Gillian Whithead: The New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns
A celebration of whales, for the New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns by Gillian Whithead, premiered in 2007.
The taonga puoro used in this piece include the percussive tumutumu, karanga manu (pounamu bird-caller), two nguru and two albatross putorino (played as both trumpet and flute). This will tour USA in 2008.
The quartet were then joined by Richard Nunns, a dedicated specialist on Māori instruments, in the premiere of Gillian Whitehead’s Puhake Ki Te Rangi. The strings provided quiet patterns and static harmonies over which Nunns’s largely improvised music entered, tapping out rhythms and then playing high-pitched songs that were answered by the first violin. There were playful moments and flowing melodies, but most often the music told of the minor-key loneliness of whales and albatrosses. It is a sad, hauntingly beautiful piece, played with dignity and love by both the quartet and Nunns. Rod Biss, The New Zealand Listener, 2007