Reviews, News and Commentary

The APO’s thrilling Winter Magic concert

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Giordano Bellincampi

The New Zealand Herald Premier Series

Winter Magic 7.30pm,

Thursday 30 June

Auckland Town Hall

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi

Sofia Gubaidulina, Fairytale Poem

Schubert, Symphony No.8 ‘Unfinished’ 

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No.4

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Its interesting how music can take on a political dimension. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture celebrated Russian nationalism but after the Russian Revolution the finale of the work which features a quotation of “God Save the Tsar” was replaced with one more  aligned to Soviet thought: namely, “Glory, Glory to You, Holy Rus”, taken from Glinka’s opera “A Life for the Tsar”. 

Listening to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 the political nature of the work becomes apparent seeming very relevant to the present day with its menacing and fateful tones.

In a letter to his patron, Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky had outlined the central concept of his Symphony No. 4  explaining that the ominous opening fanfare represented fate hanging over one’s head like a sword.

While the composer may have intended the work as a depiction of his own psychological state it can be seen as a depiction of the tragic history of Russia both then and right now with the disastrous war engulfing Ukraine

The APO’s horns and bassoons delivered the necessary strident sound of the work brilliantly with echoes of the 1812 Overture. Here also was the sweep and grandeur of the Russian landscape and the following themes suggested an all-consuming gloom interspersed with  glimpses of happiness, indicated by some lighter dance melodies. But then the  movement ended with some brash militaristic sounds

The second movement also provided a contemplation on the composer’s melancholic state as well as an uplifting portrait  of an idyllic Russian landscape.   

The unique third movement was tour de force both for the composer and the orchestra with its pizzicato strings along with similar sounds from the woodwinds and brasses conveyed exhilaration of a peasant style dance theme.

The dramatic and colourful finale was devoted to the development of three themes and at times recalled the composer’s ballet music with an affirming energy

Replacing the scheduled Shostakovich’s cello concerto the orchestra played Schubert’s two movement unfinished Symphony No 8 with the music sounding its distinctiveness from the very beginning. There was a weight and expansiveness to the music  and  we seemed to be in the midst of  a dream state filled with mystery, verging on the  mystical. the music sounding as though on the edge of encountering a dramatic event

This state of reverie was well  conveyed by the  oboe and clarinet floating over the nervous shimmer of  the strings. The music also gives a nod to Beethoven’s 5th in his use of the trombone to convey a spiritual dimension

The first work on the programme was  the  92-year-old Sofia Gubaidulina’s Fairytale Poem was a fantasy written in 1971 for a radio broadcast of the Czech fairy tale called ‘The Little Chalk.’ who dreams that someday it will draw wonderful castles, beautiful gardens with pavilions and the sea.

The various instruments conveyed the various period of the chalks journey from boring classroom to  being used to create the beautiful drawings. There was the, pizzicato strings opening the nightmarish sounds of the xylophone, then the lovely celeste and  abrasive piano through to the scratching violins and fierce percussion.

Conductor Bellincampi directed the various instruments expertly in a work which was both accessible, experimental and satisfying.

Forthcoming Concerts

July 7

Verdi Requiem

Auckland Town Hall

Soprano Erika Grimaldi
Mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova
Tenor Gustavo Porta
Bass Petri Lindroos

New Zealand Opera Chorus
Members of Voices New Zealand
The Graduate Choir NZ
     Chorus Director Karen Grylls

July 16

Il Trovatore

Auckland Town Hall

Leonora Erika Grimaldi
Azucena Olesya Petrova
Manrico Gustavo Porta
Ferrando Petri Lindroos
Conte di Luna Simone Piazzola
Ines Morag Atchison
Ruiz Andrew Grenon
Messenger Lachlan Craig
Old Gypsy Sashe Angelovski
with the New Zealand Opera Chorus
Chorus Director Claire Caldwell

Stage Direction Stuart Maunder

July 22

Auckland Town Hall

Stravinsky Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Bartók Piano Concerto No.2 (Pianist Piano Jean-Efflam Bavouzet)

Brahms Symphony No.4

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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