Reviews, News and Commentary

The NZSO brings Mahler’s Symphony No 3 to Wellington and Auckland

John Daly-Peoples

Gemma New Image: Latitude Creative

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Mahler 3

Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 3 in D Minor

In association with

GEMMA NEW Conductor

SASHA COOKE Mezzo-soprano





Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, 31 March, 6.30pm

Town Hall, Auckland, 1 April, 7.30pm

More than 100 musicians, 80 choral singers, a Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano and an internationally renowned New Zealand conductor are to perform in Wellington and Auckland one the greatest symphonies ever written.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor Gemma New leads the Orchestra for performances of Gustav Mahler’s colossal Third Symphony in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington on 31 March and Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland on 1 April.

Sasha Cooke Image: Stephanie Gerard

The NZSO is joined by American mezzo-soprano and two-time Grammy Award winner Sasha Cooke and 80-strong women and children’s choirs to present Mahler’s masterpiece on a grand scale.

Cooke, a Grammy Award nominee this year for an album of songs inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic, frequently performs Mahler with the world’s leading orchestras. Praised by The New York Times and Opera News, she last sang with the NZSO in 2018 to critical acclaim. The New Zealand Herald hailed Cooke as “one of the standout performances of the year” and The Dominion Post described the mezzo-soprano as “unforgettable”.

“Mahler explores all sides of the human condition informed by his own personal struggles, and in the end, you are lifted off your feet,” Cooke has said of singing Mahler.

“He brings great meaning to life, and more importantly, accepts that without the bad there would not be the good.”

Mahler 3 is Gemma New’s first concerts with the NZSO in 2023.  New is in demand by leading orchestras around the world. Since the start of 2023 her conducting engagements have included the Bern Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Italy’s Orchestra Della Toscana and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin.

One of the many highlights of Mahler’s Third Symphony are the choirs. Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir performs in both concerts and is joined by Wellington Young Voices and

Choristers of Wellington Cathedral of St Paul in Wellington and Westlake Cygnets choir in Auckland.

A BBC poll last year of 150 leading conductors ranked Mahler’s Third Symphony as the 10th greatest symphony of all time. With the NZSO performing for over 90 minutes, Mahler’s Third Symphony is his longest and considered one of his greatest symphonic achievements.

Once described by Mahler as a “gigantic musical poem”, Symphony No. 3 offers one of the most complete musical statements of the Austrian composer’s world view. Each movement represents an element in the universe – plants, animals, people, angels – culminating in a stunning finale. It was Mahler who said: “A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.”

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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