Mahuika for organ and orchestra was, like several of my pieces, given a title in its infancy. In the way that a child grows into her name over time, Mahuika has developed a particular character during the process of writing. The work is not programmatic, but the origins of its name have come to influence the work: Mahuika, a Maori fire goddess, is awakened into her full terrifying extreme, utilising the full range and capacity of both the Auckland Town Hall organ and the Auckland Philharmonia. Mahuika evokes the sense of a young teenage goddess full of ideas and vitality but without the opportunity to yet develop and explore them fully.
The work has the potential to mature into a full-scale organ symphony of around 30-40 minutes: if anyone is in a position to fund her to grow further please contact me to discuss.
This short concerto was written for the Taharoto Orchestra, a group consisting of students from Westlake Girls and Westlake Boys High Schools conducted by Liz Cable. It was the second work I had written for the group. The concerto is cast in the traditional three movement form: fast-slow-fast. Although there is no cadenza as such, the first movement does contain a short solo section where a cadenza might have appeared. The first movement is rather like an extended fanfare, making much use of the chords of F major and G major. Sometimes these two chords sound simultaneously, sometimes they are heard successively. The music opens featuring the percussion and low strings playing ‘pizzicato’, setting in motion the underlying rhythmic energy that pervades the whole movement. The second movement is a short, slow and serious movement., It uses a single theme which is divided into two sections, the first section in A minor, and the second section beginning in C major. This theme is heard three times, the final time allowing the piano to present a varied treatment of the opening section, while the second part of the theme is presented as a canon. The final movement, marked ‘playfully’, uses a mix of 4 beats and 5 beats in a bar. The music appears to have a slightly ‘French neo-classical’ feel to it, using short phrases and simple succinct melodic ideas. The whole work ends with an affirmative cadence in C major.
This is pure program music. I wanted to write a sort of New Zealand “Till Eulenspiegel” and chose the legend of how Maui fishes up Aotearoa. All the main events of the story are depicted: how Maui hides in his brothers’ canoe with his magic hook, how he helps his brothers to a fabulous catch, how he lets down his own special hook and catches something unbelievably big which leads to a herculean struggle, how the brothers cut up Maui’s “fish” while he is going to get help, and then the final realisation that the gods are not pleased with the behaviour of the brothers.
The figure of Maui is played by the clarinet, a part which is so important that the work became a Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra.
This is the first part of a projected four movement Maui Cycle which will include Maui slowing the sun, Maui getting fire and the death of Maui.
‘Tiraki’ is a verb meaning ‘to clear the sky of clouds’. In it I have explored the different layerings and textures created between the organ and orchestra, illustrating the nature and behaviour of the clouds. The work is structured in three sections and focuses entirely on the programmatic meaning of ‘Tiraki’.
The first ‘rather angry’ section is very dense and fast moving with surprises along the way – representing a storm. The middle ‘mysteriously calm’ section is the calm after the storm – the music empties out but retains a slightly ominous feel to it. It finishes with a ‘pleasantly refreshing’ section where the music, and the clouds, gather life and a playful spirit once again.
It has been an absolute pleasure combining the two kings of music – an organ and a symphony orchestra – with an idea that had been simmering away for some time. Huge thanks goes to Nicholas Forbes who has been a superb collaborator and to the Auckland Philharmonia for this opportunity.
The Viola Concerto was written while Ritchie was Composer-in-Residence with the Dunedin Sinfonia in 1994, and first performed in Dunedin the following year, with Donald Maurice as the soloist. It is a personal work in which the viola takes on various characters, and describes human relationships. The solo part speaks in a natural and uncontrived voice, and consequently there are few shows of virtuosity in the concerto. The first movement, allegro tempestuoso, opens in turmoil and includes an idea inspired by one of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos. A lighter, folk-like theme emerges and acts as a link to the second main theme which is cooler in mood and tinged with sadness. In the middle section a new idea is played on muted brass interspersed with a lyrical melody on viola. Themes are developed in the orchestra, reaching a climax and leading back to the home key of E. At this point melodic ideas are transformed by a downward, ‘weeping’ motif which appeared earlier on. This carthartic passage fades and the movement ends quickly, without resolution. The long theme at the start of the slow movement began life as a solo piece, and unfolds slowly on the dorian mode accompanied by simple string chords. The stronger second theme on G has a determined quality about it. A lyrical third theme appears on the woodwinds and uses elements of the opening melody. Ominous rumbles in the bass signify the start of the middle section. A boisterous climax evaporates into the recapitulation, where the opening melody is varied with soft floating flutes and string harmonics. The third movement, a cadenza, follows and acts as a link to the finale. Dance-like in character, the finale provides a resolution to the tensions of the previous movements. Some of the themes are influenced by popular music styles, and near the end there is a slightly slower section which recalls Bluegrass music; this was inspired by the American group, the Blue Sky Mountain Boys. There are three main themes in the movement, and these are combined in counterpoint towards the end. A long pedal note E appears in the Coda, over which the soloist plays a mock-heroic version of the second theme. This is brusquely swept aside by strident and jazzy chords, and the concerto comes to a conclusion.