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The APO’s delightful Danube journey

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Benjamin Morrison

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

On The Danube

Auckland Town Hall

July 8

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Vienna was at the heart of classical music  particularly in the nineteenth century with many of the great musicians associated with the city – Mozart, Haydn, Mahler, Strauss and Bruckner were Austrian while  others, such as Beethoven, Gluck and Brahms lived there for part of their lives. The history of classical music is an integral part of the city’s history.

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s “On The Danube” concert featured works by four Viennese  composers written over an 80-year period although Erich Korngold had left the city ten years before he composed his Violin Concerto.

Opening the programme was Johann Strauss II’ “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” which had many heads swaying along to the breezy waltz music. The orchestra could well have filled up the entire programme with a set of the composers waltzes and the  audience been entirely satisfied. The music seems to sum up the halcyon days of the Austro- Hungarian Empire and  its glamour and artistic renown.

It was a great pity that conductor Giordano Bellincampi did not have a partner on the podium as he seemed ready to launch into a waltz at any moment, carried along by the music.

Also on the programme was the Brahms “Symphony No 3”, a magnificent work which has links back to the grandeur of Beethoven but which also displays  a new energy and vitality.

Much has been made of the symphonies hidden code but it is the images lyrical landscapes and encounters with Nature which are conveyed by the music and can be seen as expressions of the composer’s personal struggles and emotional conflicts.

The short Gustav Mahler work on the programme “Blumine”, was composed only a few years after the Brahms work and illustrates how far music had moved in that time in terms of temperament and scale. The was work  originally part of his first symphony and is filled with passages of the composers’ characteristic sounds and leitmotifs, particularly his use of the solo horn.

The most exciting work on the programme was Erich Korngold’s “Violin Concerto”. Composed in 1945 when he lived in America and which he dedicated to Alma Mahler. The work builds on the late Romanticism of Mahler along with Korngold’s  own film music and is filled with  a sense of remembrance and reflection. It is rich and colourful with a number of lively themes and the opening movement has the qualities of a 1930’s film.

Vienna based soloist Benjamin Morrison who is member of the Vienna Philharmonic played with assurance, dealing effortlessly with the clever technical passages and the elaborate fingering. He was totally in control and at one with the orchestra, at times allowing it to almost overwhelm his playing and then at other times he made dramatic forays as if to dominate the orchestra. There were times when he gave the work an enigmatic reading while he also brought out some of the playful aspects of the music. In the second movement where he played an achingly powerful sequence, his sounds hovered in the auditorium as though remembering  a dream.

Just as the audience had been delighted with the opening Strauss number they were equally rewarded with Morrison’s encore, a wonderful version of  “Pokarekare Ana”.

Future APO Concerts

Light & Shade   July 15

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi
Flute Melanie Lançon

Respighi The Birds
Ibert Flute Concerto
Ravel Pavane
Respighi Church Windows

The Great, July 22

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi
Violin Benjamin Morrison

Brahms Violin Concerto
Schubert Symphony No.9 ‘The Great’

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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