Founded in 1978 by John Rimmer, the Karlheinz Company is New Zealand’s oldest contemporary music ensemble, based at the School of Music, University of Auckland. John Elmsly was director from the mid-90s until 2014, then Eve de Castro-Robinson until 2019. Its first concert included Stockhausen’s Klavierstuck IX, Berio’s O King and Rimmer’s Thoughts from Peria.
There was a programming philosophy of combining more adventurous names within the established twentieth and twenty-first century composers, and new music from New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region. Concerts over the past 41 years have included commissions from NZ composers David Farquhar, Dorothy Ker, Samuel Holloway, and others, and many premieres of works by Composition staff (Rimmer, Elmsly, de Castro-Robinson, Leonie Holmes, John Coulter), and student composers, including much electroacoustic work.
The ensemble comprises instrumental staff from the School, talented student performers, and guest performers from the APO and further afield. RNZ Concert and SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music have broadcast many performances.
In 2018 Karlheinz presented a Suffrage 125 Celebration concert including Doctoral student Louise Webster’s beautifully crafted Cries of Kathmandu featuring staff singers and string players, and Popular Music student Sophie Mashlan singing her own, haunting, Shadow. De Castro-Robinson’s theatrical microscore ben/bsn was realised by its dedicatee, Karlheinz doyen Ben Hoadley.
John Rimmer at 80 was mounted in 2019, with his 1983 De Aestibus Rerum brought to life by staff members including Karlheinz veterans, pianist Stephen De Pledge, clarinettist Andrew Uren, and starring Rimmer himself on French horn. Previous director John Elmsly, who has featured over the decades as composer, conductor, performer (piano, flute, harpsichord, laptop), was represented by Sixteen High Fives, for recorder, piano and electronics with another Karlheinz stalwart, Kevin Kim.