Stroma are an important music group, and they can be immensely entertaining as well. With members coming from the NZSO, percussion group Strike and from freelance Wellington musicians, Stroma address music from the cutting edge of avant-garde.
But they also remind us that for many, music composed in the early part of the twentieth century remains daunting, and the names of Schoenberg and Webern send shivers of apprehension down many a spine.
But Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, just days away from being a hundred years old, is now very user friendly, and is an essential part of all string orchestras' repertoire.
It was originally written for just six string players, and Stroma's performance of the original reminded us just how much more effective it is in that form. It does not have the tonal weight of the larger group orchestration, but the details are laid out with much greater clarity, and any suspicions of excessive density simply do not apply,
It was beautifully played. Completely in style and with the dynamics properly observed, one could forgive tiny moments of imperfection - minimal rehearsal time, I suspect - in the interests of stunning authenticity.
Webern's severely minimalist Symphony Op.21 was good for cleansing the musical palette, and Mise en Scene by the Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl produced sounds that titillated the ear. It included a variety of small instrumental ensembles playing with, and against, one another, something that Olga Neuwirth's Hooloomooloo carried some stages further.
The whole programme played to a generous, rather than a packed house, but I'm sure all present appreciated the value of hearing such music, and they clearly enjoyed the highly polished playing.
— John Button, The Dominion, 24 February 2002