Gareth Farr’s ‘voice’ is one of the most distinctive and readily recognisable among contemporary New Zealand composers. This familiarity has evolved by way of his assimilation of a number of disparate styles and forms, principally gamelan and Pasifika idioms.
Farr’s musical odyssey as a freelance composer effectively began when his works were included in four concerts at the 1996 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. In the succeeding years he has received a significant number of commissions to mark particular national festivals, anniversaries and inaugural events. He has also extended his compositional range to include incidental music for television, film and stage.
Many of Farr’s compositions feature bold and innovative utilisation of an array of percussion instruments, reflecting his early studies at the University of Auckland, and later postgraduate study at the Eastman School of Music in New York.
And this latest work is no exception. In addition to the standard orchestral line-up, 'Roar of A Thousand Tigers' includes no fewer than four separate groupings of percussion instruments which include wind gongs; Tibetan and Chinese cymbals, bells and drums; crotales (small, tuned bronze or brass discs); glockenspiel; vibraphone, marimbas and tom-toms; and harp and celesta – both of which are assigned leading roles throughout.
'Roar of A Thousand Tigers' was commissioned by the Hillary Centenary Steering Committee, with the support of Creative New Zealand, for the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, as part of the commemorations marking the centenary of Hillary’s birth on 20 July 1919.
Structurally it is a work of symphonic proportions, organised into five untitled movements which follow one another without a pause, preceded by a haunting, extended introduction marked ‘Misterioso’.
Together these movements convey the nature of the bleak and arid climatic conditions of the Himalayas – 'Roar of A Thousand Tigers' taking its name from Sherpa Tenzing’s description of the violent winds that buffet the region. The work’s atmosphere derives from these extremes: dormant and awakening forces; pulverising gales; episodes of calm respite conveyed through honed-down orchestral textures; culminating in a final switch of the tigers’ tails, as the orchestra (in full flight) abruptly halts, to close in that precarious sense of calm with which it began. (Notes: Paul Goodson)
Recorded in Christchurch Town Hall by RNZ
Sound engineer: Darryl Stack