Ross Harris

String Quartet No. 3 (Variations on Blood Red Roses)

They ordered drinks to be brought in and tried to forget the eerie world of the bunker, dancing to music provided by the only phonograph record they could find. It was a song that spoke of ‘blood-red roses’ and future happiness.

Inside Hitler’s Bunker – Joachim Fest

The choice of the simple waltz Blutrote Rosen was made for many reasons – most obviously the reference to a horrific context. The banality and crudeness of the tune were also ideal for the deconstruction and fragmentation the music undergoes during the course of the piece. The music starts as simply as possible with the original melody and most of the harmony intact. The various elements of the simple popular tune fall away – harmony, melody, simple metric rhythms, and the fragments twist and reform into a tortured and angular world.

After a short pause at about the half way point fleeting reminiscences of the tune remerge echoing amidst the demonic dances which build up to the end of the quartet. By the end the tune is transformed into something brutal and grotesque.

Programme note: Ross Harris


Ross Harris (b. 1945)

Ross Harris was born in the small town of Amberley in North Canterbury. He was educated in Christchurch and attended the University of Canterbury, where he gained his BMus before moving to Victoria University, Wellington to complete his MMus. He was appointed a lecturer in music at Victoria University in 1971 and 2004 took early retirement to pursue a career as a freelance composer.

Ross Harris was the Auckland Philharmonia Composer in Residence in 2005 and 2006 and has recently been appointed Composer in Residence at the New Zealand School of Music for 2007-8. His Second Symphony, which was premiered by the Auckland Philharmonia in 2006, won the SOUNZ Contemporary Award. This was the third time he had won this prestigious award.