Warkworth Town Hall

5:00 pm

Anna McGregor - Clarinet
Manu Berkeljon - Violin
Taru Kurki - Piano

The Klara Kollektiv was formed in 2016 as a free-form ensemble in extension of the work done by the Dalecarlia Clarinet Quintet. Anna and Manu chose a name for the group that reflected their connection to Sweden but was an easily pronounceable word for English speakers. Klar in Swedish means clear, transparent or lucid and klara can mean to clarify. The River Klara is the longest river in Sweden and runs past Anna's apartment in the city of Karlstadt. For some convenient alliteration the Swedish spelling of the word 'collective' has been incorporated. The collective incorporates core members of the previous ensemble together with guest musicians in various constellations. Emphasis is put on the connection between standard repertoire and new music. The Dalecarlia Clarinet Quintet's 2014 CMNZ tour culminated in the recording of an album ‘Fjärran - in the distance’, New Zealand music for clarinet and string quartet. Released by Atoll Records this CD won Best Classical Album 2016 at the New Zealand Music Awards.

Ritchie | Picture Stone: Trio for Clarinet, Violin & Piano (NZ Premiere)
Sibelius | Romance op.78, no.2 and Nocturne op.51, no.3 for Violin & Piano
Khachaturian | Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano


Lilburn | Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano
Bartok | Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano

The programme begins with the premiere of a new work by New Zealand composer Anthonie Ritchie, while the colourful, gypsy rhapsodies of Khachaturian’s youthful Trio perfectly complement the mesmerizing, poetic Hungarian dances of Bartók’s Contrasts.

Click here to see a video of Manu Berkeljon playing Violin Sonata No.3 by Anthony Ritchie.

New Zealand clarinetist Anna McGregor is currently based in Sweden where she holds the position of Associate Principal Clarinet at Wermland Opera in Karlstad. Between 2010-2013 she studied a masters degree at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm under teachers Hermann Stefánsson and Martin Fröst. Anna has performed with many of Sweden's top orchestras including the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Orchestra and the Royal Swedish Opera.

For this tour Anna and Manu will join forces with Finnish-born pianist Taru Kurki. Since August 2012  Taru Kurki  has held the position of Head of Piano Department at the Falun Music Conservatory, Sweden. Making a career both as a soloist and chamber musician she is also a passionate teacher. Taru has performed throughout Northern Europe and the Baltic countries. She was a semi-finalist at the Spadafora International Piano Competition, Rome, Italy 2007 and also at the Nordic Piano Competition in Malmö, Sweden 2006. She has also twice been chosen by the Royal Swedish Music Academy as the winner of their scholarship for outstanding young musicians. Taru has a Bachelor of Music degree from Helsinki, Finland and received a Master of Music degree from the Royal College of Music/Edsberg in Stockholm, Sweden.

Manu Berkeljon was born and grew up on the West Coast of New Zealand. She has worked in orchestras throughout New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and England. Since 2011 she has held the Associate Principle second violin position in Dala Sinfoniettan. Manu is an active chamber musician throughout Australasia and Scandinavia. She has always taken an interest in collaborations with composers and in 2015 Anthony Ritchie dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 3 to Manu. She premiered this work in Scandinavia in 2016 with pianist Torgeir Kinne Solvik.

Anthony Ritchie (1960—)
Inspired by his time in Sweden, Anthony Ritchie charts the images and history of the Vikings in Picture Stone.

Picture Stone: Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano, op. 198 (2017)
Part 1 – Dawn
Part 2 – Child
Part 3 – Journey
Part 4 – Battle
Part 5 – Sacrifice

Anthony Ritchie is Professor of Composition at Otago University and has written a huge body of work which has been performed around the world. He completed a Ph.D. on the music of Bartók in 1987, studying at the Bartók Archives in Budapest before returning to New Zealand. In 2016 a CD including his Clarinet Quintet and Purakaunui at Dawn won “Best Classical Album” at the New Zealand Music Awards. Most recently, his oratorio Gallipoli to the Somme was premiered to critical acclaim in London.

Anthony explains that Picture Stone commissioned by Anna McGregor and Manu Berkeljon for their current tour. It was started during his residency at The Visby International Composers’ Centre, in Sweden, 2016 and he drew inspiration from the Viking picture stones (or Bildsten) held at Visby Museum. These ancient artefacts comment on elemental aspects of human life in symbolic images. For example, it is possible a human life is represented by the journey of a Viking boat from dawn through to darkness.

Representations of the sun are prominent on many stones, underlining its importance in their culture. The sun was certainly in short supply during the composer’s stay on Visby. Another idea that informed the trio was Anthony’s developing interest in ‘naïve art’, and the possibilities of creating an equivalent ‘naïve music’. Although the subtitles should not be taken as strictly programmatic, Anthony suggests that the music can be heard through the lens of a child in Viking times, contemplating a Picture Stone, and imagining journeys and battles ahead.

Jean Sibelius (1865—1957)

Romance’, op. 78, no. 2 and ‘Nocturne’, op. 51, no. 3
Sibelius unwinds expansive phrases to reveal an expressive depth in his short character pieces for violin and piano.

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius composed approximately sixty works for violin during his career. He wrote the first half during the years 1884–94, then pausing almost another decade before beginning his Violin Concerto. A similar span had passed when he started to write regularly for the instrument again in 1914, composing another thirty pieces between then and 1930 – including the ‘Romance’, in 1915. These numerous small character pieces display an austere and concise style that sets them apart from the traditionally virtuosic Romantic salon music. The piano’s rocking figure underpins the violin line in Sibelius’ ‘Romance’ – a hopeful melody with subtle harmonic twists. Sibelius’ sensitive tempo changes leave liberal breathing room for each instrument to communicate with each other and the audience.

Sibelius composed orchestral incidental music to Belshazzar’s Feast, a play based on the biblical tale by the Finnish poet Hjalmar Procopé in 1906, and the ‘Nocturne’ was later arranged for violin and piano. Belshazzar’s Feast takes an unusual place in Sibelius’ oeuvre, as a work coloured by exotic – rather than nationalistic – musical language. In the ‘Nocturne’, we hear this in the melody’s silky chromatic embellishments. In the ‘Nocturne’, the violin’s long expressive notes softly emerge, drifting across the piano’s swaying pattern. Sibelius enhances the piece’s sorrowful character by reducing and increasing the intensity of the piano’s motion to balance delicately with the violin’s surging ascent in the second half of the piece.

Aram Khachaturian (1903—1978)

Khachaturian mesmerises with short musical gestures and winding melodies that veer from restful to rumbustious.

Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano

Andante con dolore, molto espressione

The Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian – most widely known for the pounding percussion of his ‘Sabre Dance’ – composed this Trio in 1932. After completing a biology degree, he studied at the Moscow Conservatory, taking advantage of the Soviet Union’s move to educate those from smaller nations in Russian. The influence of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and his disciples is evident in Khachaturian’s musical textures and orchestration. He melds a “Russian” sound with Armenian folk traditions and western European forms.

These embellished folk melodies appear from the first movement, as the clarinet and violin spin improvisatory lines and all three parts echo each other’s musical motifs. Khachaturian builds the second movement on sultry violin and clarinet countermelodies, over a piano line that contrasts episodes of driving rhythm with poised, spacious phrases. In the Moderato, the clarinet’s quietened opening strains morph into boisterous tune, ornamented by the violin. The piano instigates a series of scene changes as the music showcases the instruments’ individual voices then knits them into melodic layers.

Like the Russian composers Shostakovich and Prokofiev, the Communist Party declared Khachaturian a formalist composer in 1948, condemning his music as anti-establishment and marking the end of his close association with the Composers’ Union. The denouncement came unexpectedly: Khachaturian had enjoyed success with his piano and violin concerti and his first symphony, won a string of prizes under the Soviet regime, and adopted Stalinist principles. When the state overturned this charge of formalism in 1958 Khachaturian returned to the Composers’ Unions as secretary – a position he held until his death.

Douglas Lilburn (1925—2001)

Applauded as the “grandfather of New Zealand music”, Lilburn explores how to create a distinctive New Zealand sound in this early Sonatina.

Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano

i     Moderato
ii    Andantino
iii   Allegro
In 1967 Douglas Lilburn described hearing the chamber music of Béla Bartók on a scratchy 1935 recording as a “shattering experience”. He further explained that, later, hearing Bartók perform in London, he tried to imitate Bartok’s folk-soaked sound. While he called this compositional exercise unsuccessful, it propelled him to “open [his] ears” and strive to follow the latest contemporary music trends from New Zealand’s remote location. In 1947 Lilburn took a position at what is now Victoria University of Wellington. Aware that to encourage his composition students to persist with modern music, he needed to educate himself, Lilburn began seeking a New Zealand sound and experimenting with the new soundscapes emerging from European cities. A year after this eureka moment, Lilburn composed the 1948 Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano for the clarinettist George Hopkins. A recent American emigrant, Hopkins would go on to teach at the Auckland Conservatorium (now Auckland University’s School of Music).
The clarinet draws a sombre line across a turbulent repeated piano theme in the opening Moderato. Rising in its register, the clarinet’s yearning quality sweeps the piano up with it, before waning, back once more in its rich lower range. Echoing the folk music Lilburn had found so striking in Bartók’s music, the second movement retains the heavy piano chords of earlier, alternating them with decorative motifs to partner the clarinet’s circling melody. The Allegro sustains a more buoyant, dance-like mood than the previous movements, with subtle, introspective moments.

Béla Bartók (1881—1945)

In Contrasts Bartók exploits the varying tones of each instrument, from dampened clarinet tones and ragged violin strokes to sharp-edged piano phrases. 

Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano

i     Verbunkos (Recruitin Dance) - Moderato, ben ritmato
ii    Piheno (Relaxation) - Lento
iii   Sebes (Fast Dance) - Allegro vivace

Contrast was an essential element for Bartók. As he explained, “I do not like to repeat a musical thought unchanged, and I never repeat a detail unchanged…The extreme variety that characterises our folk music is, at the same time, a manifestation of my own nature.” Beyond question, Bartók infused his 1938 Contrasts in the folk idioms of his native Hungary, by this time an intrinsic part of his musical language. The initial brief for Contrasts came from the American clarinettist Benny Goodman and Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti. They asked for a two-movement work, with each movement short enough to fit on one side of a record. Bartók handed over a three-movement work (initially performed without the slower middle movement) which premiered at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1940, the same year Bartók emigrated to America.

Bartók drew on the alternating rhythms typical of the eighteenth-century Hungarian dance style, Verbunkos, in his early folk-inspired works. Here, the mood is intriguingly ambiguous: is it impish fun or a sense of mystery? The clarinet weaves a twisting opening line, which the violin picks up before introducing a jarring rhythm, underpinned by piano chords. The clarinet and violin reflect the shape of each other’s ponderous phrases in the second movement as the piano adds filigree passages. In the last movement, the violinist re-tunes their outer strings to give the characteristic sound of eastern European dance music.

This concert is presented in association with Chamber Music New Zealand.