Originally composed for Margaret Nielsen this set of short pieces for piano explores unconventional melodic styles inspired by the composer’s fascination with melodic styles outside the Western “classical” tradition, including, among others, bagpipe music, and the Chinese guqin zither. It has been recorded by both Margaret Nielsen and Daniel Poynton.
When composing this piece I had in mind a portrayal of my two-year old son Tristan, and the effect he had on my life. It seems to me that living with a young child can uncover previously hidden aspects of a parent’s personality. A high degree of sacrifice is demanded. This can make parents into more caring people, but it can also place them under enormous stress. The ways in which we react reveals significant things about ourselves, such as our levels of tolerance, and our ability to communicate.
Although these ideas provided the stimulus for Music for Tristan, there is no specific programme of events in the music. Much of the material in the piece derives from the opening melody. There are five main sections in the piece, forming an arch (A B C B A). The outer sections are slower and expressive, while the inner sections are fast and dynamic.
Olveston Suite was composed in 1988 while Anthony Ritchie was Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago. The manager of Olveston House in Dunedin, Mr Dennis Moore, asked Anthony to play a programme of music in Olveston, on the 1904 grand piano. In response to a joking suggestion for a piece about the house, Anthony set about composing the Olveston Suite in quick time.
The pieces reflect qualities of the house; ‘Great Hall’ is expansive and majestic, ‘Kitchen and Scullery’ is busy and bubbling, while ‘Dining room’ suggests an old English style. The fourth piece, ‘Writing Room, Edwardian Bedroom’ is dedicated to Dorothy Theomin, the daughter of the original owners of Olveston and the last member of the family to live in the house. ‘Billiard Room, Persian Room’ is fast and jovial with an exotic middle section. The Suite is rounded off by a repetition of ‘Great Hall’, as the listener exits Olveston.
This work is dedicated to the composer’s piano teacher, Rosemary Miller Stott. It is in three contrasting movements. The first, an allegro, is in sonata form, and features nervous, darting ideas which become more animated in the middle section. The second movement opens with a chorale-like theme, expressing feelings of nostalgia. The fidgety middle section builds up more tension, before being combined with the chorale theme. The finale releases the tensions of the earlier movements, and has a happy, sunny character. Initially inspired by a Beethoven sonata, the rondo theme builds up to a big climax before ending quietly.
Piano Sonata 1988 (opus 29) was written when the composer was Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago.
An afternoon stroll in music! The repetitive mantra-like theme is gradually expanded as the work progresses, finishing with tired climb up the stairs to a place of rest, and culminates with a sigh of peace and tranquility.
The four movements, three short and one long, of Three Chance Pieces for Piano were composed solely by chance. They were written in Bülach, Switzerland, in 1981 but lay fallow until performed for Radio New Zealand by Hugh Stevenson in December 1983. The Plus One Piece was composed in 1984.
Mystery Rag (1989) is a melange of Mahler’s symphonies (in particular, his Symphony No. 6) and piano ragtime. In Elegiac Rag (1989) the melodies are influenced by a Bach chorale (In Thee is Joy) and it concludes with a transcription of a Welsh hymn tune, O Fryniau Caersalem (‘From Salem’s Hills Yonder in Glory’) originally sung by Pedwarawd Wilkes-Barre, a Welsh choir from Pennsylvania in the 1920s. It appeared on a 1985 Morning Star Records release entitled You Can Tell The World About This. The last piece in this tryptich, Transylvanian Tickler (1990) is a shameless pastiche of Bartok in ragtime.