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Honegger, Wagner and Mendelssohn in APO’s Seasonal Vistas concert

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Honegger, Wagner and Mendelssohn

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Seasonal Vistas

Wagner Siegfried Idyll
Honegger Pastorale d’été
Mendelssohn String Symphony No.9 ‘Swiss’

Conductor Vincent Hardaker

Auckland Town Hall

March 24

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

For many people the name Richard Wagner is synonymous with  the worst of operatic music a composer of long turgid Teutonic sagas with valiant Aryan  heroes and large stentorian heroines. But some of his music is also among the most recognised and emotionally powerful such as his Ride of the Valkyries.

There are also musical examples in which he  expresses love such as his  Siegfried Idyll, his birthday present to his new wife, Cosima. On Christmas  morning 1870, the day after her birthday, a small group of musicians directed by Wagner played the new work  to awaken her.

The work is one of the composers most personal as it celebrates both her birthday, their recent wedding and  also their young son Siegfried

Playing this for the first time at Christmas with the  New Year looming it also celebrated a time of renewal for the composer.

It is this sense of a new dawning that was apparent in the APO’s Seasonal Vistas concert. The entire work has various element of dream,  reverie and awakening. The is a sense of the physical awaking from sleep, and creeping consciousness conveyed by the blissful strings, then there are the sounds of birdsong from the woodwinds and towards the end the brass herald the new day and future

Throughout the work the composer creates evocative moods as the sleeper’s images, thoughts and emotions come to them through the haze of slumber.

This sense of seeing the world through a dreamlike state was also apparent in Honegger’s “Pastorale d’été” (Summer Pastoral), which was inspired by the composers vacation in the Swiss Alps in 1920 and references an epigraph by Arthur RimbaudJ’ai embrassé l’aube d’été (I have embraced the summer dawn).

It  is atmospheric work which continues the French symbolist music tradition following on from Claude Debussy’s  Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune 

It is placid and restrained piece with the opening languid theme on the horn taken up by the strings with their sounds matching the pastoral nature of the theme and the sweep of the music provides an evocation of a lazy, sunny day.   The middle section is livelier, filled with hectic events, the strings bristling with energy. The main theme returns in the same peaceful, manner of the opening to then finish with an abrupt conclusion.

Earlier this week the APO played Britten’s Simple Symphony which was partly based on composition’s the composer had written when he was nine. Last night they played Mendelssohn’s “String Symphony No.9” (The  ‘Swiss) one of the twelve he had composed by the time he was 14. They are  works which shows considerable talent and experimentation in one so young.

The work opened with some leisurely sparring of the strings sections and the orchestra embarked on some variations of dance themes with a whirlwind of sound like some work by a brazen young Mozart. The second movement recalls his debt to Bach’s Art of Fugue with two sets of the strings providing a study in counterpoint. The third movement is almost textbook symphonic style with the instruments battling over various musical themes leading to a feverish conclusion.

Next week concerts

March 29

Haydn Symphony No.44 ‘Trauer’
Brahms Serenade No.2

Conductor Shiyeon Sung

March 31

Respighi Ancient Airs & Dances: Suite No.3
Puccini CrisantemiStravinsky Pulcinella: Suite

Conductor Shiyeon Sung

Shiyeon Sung is the first woman to win the Sir Georg Solti International Conductors’ Competition. This is her first appearance with the APO.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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