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Two great works and two great musicians in APO’s “The Greats” concert

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Benjamin Morrison

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

The Greats

Brahms Violin Concerto
Schubert Symphony No 9 ‘The Great’

Auckland Town Hall

Reviewed by John daly-Peoples

July 22

The APO’s latest concert “The Greats” featured a number of “greats” notably Schubert’s Symphony No 9 which was one of longest symphonic works of the time along with Brahms’ only Violin Concerto.. The other two greats of the concert were Vienna based violinist Benjamin Morrison and the flamboyant  conductor, Giordano Bellincampi.

The Brahms Violin Concerto is the most impressive violin concerto of the nineteenth century along with Beethoven’s written seventy years before.

In part it is notable in that while written by Brahms he had relied for much of his  technical support on Joseph Joachim, one of the great violinists of the day. This combination of two great musicians has ensured its place in the canon of great works.

The orchestra opened the concerto with a long passage which featured both tumult and lyricism before the violinist made his spirited entry on the back of the energetic playing of the orchestra

Throughout the first movement there are great displays by the violinist but there are also superb moments taken up by the oboe, clarinet, bassoon and flute

A lot of the time it felt as though Morrison was putting the concerto together, drawing out new themes from the  violin rich with  tension and passion. He seems to be constantly  searching for a way forward with a constant interchange between violinist and orchestra.

The second movement brought one of the more sublime moments of the work, not only with by Morrison’ playing but also with a captivating passage  by the oboist.

At times he played aggressively rising above the orchestra while at others time he played with a delicacy as though seranading the orchestra.

Morrison is not a demonstrative violinist and plays with an unruffled style, his energies always focussed on the music allowing the music to convey the emotionnal aspects of the music.

At the end of the first movement he embarked on a brilliant cadenza which saw him exhibit a remarkable degree of enthusiasm and showmanship. His playing was so riveting and spectacular that he should have used it as his encore. Instead, along with a few members of the orchestra playing a lively jig which was a real crowd pleasure, repeating his success of playing pokarekare ana as an encore at his previous outing with the orchestra.

With his Symphony No 9  Schubert  constructed a vast enterprise  which is like a slowly evolving structure, part architectural and part organic. The orchestra under the direction of conductor Bellincampi assembles all these components  creating spaces and volumes with elaborate details along with emerging vistas,

The ever-evolving  work is full of drama and emotion, with a steady stream of musical invention expressing  hope, and optimism 

In the first movement we hear the  warm French horns, introducing a musical theme which then unfolds in a sinuous manner. Then in the  second movement elegant volumes are created by  the oboe and clarinet. The last two movements are among the most relentless pieces in the orchestral repertoire with what seems to be endless repetitions creating a thrilling density of sound. But there are also poignant moments, passages of pure joy and bursts of fierce spectacle.

Epitomizing much of the music’s energy was the conductor. The elegant sweeps of arm, his firm assured indications and his nimble, almost balletic body seemed to express the qualities of the music. He became a master craftsman shaping the music and the orchestra.

At times he seemed genuinely surprised  at what his players were achieving as though they had discovered new depths and meaning to the work.

APO Future Concerts

August 12

James Judd conducts Smetana Má vlast A musical depiction of the Vltava river evoking a grand panorama of history and landscape.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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