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World premiere of First World War-inspired work by Kiwi composer

Following Anzac Day commemorations later this month, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will premiere a ground-breaking work by acclaimed New Zealand composer Gareth Farr, inspired by his family’s sacrifices in the First World War.

Farr’s Cello Concerto Chemin des Dames, featuring celebrated French cellist Sébastien Hurtaud, will be performed in Wellington on 5 May and Auckland on 6 May.

Photo of French cellist Sébastien Hurtaud by Laurent Campguilhem, image courtesy of the NZSO.

The NZSO’s Aotearoa Plus concerts will also feature works by two giants of contemporary classical music with the New Zealand premiere of American John Adams’ Naïve and Sentimental Music and a rare performance of legendary French composer Pierre Boulez’s haunting Mémoriale.

Farr’s new work, funded by the First World War Centenary (WW100) Co-Commissioning Fund, takes its name from where some of the bloodiest battles of the First World War took place. Chemin des Dames translates as “pathway of women”, which Farr uses to acknowledge the impact the war had on women and their families, as well as soldiers.

Image of composer Gareth Farr is courtesy of the NZSO.

The composer’s three great-great-uncles, while all in their 20s, were killed in the war and are buried in France and Belgium.

“The Concerto is a dedication to these three young lads,” says Farr. “But my sadness and anger is not just about the boys who died on the battlefield - it's equally about the women. There were women who died in combat, but there were also countless ones, like my great-grandmother, who suffered for the rest of her life with the loss of her three beautiful brothers.”

Farr has written the work in close collaboration with Sébastien Hurtaud and it will also be performed in France by Orchestre National de Lorraine in September. “This piece will symbolise the friendship and affinity between New Zealand, France and Belgium through our respective experiences and the cultural impact of the First World War,” says Farr.

NZSO Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich, who will lead the Aotearoa Plus concerts, says Farr is one of the country’s best composers with a growing international reputation and the orchestra is honoured to premiere his new work.

New Zealanders should also not miss the opportunity to enjoy the works by Boulez and Adams, he says.

Boulez died last year aged 90, while Adams turned 70 this year. “Boulez was one of the giants of 20th century music and we’re delighted that the NZSO can recognise his achievements by performing Mémoriale,” says McKeich. “Written for flute and eight instruments, we will be able to highlight the virtuosity of our Principal players in a way audiences have rarely heard before.”

Naïve and Sentimental Music is one Adams’ greatest orchestral works and I have always wanted to perform it. New Zealand audiences will be amazed at how rich and powerful the music is.”

NZSO: Aotearoa Plus

Farr, Adams & Boulez





BOULEZ Mémoriale (…explosante-fixe… Originel)

GARETH FARR Cello Concerto Chemin des Dames

JOHN ADAMS Naïve and Sentimental Music


WELLINGTON | Michael Fowler Centre| Friday 5 May| 6.30pm


AUCKLAND | Town Hall | Saturday 6 May| 7.30pm

Updated on 8th May 2017