Christopher Blake: Angel at Ahipara / Strings of the New Zealand SO

Inspired by paintings and photographs of the composer’s homeland, New Zealander Christopher Blake wrote the four works for string orchestra on this Atoll CD between 2000 and 2008. Performed by the Strings of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Young, these works are Angel at Ahipara (2000), Night Journey to Pawarenga (2003), Christ at Whangape (2008) and Anthem on the Kaipara (2007).

A half dozen of the black and white photographs taken by Robin Morrison that inspired Christopher Blake’s music are included in the CD booklet. They are as unforgettable as is the music. In the photograph that inspired the album’s title work, Angel at Ahipara, the weathered stone sculpture of an angel stands vigil over a grave. We are looking over her shoulder and can see the stark, desolate landscape and low lying hills that would also be in her field of view. Blake’s music, somber and austere, cold and brooding, captures in music the image in the photograph. It is very beautiful, not in terms of melody or harmony, but in the music’s honest, direct, spiritual expression.

There can be a particular raw power in the sound of a string orchestra. Perhaps it comes from the knowledge the players have that they must communicate the entire emotional range of the music without the help of brass or percussion to carry the most exhilarating moments over the top. The strings of the New Zealand Orchestra dig deep to get that sound, then contrast it by floating a pure and luminous tone when it is called for. You can listen to Angel at Ahipara as our sample track from the album.

Album Overview

Atoll and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra dominated the category Best Classical Album at the 2012 New Zealand Music Awards, by capturing all three nominations! This new album, WINNER of Best Classical Album 2012, features the NZSO strings conducted by Kenneth Young performing the world premiere recordings of these works. The other two titles nominated in the category of Best Classical Album were Eve de Castro-Robinson’s Releasing the Angel by and Anthony Ritchie’s A Bugle Will Do.

Track List

1-7. Angel at Ahipara (2000) 11:50
8-14. Night Journey to Pawarenga (2003) 14:40
15-21. Christ at Whangape (2008) 21:30
22-28. Anthem on the Kaipara (2007) 17:10
Total Duration: 65:25


Composer: Christopher Blake

Christopher Blake’s compositions encompass a wide variety of music. He has undertaken commissions for all the major music organisations in New Zealand including the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Southern Sinfonia, Mercury Opera and Chamber Music New Zealand and for a range of performers and ensembles.

Conductor: Kenneth Young

Kenneth Younghas established himself as a passionate and skilled interpreter of the Romantic and 20th Century repertoire, and twenty five years of practical orchestral playing enables him to establish a specialised rapport with his colleagues. Himself a composer, he has a particular interest in post-Romantic repertoire, and has received recognition for his recordings of New Zealand and Australian orchestral music.

Orchestra: Strings of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra


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