Reviews, News and Commentary

Highlights of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s 2021 season

John Daly-Peoples

Igor Stravinsky Photo: Arnold Newman

NZSO Season 2021

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Igor Stravinsky and it will also be sixty years since the composer himself conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Wellington and Auckland

It is fitting then that the NZSO opens its 2021 season with a nine centre touring concert featuring the composers “The Soldier’s Tale” in association with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

The work, based on a Russian folk tale was written “to be read, played and danced”, tells the story of a man who makes a Faustian pact with the Devil: co-created with Swiss writer C.F. Ramuz, the work include a range  of musical  influences – tango, waltz, ragtime, klezmer, church chorales, and the paso doble.

Over the rest of the year the orchestra will play music from three other dance works by the composer – Petrushka (March), The Firebird (April)  and The Rite of Spring (July).

In March the orchestra has a four centre South  Island tour presenting “Town and Country”, a concert which will provide contrasts between the rural and the urban. The six pieces present this duality with music by English, American and New Zealand composers. The two English works both depict the countryside with Frederick Delius’ Walk to the Paradise Garden, from his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet and Malcolm Arnold’s “English Dances” which is a collection  the best of English country folk dances.

The two American pieces draw inspiration from both the small town life and the city with Aaron Copland’s film score for Our Town is a nostalgic view of small town life in Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire. While  Leonard Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes come from the musical On The Town, depicting 1940s New York with its  jazz melodies, bebop rhythms and irresistible swing.

The two New Zealand pieces also contrast the rural and the urban with. Douglas Lilburn’s Drysdale Overture evoking the pastoral landscape of his family’s farm in the Turakina Valley and Maria Grenfell jubilant Fanfare for a City.

This year the orchestra is only performing a couple of major symphonic works including the National Youth orchestra playing Shostakovich’s Symphony No 7 (The Leningrad).

In September, but only in Wellington they will be playing Beethoven’s Symphony No 9. For this concert the NZSO will invite young performers from across the country to join in singing the chorus, with a new translation in te reo Māori. Then, in  November the orchestra will perform the composers magnificent “Missa Solemnis” with some of the country’s best singers  – Madeleine Pierard, Kristin Darragh Simon O’Neill and Paul Whelan

In July, but only in Auckland for Matariki the orchestra will premiere a new commission by Gareth Farr. His large scale “Ngā Hihi O Matariki celebrates the appearance of the Matariki constellation (the Pleiades or Seven Sisters) which traditionally signalled to Māori that it was time to plant crops. Matariki heralds both the constellation and the beginning of a new year symbolising new beginnings and humanity’s hopes for the future.

During April, the orchestra will be presenting a regional tour to Palmerston North, Napier and  Tauranga performing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” which will  feature NZSO violinists Anna van der Zee, Malavika Gopal, Simeon Broom and Alan Molina playing a ‘season’ each of the work.

Also on the programme will be Astor Piazzolla’s Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (also known as The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) which transports the listener to the steamy streets of Argentina, cleverly combining Vivaldi’s most recognisable tunes with the sensual tango sounds which characterised Piazzolla’s style.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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