17 Feb 2015

Anthony RITCHIE: Underwater Music

From NZ Composer Sessions, 12:00 am on 17 February 2015

Underwater Music was commissioned in 1993 by the Auckland Sinfonietta, with funding from the QEII Arts Council.  They requested a piece that adopted the theme of the sea, as the première was to take place in a venue beside the sea. It focuses on creatures who live in the sea, but was also partly motivated by the famous Handel precedent.

  • The first movement is titled 'Seahorses' and captures the gently undulating movements of these small creatures. More dramatic gestures in the music suggest the ebb and flow of the sea.
  • The second movement is titled 'Sting rays' and the music suggests the slowly flapping motion of the rays. In the middle section the cold depths of the ocean are contemplated.
  • In the third movement, 'Dolphins', the orchestra presents an energetic theme, and the movement is full of strong, upward sweeping gestures. A piccolo solo in the middle section derives from the opening, and portrays a baby dolphin. The work ends with a blow from the dolphin's spout.

This commissioned work was first performed in 1994, and recorded for Concert FM under the baton of John Matheson. This computer-set score was prepared by the composer for the 2015 SOUNZ-NZSO Recordings, and includes some minor revisions of the original hand-written score.


Anthony has composed over 180 compositions during a career that includes a decade of freelance composing, several composer residencies, and 13 years teaching composition at Otago University. Many of his works have been published and recorded, and he has had works performed in many countries abroad, including the UK, Europe, Asia and the US. In 2014, his choral work Salaam was commissioned and premiered by Aquarius in Belgium, who have recently recorded a CD of his choral work. Anthony has had chamber music performed by The Takacs Quartet, The Eggner Trio, and The Yang Quartet, and The BBC Symphony Orchestra has recorded his A Bugle Will Do. His French Overture was performed by The Swedish Chamber Orchestra in 2012, while the CD A Bugle Will Do (Atoll, 2011) was named one of the 'CDs of the year' by British reviewer Nick Barnard, on the Music Web International site. He has regularly had works performed overseas at ISCM and ACL festivals.

Anthony Ritchie

Anthony Ritchie Photo: Gareth Watkins / Lilburn Trust / Wallace Arts Trust

Anthony Ritchie completed a Ph.D. on the music of Bartok in 1987, studying at the Bartok Archives in Budapest. He also studied composition with Attila Bozay at the Liszt Academy, and completed his Mus.B (Honours) at the University of Canterbury. During this time his Concertino for Piano and Strings was recorded onto LP by Kiwi Pacific. In 1987 he was Composer-in-Schools in Christchurch, before moving to Dunedin as Mozart Fellow (1988-9) at the University of Otago. Anthony was Composer-in-Residence with the Dunedin Sinfonia in 1993-4, completing his Symphony No. 1 "Boum". He free-lanced until 2002, writing commissioned works for performers as diverse as the NZSO, Class Act Opera, and Daniel Belton and Good Company. In 2000 his Symphony No.2 was premiered by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at the International Festival of the Arts, and was followed up by the comic opera Quartet at the 2004 Festival. Other operas include The God Boy (2004) and This Other Eden (2014), both premiered at Arts Festival Dunedin. Anthony has also composed film music in collaboration with Natural History NZ, including Southern Journeys (2000) and Timeless Land (2003).

Since 2005 he has had eleven CDs of his composition released, including the critically acclaimed Piano Preludes (Atoll, 2005), NZ Poets in Song featuring Anna Leese (Ode/Manu 2008), and the CD Remember Parihaka (Atoll, 2009) which includes his widely performed Flute Concerto, written for Alexa Still. His two CDs of chamber music include Octopus featuring his String Quartet No.2. An album of his piano music, Expressions, was released by Ode/Manu in 2010, performed by Tom McGrath. Atoll and the NZ Symphony Orchestra released his CD A Bugle Will Do in 2012, which included his Symphony No.3. It was awarded classical album of the year by The Listener, and was a finalist at the NZ Music Awards. Atoll released his Stations CD in 2014 (Symphony No.4 performed by The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), and it was declared a ‘Recording of the Month’ by Web Music International. Reviewer Nick Barnard wrote: “I have been listening to this music over the last month during which time I have found myself increasingly drawn into its profoundly moving sound-world. . . The structure of the work is hugely impressive – the listener is drawn forward inexorably with each station clearly defined yet clearly part of a greater scheme. . . Ritchie’s music speaks with a very individual yet accessible voice and his work – and certainly this symphony – deserves a wide audience.” 'Fjarren: In the Distance' with Anthony’s Clarinet Quintet and Purakaunui at Dawn won ‘Best Classical Album’ in the 2016 NZ Music Awards. Recent commissions include an oratorio Gallipoli to the Somme (2016) commemorating World War I for The Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and City Choir Dunedin, which is scheduled for performances in London and Oxford in 2018.

Anthony is now Professor of composition at Otago University, and combines his interest in composition with a passion for teaching and mentoring young composers. In 2012-13 he was the Composer Mentor for the Todd Young Composer Awards. He also engages with the community through his role as a conductor (Dunedin Youth Orchestra), pre-concert speaker and arranger. In 2011 he was chosen to arrange the music for the 20 national anthems at the Rugby World Cup. Anthony combines his interest in music with an interest in sport, and has represented New Zealand at two croquet world championships.

Recorded 17 February 2015, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington by RNZ Concert for 2015 NZ Composer Sessions.

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