Reviews, News and Commentary

APO’s Dvorak concert filled with delicacy, aggresssion and potency

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Victor Julien-Laferrière

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Dvorak Cello Concerto

New Zealand Herald Premier Series

Walker, Lyric for Strings
Dvorak, Cello Concerto
Lutosławski, Concerto for Orchestra

Auckland Town Hall

April 7th

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The APO’s latest concert at the Auckland Town Hall was the first under the new Covid 19 setting which allows for up to two hundred people at indoor events. With two performances, the “rehearsal” in the morning and the evening concert this meant that 400 people were able to hear the concert. Hopefully next week will see a move to orange setting and the concert with Christian Li will have a completely full Town Hall.

The morning concert opened with a rendition of Happy Birthday and another after the interval. They were for birthday celebrations of a 99-year-old regular concert goer and Carl Wells one of the orchestra’s horn players.

The main work on the programme was Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with soloist Victor Julien-Laferrière, replacing the  Russian cellist, Anastasia Kobekina.

Conductor Shiyeon Sung in her first appearance with the APO. guided the orchestra effortlessly through the work with Julien-Laferrière producing a lovely, polished tone from his cello. The orchestra created a sense of an immersive Nature into which Julien-Laferrière, inserted a thread of personal angst.

Throughout the work he played with a mixture of techniques. At times he seemed to caress his instrument with a delicate touch while at other time there was a fierce aggressiveness

He displayed lightning speed in parts of the first movement followed by a  lovingly deliberation on the evocative landscapes of the second movement, and some heroic playing in the finale.

The first work on the programme was the 1946 composition  Lyric for Strings  by the African-American George Walker. The piece had the  original dedication of “To my grandmother”, a woman he had known in his youth and who had been a slave (as was his grandfather).

The poetic slow work is a contemplation on her life and a reflection on Americas past and  owes a little to his classmate, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings

The piece alternates dramatically between lush harmonies and stark solo passages, the warm voluptuous sequences intersected by passages of foreboding and menace. Overall, the work displayed  a remarkable breadth of  sounds produced from  the string orchestra.

Also on the programme was Polish composer Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto written only a few years after Walker’s work but at a time in  Eastern Europe where modernism was censured. While the work  was developed from folk tunes, they were given new harmonies with some added atonal features.

The work blazed with precision, clarity and  potency allowing all the instruments to display their individual  virtuosity.

The blaring woodwind sounds of the first movement seemed as though a massive steam train was bursting into the auditorium followed by an extraordinary mixture of mechanical and natural sounds from the shimmering strings. The final explosive movement which owed much to Prokofiev and Shostakovich was filled with moments of mystery, rogue experimentation and some intriguing sounds from the piano and harp.

Next Concert

Christian Li Plays

Auckland Town Hall

April 21st

Conductor Vincent Hardaker
Violin Christian Li

Fauré Pelléas et Mélisande: Suite
Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo capriccioso
Ravel Tzigane
Mussorgsky Night on the Bare Mountain
Borodin Symphony No.2

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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