CHOPIN IN THE BOONDOCKS
Stephen De Pledge returns to New Zealand,
by HOWARD SMITH
During a sunny March day this year international concert pianist Stephen De Pledge presented a 45-50 minute programme for 7-10 year olds at New Zealand's Masterton Primary School; one of five young audiences he performed for that one enervating day.
From the electric piano (ouch!) provided by Masterton Primary School he introduced wide-eyed pupils to abbreviated (sound bite) classics -- Mozart, Chopin, Grieg, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky -- involving the children in rhythmic games and a simple composing exercise.
The entire region has a total of 43 primary and intermediate schools and De Pledge appeared at two in Greytown (population 2000), where he began lessons, age six, three decades ago, plus two in agricultural service town Masterton (population 19,500) and one in Opaki (population 500 approx; school roll, 162).
Stephen, London-born, New Zealand raised and educated, and Cambridge-based, was here on a family visit and to perform as guest artist during Wellington's New Zealand International Festival of the Arts (February/March 2008).
His 27 February programme starting with established repertoire led to the première of a major New Zealand work. He opened with Mozart's Variations on a Theme of Gluck K455, its theme from Gluck's three-act comic opera La rencontre imprévue Wq 32 ('The Unexpected Encounter', 1764).
Hard on Mozart's heels was Olivier Messiaen's final solo piano work Petites esquisses d'oiseaux ('Little Sketches of Birds', 1985), reportedly delivered with assiduous attention to detail and precision in timing and dynamics.
Copyright © 30 April 2008
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand