In the 2000s a new generation of composers benefited from the committed and stimulating teaching in the country’s various universities. They were also encouraged by new prizes, scholarships and residencies and by opportunities to workshop their ideas.
Michael Norris showed a remarkable versatility. He could be cerebral, as reflected in his essays for publications such as Canzona (the yearbook of the Composers’ Association), and works such as his 2006 Volti for piano and orchestra reflected this. Yet he could also offer the post-Baroque musings of Timedance (2012), a collaboration with choreographer and filmmaker Daniel Belton. His Dirty pixels (2004), recorded and extensively played in concert by NZTrio, was a work of some intellectual complexity, yet the effect in performance was one of ebullient energy.
Chris Watson favoured complex musical language. He impressively marshalled large orchestral textures in works like Pivotal orbits (2002) as well showing an aptitude for fluttering, evanescent chamber music such as . . . vers libre . . . (2002).
Philip Brownlee’s music was also complex, revealing pointillistic delicacy in pieces such as Sparks among the geysers (2003). He wrote imaginatively for solo instruments — in for instance Harakeke (1999), a work for flute — and composed haunting electroacoustic music.
Dylan Lardelli, a guitarist, wove sonic filigree that demanded musicianship of exemplary precision, notably in Four fragments (2002). The work won him the Young Composer’s Award at the 2003 Asian Composer’s League.
Anthony Young’s practical experience in musical theatre and sensitivity to the setting of texts led to an effective song-cycle, Three songs on poems by Jean Toomer (2006) and a prize-winning short opera, Ulla’s odyssey (2012).
Samuel Holloway found international success with his 2005 piano trio Stapes. Like Terrain vague (2007), his contribution to pianist Stephen De Pledge’s 2008 CD, Landscape preludes, this was an intensely finessed score. Holloway also explored a more open-ended approach, allowing performers to contribute more directly to the shape of the piece, for instance in Sillage (2010).
Chris Gendall employed a buoyant orchestral palette in works like his 2011 Gravitas and the 2012 ‘surround-sound’ Triple concerto. His 2007 Gung-ho, a virtuoso showpiece for trombone, piano and percussion, revealed his ingenuity with smaller forces.
Chris Adams has held a number of important residencies, including the Mozart Fellowship in 2010–11, and wrote music of broad appeal, often with political overtones.
Working with an orchestra
As a major supporter of New Zealand compositions, the Auckland Philharmonia has supported a Composer-in-Residence since 1990. During the 12-month residency the chosen composer helps implement the orchestra’s contemporary music programmes. Since 2007 the orchestra has also had a Young Composer-in-Residence, who writes chamber works for the musicians.
Some of the new generation of composers were recognised by major awards. Dylan Lardelli and Anthony Young shared an Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra residency in 2004. The prestigious SOUNZ Contemporary Award was won in 2012 by Alex Taylor and in 2013 by Karlo Margetic.
Workshops held by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra recorded some extremely promising pieces from such names as Claire Cowan, Robin Toan, Celeste Oram, Alexandra Hay, Tabea Squire and Jeremy Mayall. Mayall’s music embraced jazz, rock and turntabling, forging connections that recharged the composing community.