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Red Contributor

Rod Biss


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Born: 1934


Ex-Wellingtonian Rod Biss gained his B.Mus degree at Victoria University College in the days of Frederick Page and Douglas Lilburn followed by further study at the Royal College of Music in London. Several of his compositions were performed in London, his Sonata for violin and piano was given several performances by Frances Mason and Ashley Lawrence. His Concerto for Piano and Strings was premiered at a New Zealand Music Society concert by Ashley Lawrence (piano) and an orchestra conducted by Peter Zwartz. His Introduction and Allegro for strings was performed in the Wigmore Hall by the Riddick Orchestra conducted by the New Zealander Robert Philpott.

In 1959 he joined the music publishers Schott as production manager, then in 1965 he moved to Faber music as their first production director.

In 1974 he returned to New Zealand and joined Peter Zwartz to form Price Milburn Music Ltd where until 1981 he was responsible for building up the catalogue of music by New Zealand composers and educational publications.

In the 1990’s together with John Thomson as librettist he wrote a music theatre piece Marriage a la Mode. Excerpts were work-shopped by Emily Mair at Victoria University in 1974 and in 2008 Opera Factory in Auckland performed the piece as part of a Festival of short New Zealand operas.

His journalism includes articles on music and travel for Music in New Zealand, NZ Listener, Sunday Star-Times, Herald on Sunday, Metro, Citymix, and NZ Opera News. In 2009 he was named Reviewer of the Year in the New Zealand Qantas Media Awards for his work in NZ Opera News and the NZ Listener and his reviewing for the NZ Listener was Highly Commended in the Canon Media Awards of 2014.

Publications include educational violin arrangements (Schott, 1964), two collections for recorder with J.M.Thomson (Schirmer, 1966), vocal scores with H.C.Robbins Landon of Haydn's Die Feuersbrunst (Schott, 1963), St Nicholas Mass (1969), Stabat Mater (Faber, 1977), and the Faber Book of Children's Songs with Donald Mitchell, (1970).

With Robert Hoskins he is currently editing complete collected piano music of Douglas Lilburn for Promethean Editions Ltd.

Composed (8)


for piano, 8m

Dance Trio

for piano trio, 15m

Four New Zealand Bird Songs

for soprano and string orchestra, 15m

Introduction and Allegro

for string orchestra, 10m

Marriage a la Mode

musical based on Hogarth, 1h 30m

Sonata for violin and piano

for violin and piano, 12m

Variations for piano

for piano, 12m

Waiata Aroha

for three singers, with string orchestra, harp and saxophone, 45m

Resources (1)