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  • Karlheinz Company

  • Established: 1978

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The Karlheinz Company, based at the University of Auckland School of Music was founded by John Rimmer and gave its first concert in 1978, a programme including Stockhausen’s Klavierstuck IX, Berio’s O King and Rimmer’s Thoughts from Peria. Gradually there developed a programming philosophy of combining more adventurous names within the established twentieth century composers (so not resting too much within the familiarity of Prokofiev, Bartok and Hindemith) with classics (Varese, Stravinsky), and new music from New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region. As much as possible all styles are represented, and particular care is taken to include work of younger composers where possible.

One of the first in a series of commissions supported with funding from Creative New Zealand was for Ritual Auras from John Elmsly in 1982, and from 1984 when he joined the university staff he began directing the ensemble and its programming, at first jointly with John Rimmer then taking over full direction. The other commissions (with Creative New Zealand assistance) for the ensemble were Concerto for Six by David Farquhar, Mobiles III by John Young, Interior by Jack Body, The Structure of Memory by Dorothy Ker and Six Watercolours by David Griffiths. A large number of other works by New Zealand composers have received their first performance or first broadcast performance from the ensemble.

Most of the concerts have been given in Auckland venues, usually at the Maidment Threatre or the Music Theatre with occasional forays to special events at Artspace, but concerts have also been given as part of the Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington in 1984, and presenting the ACL Young Composer Prize entrants in a 1992 Asia Pacific/ACL Festival concert held in the Concert Chamber of the Auckland Town Hall. Concerts have also been presented in Hamilton at Waikato University and St Pauls Collegiate. Numerous complete concerts or works from the programmes have been broadcast nationally by Concert FM (now Radio New Zealand Concert). Periodically special events with a focus on electroacoustic music have warranted the title ‘Electric Karlheinz’ but as much as possible electroacoustic music is presented together with acoustic music, and concerts have often included work featuring instruments and electronic sound by New Zealand composers and others, including such novelties as Australian composer Stephen Ingham’s Verfranzt for trombone and amplified harpsichord, and more typical works in the genre by John Rimmer, Michael Norris, Chris Cree-Brown and Matthew Suttor.

The ensemble has consisted of talented student performers, instrumental staff of the School of Music, and guest performers from the APO and further afield. Director John Elmsly often conducts or mixes sound but has also participated on piano, harpsichord and baroque flute. Many performances have been broadcast by Concert FM of Radio New Zealand.

Source: Karlheinz Company, May 2007

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