Reviews, News and Commentary

NZSO’s passionate concert filled with events, ideas and emotions.

John Daly-Peoples

Amalia Hall

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra


Auckland Town Hall

March 14

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

“Passione” was the first NZSO concert to be held in Auckland this year celebrating its 75th anniversary. James Judd led the orchestra, fifteen years after he conducted them for its sixtieth-year anniversary in 2007.

The three works on the programme were all linked to other creative works which explored stories about passion where the music conveyed events, ideas and emotions.

The first work on the programme was Strauss’s tone poem “Don Juan” which captures  the philandering exploits of the hero. The  frenzied swelling of the opening represented the lustful  Don Juan’s while the passionate voices of the harp, sprightly flutes and woodwinds painted expressive portraits  of his female lovers.

The second work on the programme was John Corigliano’s “Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra” written for  the score of the film The Red Violin which  traces a rare violin from Cremona, Italy, where a violin maker adds a secret ingredient to the varnish – his wife’s blood.

The work was filled with haunting themes that echo the moodiness of the tale with soloist Amalia Hall taking on the role of the violin itself. The work opened with Hall playing a tingling melody representing the birth of the instrument with tentative chords and then later playing some achingly beautiful passages which  revealed an intense fragility with a sense of the violin itself being filled with despair. Throughout the work with the soaring voice of the violin contrasted with the orchestra’s sounds full of drama and shocks.

Her voice prevailed over the onslaughts of the orchestra at times with a pure romanticism while at other times her playing was indignant and insistent as she seemed to battle with the orchestra, a battle which came to a close as she outplayed the orchestra in the final moments the of the work.

The main work on the programme was a selection of pieces from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Prokofiev’s ability to create drama, romance and grief makes the music to the ballet one of the most powerful orchestral works.

The opening work “The Montagues and Capulets” captured the mood of power and drama with an underlying attention to dance movement this was followed by a transition to the Aubade with the romanticism of the piece  conveyed by flutes and then to the light dance of Juliet herself where the sprightly orchestration creates a entrancing image of a young girl.

They also played “The Death of Tybalt” one of the most impressive and moving pieces. From the opening sinister sounds through the almost playful and hectic fight scenes  and onto the dramatic and tragic death, the work pulses with emotion.

James Judd ensured the orchestra provided a performance with an almost symphonic scope while ensuring we appreciated the balletic  nature of the work, conveying the scores colour grace and excitement.

Future NZSO Concerts


Vesa-Matti Leppänen Director
Anna van der Zee Violin
Malavika Gopal Violin
Simeon Broom Violin
Alan Molina Violin

Vivaldi The Four Seasons
Piazzolla orch. Desyatnikov Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)

Hamilton May 20 & 21

Nelson May 26

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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