Reviews, News and Commentary

APO’s monumental Alpine Symphony

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Alpine Symphony

Auckland Town hall

November 12

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Strauss’s Alpine Symphony is a monumental work, a musical equivalent of the stunning alpine landscape that the composer loved. Giordano Bellincampi guided the Auckland Philharmonia through this alpine wonderland with an exhilarating performance. The audience  journeyed  through twenty-two musical sections taking the the listener through the sights, sounds and events of a day hiking in the Alps.

The work opened with the  enveloping darkness of pre-dawn night with snatches of Wagner followed by a glorious sunrise. We then enjoyed all the delights, vistas and anxieties of the day finishing with the  deeply sad conclusion when as we returned again to the ominous night.

The work is filled with brilliant descriptions of birdsong, landscape and weather as well as rich emotional  encounters. All this conveyed with the composers deft and acute musical language.

We had an extra horn-led chorus, offstage sounding as though calling from  another mountain top, and then series of  evolving melodies full of warm textures, muted vistas  as well as several big climaxes

During the massive storm sequence where a wind machine and thunder sheet were employed one  felt the full force  of the orchestra’s sound pummelling  the body but equally  impressive were the refined musical passages with which the work abounds.

It was refreshing to have Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 1 on the programme. His works help give context to the canon of Western music. Hearing his ingenious technical skills in contrapuntal composition, his ornamentation, and inventive approach to  harmony is something that should happen regularly.

This work was performed by members of the orchestra led by Andrew Beer with a nimble virtuosity

The violinists stood grouped around a harpsichord as would have been common during the composer’s time. This appeared to allow some of the players a much more vigorous and demonstrative manner of playing.

The work included several opportunities for solo instruments with some particularly lovely woodwind sequences.

Opening the programme was the avant-garde Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s “Lontano”. The title is an Italian word for distant and much of the music seems to be just that, as though played at a distance or heard from  a distance.

The work opens  with some  are abstract sounds providing a tremulous soundscape which varies between sounding like electronic music and a faint singing voice,

There is much tension and  an uneasiness, especially towards the end of the piece where a  climax is tentatively reached. Familiar harmonies are presented in a range of different ways with overlapped tempos and rhythms creating an eerie atmospheric work.

Next APO Concert

Chopin and Schumann

Auckland Town Hall

November 24th

Conductor Giordano Bellincampi
Piano Yeol Eum Son

Mendelssohn Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Chopin Piano Concerto No.2
Schumann Symphony No.4

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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