FREE FLAC DOWNLOAD – a link will be visible to logged-in users: login here


Justine Cormack (violin)
Sarah Watkins (piano)
Ashley Brown (cello)
Following their previous two Best Classical Album nominated releases for Rattle, bright tide moving between (2008) and Flourishes (2011), this exceptional new recording from NZTrio features recent commissions by some of the finest of the current generation of New Zealand composers. Taking its title from Karlo Margetić’s Sounz Contemporary award-winner, Lightbox features works by Claire Cowan, Rachel Clement, Alex Taylor, Samuel Holloway, Gao Ping, and Chris Gendall. NZTrio is one of New Zealand's leading contemporary music ensembles, and with every new album they just keep getting better. Simply put, Lightbox is an absolute stunner!
Visit the NZTrio website




Top local ensemble stunningly updates the Kiwi piano trio

There's a delicious convergence of the arts on NZTrio's new Lightbox CD, tantalisingly wrapped in the scuffed fluoro hues of Jim Speers'English Electric. Speers' prize-winning sculpture is a lightbox, and such is the presence of this Rattle recording that, thanks to producer Wayne Laird and engineer Steve Garden, with a little bit of whimsy, you might well imagine your speakers as sources of sonic illumination.

This stunning follow-up to NZTrio's first album of New Zealand music, 2005's Spark, brings us up to date with seven works from the past decade. Karlo Margetic's title piece, which won the 2013 Sounz Contemporary Award, is a whirlwind of exhilaration. Moments of calm allow us to eavesdrop on fluctuating relationships between the players.

Drawing inspiration from the processes of glassmaking, Rachel Clement's Shifting States is ingeniously tinted and textured, especially when the blurred opening ofMillefiori breaks free into exultant, high-flying counterpoint. You don't need to see NZTrio perform Alex Taylor's Burlesques Mecaniques to be drawn into these edgy dances. With the shortest being just a few seconds, every sound counts; Taylor has the ear and terrier-like tenacity to make the most of every note.

Although Gao Ping is now settled in Beijing, his Su Xie Si Ti was commissioned by NZTrio in 2009. Exoticism rules, especially when the musicians immerse themselves in the languorous orientalisms of Dui Wei. Stapes takes us to the intense world of Samuel Holloway. This is restless, moody music, tethered and tended on the borderline; we hear thematic whispers, sounds that melt and deteriorate before our ears, chords vanishing into the distance.

Chris Gendall's Intaglio does for printmaking what Clement did for glass. Three short pieces inspired by the connection between ink, plate and paper, are etched with the composer's customary precision, sense of line and balance of sound and silence. Claire Cowan's Subtle Dances is the perfect closer. The ghosts of Piazzolla and Ravel hover over dancehall and ballroom, in an elegant nostalgia that suggests it might be possible to move forward into the past.

William Dart, NZ Herald, 5 stars


This is a fascinating voyage into modernism with new music by New Zealand composers, mostly commissioned by the group: Justine Cormak (violin), Ashley Brown (cello), and Sarah Watkins (piano).

The opening item, Lightbox, a 13-minute piece by Karlo Margetic, sets the style for the whole album, illustrated on the cover by abstract painting English Electric by Jim Speers, a fine example of abstract art from the collection of the Wallace Arts Trust that co-sponsors the disc. The typography of the accompanying booklet reflects this them cleverly throughout.

Other composers include Chris G (Intaglio) and Samuel Holloway (Stapes), who have already become firm favourites of the group’s repertoire. Works were commissioned from margetic, Gao Ping (Su Xie Si Ti, Four Sketches) Rachel Clemenet (shifting sands), Alex Taylor (burlesques mecaniques), and Claire Cowan (subtle dances).

The set provies some 75 minutes of interest and enjoyment to a listener who likes to hear refreshing piano trio music splashed with colour, mostly weird or subtle rather than bold but full of surprises. Sounds you have never heard before may come from the three instruments in exploratory by respectful ways. Most of the works are not too repetitive and divided into several small sections so keep their freshness. They must be difficult for the trio to play. The 10 brief parts of Taylor’s burlesques aptly have names like “a spanner“, “tumbledry”, “tic”, “anglegrinder”, and “chain” introducing quite a humorous element. But all the compositions are home-grown gems the trio loves to perform. This shows a diversity in styles and proves the strength of New Zealand composition.

Geoff Adams, Otago Daily Times

On their third album for Rattle, NZTrio are again in their performance element tilling the fertile soil of some of New Zealand brightest emerging composers. The title track is a multi-layered and hued piece by Karlo Margetic, where a simple piano melody sets an almost searching tone, taken up by spiraling violin and cello and repeated in ever more probing variations. It's the most intense and gripping of the seven compositions, which also feature Samuel Holloway's tautly-strung and wrung Stapes and Gao Ping's Su Xie Si Tu (Four Sketches), which he says was inspired by seeing a funeral possession in rural China. Take a bow Justine Cormack, Ashley Brown and Sarah Watkins.

Mike Alexander, Sunday Star Times



RAT-D058 (May, 2015)

This recording was made possible with the support of Victoria University of Wellington

Produced by Wayne Laird
Recorded by Steve Garden at the Adam Concert Room, Victoria University of Wellington
Piano tuning by Michael Ashby
Cover artwork "English Electric" by James Speers, image courtesy of the Wallace Art Trust
Design by UnkleFranc
Printing by Studio Q




01 Lightbox (2012) 12:43
     Karlo Margetić (NZTrio commission)

     shifting states (2003) 12:27
     Rachel Clement (NZTrio commission)
02 i. sabbia (sand) 2:19
03 ii. filigrana (filigree) 2:02
04 iii. bullicante (with bubbles) 1:36
05 iv. millefiore (thousand flowers) 2:43
06 v. sommerso (submerged) 3:47

     burlesques mécaniques (2012) 11:42
     Alex Taylor (NZTrio commission)
07 i. prologue (0:48)
08 ii. [d]rag (0:24)
09 iii. interlude (0:38)
10 iv. a spanner (1:12)
11 v. tumbledry (1:21)
12 vi. gas/sisyphus (0:37)
13 vii. tic (1:33)
14 viii. anglegrinder (1:21)
15 ix. chain (2:33)
16 x. scaffold (1:15)

     Su Xie Si Ti (Four Sketches, 2009) 12:18
     Gao Ping (NZTrio commission)
17 i. Xiao (Boisterous) 1:58
18 ii. Cuo Diao (Split Melody) 2:31
19 iii. Dui Wei (Counterpoint) 4:00
20 iv. Shuo (Shining) 3:49

21 Stapes (2005) 6:53
     Samuel Holloway

     Intaglio (2006) 7:36
     Chris Gendall 
22 i. (2:45)
23 ii. (2:30)
24 iii. (2:21)

     subtle dances (2013) 10:22
     Claire Cowan (NZTrio/CMNZ commission)
25 i. subtle dances (4:42)
26 ii. be slow and lie low (2:35)
27 iii. nerve lines (3:05

     Total playing time: 74:26





Prior to her commitments to NZTrio, Justine developed a notable orchestral career, first as Sub-Principal 1st Violinist in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and culminating in her position as Concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia. She appears regularly as a recitalist, concerto soloist, recording artist and adjudicator, with some recent highlights being her involvement on the international judging panels of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, and the release of a Douglas Lilburn Duos recording with pianist Michael Houstoun.

A graduate of the University of Canterbury, Justine also holds a Master of Music degree (San Francisco Conservatory) and a Doctorate of Musical Arts (State University of New York at Stony Brook). She has taught violin at Wellington’s Victoria University and held a position as violin lecturer at The University of Auckland. Justine plays an 1868 J B Vuillaume violin.


Sarah Watkins has enjoyed an impressive career as chamber music­­­ian, collaborative partner and recording artist, performing throughout Japan, England and the United States with some of America’s leading instrumentalists. She holds both a Doctor of Musical Arts and Masters in collaborative piano from the Juilliard School in New York City, and a Bachelors from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Academic highlights include coordinating the collaborative piano programme at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and working for several years on the music faculty of Purchase College, New York. As a United States resident for fourteen years, Sarah was a staff pianist at Juilliard, Yale University and the Aspen Music Festival.


In his student years, Ashley won the Young Musicians Competition, National Concerto Competition and Young Achievers Award plus prizes at the Adam International Cello Competition, Gisborne International Music Competition and ROSL Music Competition in London. His academic history includes the Master of Music (Canterbury), Artist Diploma (Yale) and Doctor of Musical Arts (Auckland), plus cello lecturer positions at the universities of Waikato, Canterbury and Auckland. He was a member of the Turnovsky Trio and Principal Cellist of the Auckland Philharmonia. These days, Ashley keeps a busy schedule of solo and ensemble recitals, concertos and recordings, and enjoys close collaborative relationships with musicians across the spectrum of genres. He plays the 1762 William Forster “Liberte” cello.





Karlo Margetić (b.1987) holds degrees in composition and clarinet from the New Zealand School of Music. He has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the 2013 SOUNZ Contemporary Award (for 'Lightbox'), the NZSO/Todd Young Composer Award (2006), and the Trusts Young Composer Competition (Auckland Philharmonia 2005). In 2013 he was a Composer Fellow at the Intimacy of Creativity Composition Workshop at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Karlo has received commissions and performances from a wide variety of soloists and groups including NZTrio, New Zealand String Quartet, STROMA, Michael Houstoun, Claire Edwardes, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Auckland Chamber Orchestra, and Wellington Youth Orchestra. He was Composer-in-Residence with Orchestra Wellington in 2014, with the NZSO National Youth Orchestra in 2007 and was Young Composer-in-Residence with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in 2007 and 2008.  An active performer, Karlo is Co-Director of the SMP Ensemble, and has appeared with them as composer, clarinettist, conductor and narrator.

The composer writes “When I think of a piano trio, I immediately think of a transparent interplay of lines. This has something to do with the fact that the instruments that make up the modern piano trio are not particularly homogeneous, unlike say, a string quartet. It’s as if somebody had strewn some line drawings of simple three dimensional objects on a photographer’s lightbox, all on top of one another, resulting in an unexpected and strangely beautiful assemblage.”

Lightbox was commissioned by NZTrio with funding from Creative New Zealand (2012)


shifting states

Rachel Clement (b. 1972) studied composition with John Rimmer and John Elmsly at the University of Auckland, graduating with a Master of Music (composition) with distinction in 1997. She has worked extensively as a composition tutor in secondary schools in Auckland and Christchurch and held the position of Composer in Schools for the Auckland area. Her children’s opera ‘Jam’ (funded by Creative NZ) with libretto by Margaret Mahy, was performed in 2002 by Canterbury Opera Youth and was selected to feature as part of the 2002 Wild Opera project. Rachel has composed for contemporary ensembles175 East and Stroma and was the recipient of the 2001 Trust Fund Award from the Composers’ Association of New Zealand. She has lectured part-time in Composition at the University of Canterbury, managed the library and stage of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, worked as the National Secondary Schools Arts Co-ordinator for Music under contract to the Ministry of Education and in 2005 and 2006 held the position of Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago.

shifting states is a set of short pieces inspired by an interest in mid-Twentieth Century glassmaking, in which the process of changing state, or changing phase, is essential to the production of the many types of art glass. Each piece is titled with the name of a different technique and expresses some of the processes of freezing, melting, vaporization, condensation and sublimation: sabbia (sand), filigrana (filigree), bullicante (with bubbles), millefiori (thousand flowers), sommerso (submerged).

shifting states was commissioned by NZTrio with funding from Creative New Zealand (2005)


burlesques mécaniques

Alex Taylor (b. 1988) is a composer, poet and multi-instrumentalist based in Auckland. He studied English and Music at Auckland University and completed his Masters in Composition with First Class Honours under Dr Eve de Castro-Robinson and Associate Professor John Elmsly in 2011. He has been composer-in-residence with the NZSO National Youth Orchestra, the Auckland Youth Orchestra and the Caselberg Trust. In 2012 he was the youngest recipient to date of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award, New Zealand's most prestigious composition prize. Alex was the New Zealand Young Composer representative at the 2014 Asian Composers League in Tokyo and in 2013 received the CANZ Trust Fund Award. His recent projects include a substantial bassoon concerto commissioned by Ben Hoadley and the Auckland Chamber Orchestra, and a recomposition of Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in collaboration with Frances Moore's Unstuck Opera company. He has collaborated with prominent artists across a range of artforms, including painter Michael Smither, actor Renee Lyons and poet Stephanie Christie.

burlesques mécaniques is a collection of grotesque miniatures whose characters are not people or animals but dances. These dances have been mechanised, electrified, and often obscured by their own rhythmic impulse. Old forms are given new identities, freed from the confines of metric stability and the expectation that they be "danceable".

burlesques mécaniques was commissioned by NZTrio with funding from Creative New Zealand (2012)


Su Xie Si Ti (Four Sketches)

Gao Ping (b. 1970) is a composer-pianist, born in Chengdu, Sichuan province of China.  He studied in the USA in the 1990’s.   In demand as a composer, he has received commissions and performances from musicians around the world. Many prestigious venues have presented his work such as the Aspen Music Festival, Dresdener Musikfestspiele, Hibiki Hall Festival (Japan), New Zealand International Arts Festival (Wellington), and the Beijing-Modern International Music Festival.

As a pianist, Gao Ping’s repertoire is extensive; he has performed to acclaim all over the world. In 2008, Gao Ping premiered his Piano Concerto with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Mr. Kenneth Young. The Listener enthusiastically acclaimed the two-movement work as “a major concerto”.

Gao Ping’s two albums released on Naxos label were critically acclaimed and was as “music which wants to be heard with ears of a child, full of wonder and amazement…. deep and vulnerable.”

Gao is currently a Professor in Composition at the Conservatory of Music-Capital Normal University as well as a guest professor at the China Conservatory of Music. He previously taught at the Canterbury University in New Zealand.

As the movements are short and concise, they possess one single mood, and often one single musical idea. They are like snapshots of moments in memory. Some of them are indeed musical translations of scenes from the composer’s experiences, for example, Counterpoint was inspired by seeing a village funeral procession in rural China. The family members of the deceased progressed slowly, interrupted by frequent kneeling down and crying (which can be both a formal part of the ritual and an expression from the heart), while a band of very odd mixture of Western and Chinese instruments (such as a trombone and a Suona, a Chinese double-reed instrument) led the way by playing very upbeat happy music. It is not surprising as funerals in China are referred to as “the White Happiness”, while weddings are the red counterparts. In Ping’s music, the two moods are in counterpoint creating a synthetic mood of the happy and sad.  Cuo Diao, split melody, or wrong key, (Movement 3) is an isorhythmic love song in which notes in the tune are playfully replaced by ‘wrong notes’ which are not from the tune or its mode. These erroneous notes, however, later little by little form a transposition of the original tune in higher register.

Su Xie Si Ti was commissioned by the NZ Music Educator’s Conference for NZTrio, through funds provided by Creative New Zealand (2009)

Photo: Gareth Watkins / Lilburn Trust / Wallace Arts Trust


Stapes (2005)

Samuel Holloway (b. 1981) is based in Auckland. His work is often concerned with the perception of musical time and form, music's materialities, and the relationship between notation and performance. Samuel's work has been performed by prominent artists and ensembles in Asia, Europe and North America, including Klangforum Wien, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Stroma, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He has recently undertaken a number of projects with the collective et al., and their collaborative work Upright Piano is held in the Chartwell Collection at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Samuel lectures in music at Unitec, Auckland, and is artistic director of 175 East.

Stapes is the first piece in a series of three trios collectively entitled Middle Ear. The stapes (or stirrup) is the smallest in the chain of three bones that transmit vibrations from the eardrum to the internal ear in the process of transformation of external soundwaves to a response within the listener. In this work, the players work both together and against each other, in individual and collective struggles for articulacy.


Intaglio (2006)

Originally from Hamilton, New Zealand, Chris Gendall (b. 1980) studied composition at Victoria University of Wellington before completing a doctoral degree at Cornell University. He has participated in a number of festivals and conferences including the Wellesley Composers’ Conference, the Aspen Music Festival, the Britten-Pears Contemporary Composition programme, the Royaumont Voix nouvelles Composition Course, and the Aldeburgh Festival.  He was the Creative New Zealand/Jack C. Richards Composer-in-Residence at the New Zealand School of Music for 2010–11.

Chris Gendall’s works have received performances in Europe, Asia, North and South America, from such performers as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Brave New Works, Stroma, the New Zealand Trio, the New Juilliard Ensemble and the New Zealand String Quartet. Select works are published by the Waiteata Music Press, Peer Music Hamburg and Promethean Editions, and recorded on Atoll Records. His work Wax Lyrical was the winner of the 2008 SOUNZ Contemporary Award. 

Intaglio is a printmaking technique in which an image is etched or engraved on the surface of a plate. Ink would then be applied to the plate and removed from the surface, leaving ink only in the incisions. The title refers less to the work itself than to the process of composing it, a small insight into the composer’s ideas about how material manifests in musical shape. This piece is written in three uninterrupted movements.


subtle dances

Claire Cowan (b. 1983) is a composer from Auckland who works mostly in the realm of collaborative composition and soundtracks.  Classically trained as a cellist and orchestrator, her output ranges from chamber music, film and TV, dance, theatre, and full orchestral works. Her music has been performed by soloists and ensembles throughout the USA, NZ, Europe, Japan and Australia and her film music has been heard in many international festivals. Her band 'The Blackbird Ensemble' is a theatrical orchestra, who perform music in unusual spaces and challenge classical performance conventions.

Listen to Claire’s Music online
Claire is represented by Native Tongue Publishing
More about the Blackbird Ensemble

subtle dances is a set of three short moods for piano trio. In writing, the composer has tried to approach the works as intuitively as possible. For her this creates the greatest connection between composer, performers, and the audience listening. Each work features one instrument more prominently - firstly cello, then piano, then violin. The music explores Cowan’s continued fascination with the space created within the music, in which a listener can engage. Both hypnotic and meditative, the pieces present themselves as a contrasting set of interior landscapes. They are: passing thoughts, memories, unsolvable problems, and explorations of headspace: Firstly - it begins with a dance; a rhythmical and passionate interlocking of playful lines, but not without an element of danger or risk. Secondly - an elegy, the body in its slowest state. Thirdly - a struggle, an unanswered question, a cycle - and ultimately, a transition; a bursting through, into a new light.

subtle dances was co-commissioned by NZTrio and Chamber Music New Zealand with funding from Creative New Zealand (2012)



Free album download with every CD
A link will be emailed upon request – please stipulate preferred format
 BUY 16bit
 FLAC $15
 BUY 96k
 FLAC $15

bright tide moving
John Psathas
Passing By
Jack Body

with Mike Nock