This composition is a setting of a poem by the Australian philosopher, poet and musician Melvyn Cann. The first part describes a spiritual journey through suffering to transcendence and peace. The second part describes a state of consciousness where both thought and time cease, and only feeling remains.
The Concerto was commissioned by Matthew Marshall and the Wellington Regional Orchestra (now Vector Wellington Orchestra), completed in May 1992 for a first performance planned for November 1992, and later postponed until May 1993.
This work is in three movements (quick – slow – quick), but these are connected by cadenza-like links for the guitar soloist, so that the music is continuous. In view of the balance problems in a guitar concerto I have written for a small orchestra (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, percussion and strings), and treated the relationship between solo and orchestra in a concertante style – sharing material rather than opposing each other, and aiming throughout to make the guitar easily audible. Dance rhythms, with touches of rhumba and jazz, predominate in the quick movements, while the slow central movement uses variable speed tremolo on the guitar to enhance its singing qualities.
While the piece follows in a large part a pastoral ideal, darker elements at times emerge within the musical flow. I was thinking about the less savoury aspects of our ‘clean green’ country, the hidden (and not so hidden) consequences of land clearances and modern farming practices which are not in harmony with the environment. This lends the piece an almost elegiac quality, aided by the solo clarinet’s distinctive timbre and a repeated chorale heard near the end of each movement.
Bruce Mason’s one-man play The End of the Golden Weather is the story of a 1930s summer spent by the sea, seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. It is one of the most popular and enduring works of New Zealand theatre, conveying as it does something of the nostalgia shared by most New Zealand for childhood holidays spent at the beach. Bruce Mason performed the work nearly a thousand times over tow decades from 1959, in towns and cities throughout the country, but it was not until 2000 that the play was professionally revived in a performance by Peter Vere-Jones. Gareth Farr wrote incidental music for the production, and later expanded this materials into a four-movement suite for clarinet and string with harp and percussion. The title, Te Parenga, is Mason’s name for the fictionalised Auckland beachfront suburb of Takapuna where the play is set.