The Music of Nigel Keay

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Auckland Chamber Music Collective - Programme 2 November 2023

Nigel Keay (1955-)

Pacific Diptych arranged for piano quintet 2023 (WORLD PREMIERE)

In two movements: Tectonics and Maungerei. Originally composed for organ in 2016, Tectonics was also re-arranged in 2019 for archi-saxophone, mellotron, viola and double bass, as a recorded version for radio. Maungerei was originally written in 2019 for alto, soprano and sopranino saxophones, ondes martenot, viola, farsifa organ, bass guitar, folk bass and double bass, again intended as a radio version. The two movements were also arranged for string orchestra in 2019.
Tectonics was composed over several weeks in the northern autumn of 2016. During this time New Zealand experienced significant seismic activity, and reflecting on the impact this must have had on the country was a strong influence on the work, hence its title. There are several thematic streams in my catalogue of works, and one is geography and migration. Tectonics is therefore linked harmonically to another work, Terrestrial Mirror, which evokes aspects of this same theme. Tectonics is a piece of constant tension through its shifting tonalities, where the subterranean movement is suggested by volatility in the harmonic progression throughout, even when this is happening at the start in a slow tempo. Tectonics is a piece where its core is turbulent and ornamentation is minimal. It has been broadcast on the La Contemporaine France Musique web radio.
Maungarei was composed in the northern autumn of 2019. The title is a reference to the volcanic peak located in the Auckland NZ volcanic field.
This is the first ever live performance of Pacific Diptych.

Jean-Claude Wolff (1946-)

Lamento (WORLD PREMIERE) (14' 44")

Lamento was composed in 2011 and entirely reworked in 2022.

The title encapsulates the spirit of the work; a lament, not an individual lament but the lament of humankind, nature's lament, nature and humankind's lament sometimes opposed but indissolubly linked.
But the work is in no way an illustration or a symphonic poem. It presents itself in three successive parts, Andante/Allegro/Andante, with the second being the most developed. Most of the time, the piano is in opposition to the strings, who form a block, either in octaves or in chords. Sometimes the piano and the strings are united. There are also several viola solos in the third part.

The work is written in a very melodic style, with certain Intervals given priority; augmented seconds, the descending minor second, which accentuate the expressivity of the melodic line. The harmony is often nearly tonal but without becoming neo-classical or nostalgic - even if the nostalgic aspect contributes to the general climate of the score. The initially immutable, nearly implacable rhythmic character becomes dominant in the lower register of the piano, and it can be found frequently in the work as such, or losing intensity (above all in the strings), or towards the end in the strings' harmonics, or in long values in the upper register, then the highest register. Over this "blanket of sound" the low notes of the piano reiterate the initial rhythm but in a more peaceful character while the right hand plays quite a full, calm melody, which concludes the work in a much more serene atmosphere than before.

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Piano Quintet in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 67 (28' 20")
I - Adagio - Allegro moderato
II - Adagio espressivo
III - Allegro agitato - Adagio come prima - Presto 
Amy Beach's Piano Quintet in F sharp minor dates from 1908. It is in three movements. It begins with a dark, brooding Adagio introduction. The main part of the movement, Allegro, begins with a sad melody given out by the first violin, followed by a brief Schubertian episode before the music reverts back to the introductory theme. The mood remains dark and mysterious. The middle movement, Adagio espressivo, opens softly with a lovely, highly romantic melody. Though the music never rises to any huge dramatic climax and for the most part remains relatively soft dynamically, it nonetheless burns with tremendous emotional intensity. The finale, Allegro agitato, explodes out of the gate with incredible force and forward motion, sounding ever so slightly for a moment like Paul Dukas. It is only with the introduction of the second more lyrical theme that the feverish intensity is lessened. But with the reintroduction of the main subject brings many further dramatic climaxes in its wake.

Charmian Keay - Violinist