thorne. Salina's music is wonderfully inventive and breathtaking. I can't wait to hear what she creates next."


David Morriss, Presenter Classic Afternoons

“Over summer I’ll be listening to an 86 CD box set from one of the greatest of the American orchestras (one of the so-called “big five”) conducted by one of its most beloved conductors. Charles Munch had a real talent for making the music come alive off the page – he was even able to make studio recordings sound spontaneous. Wonderful music making – and in the French repertoire (Berlioz especially) there’s no-one better.”

David Morriss' Box set

David Morriss' Box set Photo: supplied


Stuart Maunder, General Director NZOpera

Stuart Maunder is a man constantly on the move and his playlist is a refuge and even a form of ‘interior decoration’.

“Anytime I feel stressed, or even when I’m not Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’ (Academy of St. Martins-in-the-Field / Neville Marriner) is always on my devices, along with ‘Our Time’ from Sondheim’s 'Merrily we roll Along’, the two 'Queen of the Night' arias (soprano Cristina Deutekom, conducted by Solti), ‘Streets of Dublin’ from ‘A Man of No Importance’ by Ahrens/Flaherty, and of course, overture to ‘Ruddigore’ (arr: Toye) G&S, (Isidore Godfrey) in a playlist called ‘Thrill’, which does great things for a sad hotel room.”


Zoë George, Producer of Upbeat

“I love musical theatre because it's just a lot of fun. Life is too serious sometimes... so it's good to release that energy through this style.”

Zoë’s off to the IFAC Handa NZ Singing School in the Hawkes Bay. She’s our resident musical theatre addict and she’s looking forward to performing ‘Run, Freedom, Run!’ from the Hollman / Kotis satirical musical comedy ‘Urinetown’  and the famous drinking chorus ‘Libiamo’ from Verdi’s opera ‘La Traviata’ in one of the public concerts. She’s also looking forward to treading the boards of the Municipal Theatre in Napier where she saw her very first musical, ‘Joseph’.


Patricia Hurley -Trust Administrator, Dame Malvina Major Foundation

On a moonlit summer night Patricia enjoys listening to Fauré’s ‘Claire de Lune’ (Moonlight) performed by soprano Jenny Wollerman and pianist Michael Houston from their Rattle Records album ‘Between Darkness and Light’, “an enchanting recital of art song from the Belle Époque to the present day”, which “explore(s)the magical space between dusk and dawn in Between Darkness and Light…”


Ryan Smith, Presenter ‘New Music Dreams’

“Over the holidays I’m definitely going to spend a bit more time with the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack, which I’ve recently discovered. “

‘Stranger Things’ is a 2016 sci-fi horror TV series, which pays homage to, and is heavily influenced by 1980s pop culture and genre films, especially those by Stephen Spielberg, John Carpenter , Stephen King and George Lucas.

The soundtrack by composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein has been released in 2 volumes with well over 2 hours of music.


Monique Lapins - Second Violinist, New Zealand String Quartet

New Zealand String Quartet new 2nd violinist Monique Lapins

New Zealand String Quartet new 2nd violinist Monique Lapins Photo: Bruce Foster

Monique has chosen a variety of works, which she finds are best listened to at certain times of the day or with certain moods – or beverages…

“… a great start in the morning for me with a cup of coffee overlooking Wellington from my lounge room is...”

...the first movement of Daniel Shafran’s recording of Schumann’s ‘Cello Concerto’ with the USSR State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirill Kondrashin.

To “shake things up” (after the coffee) she turns to jazz and the ‘Blowin' The Blues Away’ It’s for “walking the streets of Wellington or travelling the world! It's something to help kick me into high energy and happy spirits.”

For the moment when the summer sun begins to set and you feel like reflecting on an eternal love Monique suggests listening to ‘Pur ti miro, pur ti godo’ a love duet from Monteverdi’s ‘Coronation of Poppea’ where the characters of Nerone and Poppea languish in their adoration of one another.


Dame Malvina Major

Over the holiday period, Dame Malvina Major will be working  her way  through a variety of operatic scenes to find the perfect ensembles for the students in her Postgraduate Certificate in Opera Studies course at University of Waikato.

Some of her initial ideas include the dressing scene from Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ and this exquisite trio - 'Soave sia il vento' from Mozart’s opera ‘Cosi fan Tutte’.