Solo instrument

for clarinet

Robert Carew commissioned Mata-au for Anna McGregor to play, to celebrate his partner Scilla Askew’s contribution to New Zealand music and mark her departure from the role of Executive Director of SOUNZ. Anna McGregor gave the first public performance on 16 March 2010 at St Andrew’s on The Terrace as part of the New Zealand Music for Woodwind concert series.

About the work

Mata-au is the original name of Central Otago’s Clutha river, which I saw from the Plischke house in Alexandra when I was artist-in-residence for the Henderson Arts Trust in 2009-2010.

Mata-au refers to the river’s characteristic whirlpools, caused by layered currents moving at different speeds, which resemble facial moko, or the wake of a giant waka, and the piece has its origins in Māori chant.


Anna McGregor has prepared a score detailing fingerings for the extended techniques.

Score and recordings

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Mata-au — SOUNZ

RNZ Concert recorded the premiere performance.

Mata-au — audio

Peter Scholes performed it in 2017 during a ‘composer portrait’ concert where I was asked to introduce the works.

Mata-au — video

Gillian Whitehead introduces her works — video


‘Whitehead’s 2010 Mata-au is a masterpiece. If American poet Wallace Stevens found 13 ways of looking at a blackbird, then this clarinet solo does the same, and more, for water. The marvellous Peter Scholes captured it to the last drop, from luminescent shallows to the gnarliest of rapids.’

— William Dart, New Zealand Herald, 4 July 2017