Landscape Preludes

Landscape Preludes

Henry Wong Doe




Henry Wong Doe (piano)

Commissioned by pianist Stephen De Pledge, Landscape Preludes is a suite of twelve works for solo piano by some of New Zealand's most renowned composers. De Pledge debuted the preludes in 2008, but until now they haven't been recorded collectively for album release. Versions of Victoria Kelly's Goodnight Kiwi and John Psathas' Sleeper have appeared on earlier Rattle releases (Michael Houstoun's Inland and John Psathas' Helix respectively), but we are delighted to now present the complete suite, here performed by New Zealand pianist Henry Wong Doe in his Rattle debut.

"When a virtuoso is called for, Wong Doe is your man. If you buy just one classical CD this year, make it Landscape Preludes." - William Dart, The Herald, july 26




RAT-D046 (August, 2014)

Produced by Kenneth Young
Recorded by Steve Garden at the Adam Concert Room, Victoria University of Wellington  
Piano tuning by Michael Ashby
Cover painting by Philip Trusttum
Painting courtesy of The James Wallace Arts Trust
Design by UnkleFranc
Printing by Studio Q

  Landscape Preludes
  Henry Wong Doe

    1  Arapatiki (5:47) Gillian Whitehead
    2  Piano Prelude – A landscape with too few lovers (4:27) Ross Harris
    3  Chiaroscuro (6:02) Lyell Cresswell
    4  The Horizon from Owhiro Bay (3:17) Gareth Farr
    5  Reign (3:59) Dylan Lardelli
    6  this liquid drift of light (3:50) Eve de Castro-Robinson
    7  Terrain Vague (3:07) Samuel Holloway
    8  The Street Where I Live (4:07) Jack Body
    9  Sleeper (4:17) John Psathas
  10  1942 Machine Noise (6:51) Michael Norris
  11  Tone Clock Piece XVIII - Landscape Prelude (4:46) Jenny McLeod
  12  Goodnight Kiwi (4:59) Victoria Kelly
  Total playing time  (55:31)

  The copyright for each work is held by the individual composer




This is one of the finest Kiwi composition compilations I’ve heard. Standouts include the meditative chordal ballade style of Gillian Whitehead’s Arapatiki; the lively toccata of Lyell Cresswell’s Chiaroscuro; Jack Body’s understated drollery in The Street Where I Live for piano and narrator; and the two-part counterpoint of line and chords in the pointillism of Machine Noises with its neatly acronymic ending, by Michael Norris, my favourite younger writer. There’s not one dud among Doe’s imaginatively interpreted lot.
Ian Dando, The Listener

It has been a long wait, but an amply rewarded one, for Henry Wong Doe's Landscape Preludes. This set of 12 New Zealand piano pieces has grown and triumphed on the concert stage in the decade since Stephen De Pledge made his first commissions. Now, thanks to Rattle Records, with simpatico producer Kenneth Young and studio wizard Steve Garden, this iconic collection is available on CD, played by Wong Doe.
Wong Doe is a pianist who tempers flamboyance with poetry; in Gillian Whitehead's Arapatiki, flames flicker among mellow, mysterious surroundings. When a virtuoso is called for, Wong Doe is your man.
Lyell Cresswell's Chiaroscuro streaks in brilliantly hued fury while the heavy industrial density that opens Michael Norris' Machine Noises sparks and fires. Dylan Lardelli's music can be testing but Wong Doe ensures we sense a Bachian tangle under the meteorological malevolence of Reign.
Similarly, the pianist carefully streams and shapes the cycles of spilling out and retraction in Samuel Holloway's volatile Terrain Vague. Heard in its entirety, one can pick up special relationships between tracks. The slow-burn impressionism of Gareth Farr's A Horizon from Owhiro Bay finds echoes in the glistening sound web of Eve de Castro-Robinson's This Liquid Drift of Light.
Wong Doe catches the brooding soliloquy of Ross Harris' Landscape with too few lovers and enjoys bringing out those "deep earth gongs" that tremble under the surface of Jenny McLeod's Tone Clock XVIII. There is mischievous humour in Sleeper by the high-profile John Psathas, which plays on three possible definitions of its title. In Jack Body's The Street Where I Live, Wong Doe's piano flirts and skirts around the composer's own voice, whimsically extolling the joys of his Wellington home.
After a captivating 50 minutes of infinitely varied and fascinating "landscapes", Victoria Kelly's Goodnight Kiwi is the perfect conclusion. One of the first of the set to be written, this piece deals out a nostalgia of both time and place, designed to touch the Kiwi heart in all of us.
If you buy just one classical CD this year, make it Landscape Preludes.
William Dart, The Herald

A collaboration between Rattle Records, Victoria University Press and the Wallace Arts Trust this collection of Landscape Preludes features the exquisite playing of Henry Wong Doe as he glides and surges through work by a dozen of New Zealand’s best contemporary composers. Hear him alternate between strident and playful, dancing across the lines of Jenny McLeod’s Tone Clock XVIII, Victoria Kelly’s Goodnight Kiwi is gorgeous – pulling at heartstrings, issuing notes of nostalgia but elsewhere Henry Wong Doe finds humour as cat and mouse-like he jousts in the lovely little spaces around Jack Body’s voice as he recites a tale of buying a house and making a home on The Street Where I Live.
That idea of humour – a sound of humour – continues over Sleeper by John Psathas. It seems Psathas is on a roll currently, his commissioned pieces, soundtrack work and short compositions such as this all seeking to find and define new space, never repeating himself, always bringing in something new and fresh. Wong Doe’s cascades across the keys help to tell a beautiful and surprising story here.
There are pieces by Dame Gillian Whitehead (the opening Arapatiki – with its nocturnal stirrings) Ross Harris, Samuel Holloway and Gareth Farr. And Wong Doe is so respectful in his playing, bringing out the sound of each composer, their voice entwined in his playing. It’s a masterclass of playing styles, the equivalent of learning a new language to determine each piece and it therefore works as both a sampler to showcase Wong Doe’s skills and a fine cross-section of composing styles and standout pieces from some of New Zealand’s best-known contemporary composers; a must-have then for both fair-weather types and the anoraks.
Simon Sweetman, Off the Tracks

Landscape Preludes consists of 12 piano pieces composed between 2003 and 2007 by 12 different composers from New Zealand. They were commissioned by the New Zealand-based pianist Stephen De Pledge, who also gave their premieres. Their first CD recording, however, features another pianist, Henry Wong Doe, a New Zealand native based in the United States. While the works draw inspiration from different aspects of New Zealand’s varied and colorful landscape, you don’t have to know that to approach the music on its own terms–with perhaps one exception: Jack Body’s The Street Where I Live, which superimposes a steadily intoned spoken text on top of the piano writing. To be honest, the “speaking pianist” genre works best when the vocal and instrumental components interact and give each other space; here, however, the unvarying consistency of the spoken part becomes predictable and fatiguing. But the selections are appreciably varied, well crafted for piano, and offer much of interest.
Gillian Whitehead’s Arapatiki weaves together Messiaen-like dissonance and bare-bones triadic harmony, while Ross Harris’ sparser Piano Prelude mainly occupies the keyboard’s higher register. Protracted, spacious writing is interspersed with brilliant virtuosic flourishes in Lyle Cresswell’s Chiaroscuro. On one level Gareth Farr’s A Horizon from Owhiro Bay is a rambling tribute to Debussy’s Pagodes, yet some listeners will warm to its accessible language and communicative immediacy. Dylan Lardelli claims Reign to be inspired by Bach’s polyphony, but you wouldn’t know that from its lively yet austere and not particularly charming idiom. The delicate sound world of Eve De Castro-Robinson’s This Liquid Drift of Light unfolds with shapely deliberation, leading to a climax so carefully orchestrated that it sounds louder and texturally fuller than it is. While I appreciate the narrative energy of Samuel Holloway’s Terrain vague, I’m less enamored of its seemingly static use of clusters. At first John Psathas’ Sleeper struck me as a kinder, gentler, and far shorter rewrite of John Adams’ Phrygian Gates, yet its repeated phrases and harmonic trajectory are anything but formulaic.
After Michael Norris’ lean and percussive Machine Noises comes Jenny McLeod’s Tone Clock Piece XVIII–Landscape Prelude, whose lyrical, introspective episodes hold more appeal than its rather arid climaxes.Victoria Kelly’s Goodnight Kiwi brings the collection to a close. It’s a lovely, lyrical piece featuring floating paragraphs built from widely spaced intervals, soft cloud-like chords, lulling repeated phrases supported by changing harmonies, and attention-getting moments of silence.
In his booklet notes, Doe mentions that he learned the pieces quickly, and without referring to De Pledge’s recordings (available on YouTube). He certainly seems to have mastered the notes and assimilated the music to the highest standards. No doubt that other composers are lined up at Doe’s door. - See more at:
Jed Distler, Classics Today

PAINTING BY PIANO: The Art Music of Henry Wong Doe
Rannoch House, on a leafy and secluded street in a central Auckland suburb, houses one of New Zealand's most extraordinary art collections. Open to the public, the house contains works amassed by – there is no better description to convey the vast acquisition – the Rich Lister, arts patron and philanthropist Sir James Wallace.
From the turret to the basement of this home which was built in 1915 and inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, every corner, window ledge, nook and cranny – literally, every one – contains paintings, drawings, sculpture, installations, lightboxes, photographs and whatever other medium New Zealand artists have chosen to express themselves in.
From Toss Woollaston through Brent Wong to Judi Millar – with stop-offs at scores of famous and little known names – this collection is breathtaking in its breadth and almost numbing in its inclusiveness and number. So amidst the plethora of New Zealand art it was fitting that this week the place should have seen the launch of the album by New Zealand-born pianist Henry Wong Doe whose Landscapes Preludes is a collection of interpretations of music by New Zealand composers such as Gillian Whitehead, Jack Body, John Psathas, Ross Harris, Victoria Kelly, Gareth Farr and others.
The album is on the Rattle imprint and the first with assistance from Sir James in the Wallace Art Series (to come soon the complete Beethoven piano sonatas by Michael Houston over 14 discs), and had already been given an extraordinary five star seal of approval by the New Zealand Herald’s classical critic William Dart who described it as “an iconic collection” and said “if you buy just one classical CD this year make it Landscape Preludes”.
Buoyed by such an early and unequivocal notice, Rattle’s Steve Garden and Fergus Barrowman of Victoria University Press were in understandably good spirits. The relationship between VUP and Rattle has already been extremely fruitful with albums such as the works for contemporary gamelan on Naga, and jazz releases from Jonathan Crayford, Dog and The Jac (all reviewed at Elsewhere here).
So Rattle must have been feeling very good indeed on this night, more so for this rare and beautiful recording which comes in packaging emblematic of the care and concern the label gives to its albums.
Graham Reid, Elsewhere

On this Rattle release, pianist Henry Wong Doe covers impressionist works from some of NZ’s great contemporary composers like John Psathas and Victoria Kelly. The layers overlap and mingle, setting the mood and enticing the ear and mind. Arapatiki is a fitting introduction, starting with a fluorescent combination of notes that is kaleidoscopic, inspired by the korimako bellbird’s own song. It is backed by the rise and fall of grand, ominous tones. With Piano Prelude the imagery of ‘Landscape Preludes’ becomes apparent as the deep and broad nuances escalate into different aspects. Chromatic or opposing, lyrical and then conflicted, filled with emotion and resistance.
Track three, Chiaroscuro, is a series of ricocheting crescendos that cast a gentle shadow of dark impression near its end, giving depth to its own impression. The Horizon From Owhiro Bay is a piece that leads with a rising and falling mixolodyian air with steady pace and increasing depth and intensity. Terrain Vague dances with light gestures and then makes seemingly impossible combinations which are daring and satisfying. This leads to The Street Where I Live, a spoken poem, accompanied by a wandering piano accompaniment, which speaks of life and death in the landscape of NZ. Machine Noises is an audacious recording where Henry’s finesse and style elevate the heavy, chaotic industrial tones of the piece. To close there’s Goodnight Kiwi, a variable lullaby, with moments of beauty, sadness and something else. This collection is for anyone wanting their diverse selection piano landscapes to be of contrast, emotion and paradox.
Wade Donk, NZ Musician


artist bio

Henry Wong Doe

New Zealander Henry Wong Doe made his debut as a pianist in 2003. Since then he has worked extensively abroad, enthralling audiences with a style that combines stylistic awareness, musical sensitivity, emotional depth, and an undeniable passion for music.

Henry began his studies at the age of five, going on to receive numerous national awards before furthering his studies in the United States. Following a Masters degree from Indiana University Bloomington, he graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The Juilliard School in New York. His dissertation “Musician or Machine: The Player Piano and Composers of the 20th Century” examined the influence of the Player Piano on the works of Stravinsky, Hindemith, Nancarrow and Ligeti. His teachers have included Evelyne Brancart, Leonard Hokanson, Joseph Kalichstein and Richard Goode, and he has participated in masterclasses given by Menahem Pressler, Paul Badura-Skoda, and Leon Fleisher.

An avid performer of contemporary music, Henry's debut performance at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2008 featured solo and interactive works for piano and computer-controlled piano. Performing on a Yamaha Disklavier Mark IV, the program included the pioneering 1989 interactive work "Eight Sketches - duet for one pianist" by Jean-Claude Risset. An equally passionate supporter of new music from his home country, his recitals frequently feature solo and chamber works by New Zealand composer Gareth Farr.

Henry has released two recordings to date, Horizon (for Trust Records), a selection of piano and chamber works by Gareth Farr, and the second Five in the Sun (for Klavier Records), a recording of 20th century woodwind chamber works with the Keystone Chamber Players, both of which were acclaimed by listeners and critics alike. Landscape Preludes is his Rattle debut.

A passionate educator, Henry serves on the music faculty as Assistant Professor of Piano at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.