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An electrifying Performance by Hilary Hahn

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Hilary Hahn

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra & Hilary Hahn

Truth & Beauty

Auckland Town Hall

August 5

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The latest NZSO concert ”Truth & Beauty” opened with John Rimmer’s “Lahar” which he wrote in the 1970’s as part of his Ring of Fire orchestral work. It was a volcanic lahar of melted snow and ice which caused the Tangiwai disaster on the Whangaehu River in 1953.

While Rimmer does not reference the disaster directly in the work one can sense the various forces of nature  – geological and atmospheric which contributed to the disaster represented in the music.

Conductor Gemma New reinforced the aspect of peril inherent in the work with her arm movements which at times  looked like short sharp semaphoric, movements  signalling danger.

The percussion instruments created the opening growling sounds of  the volcano and the tectonic shifts, while other instruments captured the sounds of the forest such as the twittering  piccolo and flutes representing the bird life.

The work ended with a plaintiff piccolo solo, a lament in honour of the victims of the Tangiwai disaster.

The big work on the programme, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5  had some of the same brooding and reflective quality to it  as the Rimmer work.

In the 1930s, the Soviet Union the purges of Joseph Stalin meant that traditional music and composers were declared decadent and  even Dmitri Shostakovich saw the need to adapt. In a cynical nod to political correctness, he  subtitled his symphony “A Soviet Artist’s Response to Just Criticism.” While there are many  lyrical and heroic aspects to the work there is a sense of  despair beneath the almost romantic melodies.

The symphony feels as though it is  contemplation of the battlefield, the horror of battle and the eerie aftermath. But this is not some reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s triumphant 1812 and it  sems very relevant to the present day as Ukraine had been focus of Russian territorial ambition in WWI and the site of much fighting and destruction.

The work opens with the great percussion roar of war and destruction followed by the  various colours and moods of the battlefield landscape where the souls and spirits of the dead lie. Then there are themes which could be derived from folk melodies which eventually morph  into driven militaristic music.

The second movement which has some links to dance, but this is not folk dance or the waltz but rather a dance of death. Then as with most of the bright and colourful themes in the work  the music eventually returns  to the militaristic  the dramatic and the chaotic.

The slow third movement was almost a requiem with mournful sounds provided by flute and harp and the work eventually moves to a transcendental mood  conveyed by the flute. In the fourth movement New extracted  nuance and subtly giving the work a lightness and  innocence before erupting into a joyous  reworking of the opening theme

At times throughout the work Gemma New’s elaborate conducting style  saw her more as a magician than conductor and her baton more of a wand.

While the Shostakovich was the big symphonic work on the programme it was Hilary Hahn’s electrifying performance  of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 1` which was the highlight.

After the slow ethereal opening her playing became more impassioned with some frantic bowing displaying  a deep understanding of the work. Her own bodily movements  also displayed a physical response to the music moving with a dancer’s litheness and intensity.

The fairground themes of the second movements which foreshadow the composers later compositions for film  were soon turned into more robust sounds with some powerful contrasting passages.

Her playing was technically brilliant and she handled the more difficult sequences of playing on the bridge of the instrument and plucking with consummate skill. Her duets with various instruments of the orchestra were all precise and incisive.

Her playing ranged from the whimsical through the serene to the extravagant and all the time she was formidably focused on the music. There were times when  she seemed to be in  trancelike state while at other times she seemed to be in a rage. Throughout it was as though there was no effort being made and that the technical wizardry and sumptuous music flowed effortlessly from her instrument.

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Roy Good’s latest show an endless search for possibilities

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Roy Good, “Squares Cascade – Fault Line”

Roy Good, Squares Cascade

Scott Lawrie Gallery

Until August 20

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Roy Good’s latest exhibition “Squares Cascade” continues his experiments and enquiry into shape, and colour. For the most part each of the works echo the title of the show with squares of colour seeming to fall, rotate and  displace in an endless search for possibilities.

A lot of the artist’s  work in the past was built on, and a homage to some  of the abstract artists of the past and in this show the square shapes  are variations on the geometric paintings of  Kasimir Malevich. As with the coloured squares of Malevich, what at first seem to be flat coloured shapes start to reveal differences in  colour and texture. So, in “Squares Cascade – Eight Rotate” ($8500) some of the shapes are flat colour while others have subtle variations of texture such as one might find in marbles and granites.

There is an architectural quality to these works particularly apparent in the stacked works such as “Squares Cascade – 5 Squares, 4 Rectangles” ($14,500) or “Squares Cascade – Stack” ($7500) where the shapes are built on top of each other. In others this architectural quality can be seen in the depiction of planar forms as in “Squares Interlock” ($19,500).

With many of the work it is as though the  artist has based the shapes, placement  and connections on mathematical or geometric principles. There  might even be  a hidden  code or an enigmatic symbolism attached to them.

From medieval times artists and architects  regarded number symbolism as important with. certain numbers and ratios having magical or talismanic properties. They also  had an ethereal existence and were models for theology and an analogy for creation itself.

One is alerted to the mathematical quality  of some works partly by the title such as “Squares Cascade – Arithmetic Progression” ($18,500) where the assemblage of varying shapes seem to conform to a predetermined set of principles and not just random placement.

Roy Goode, “Square Cascade – Dance The Line”

There are the set of work which have dance in their titles where the shapes follow the logic of the dance steps. In “Square Cascade – Dance The Line” ($6500) the various coloured squares negotiate a shifting central line and with Squares Cascade – Square Dance 1” ($8500) the squares follow the ordered nature of the traditional square dance. Then there is  “Squares Cascade & Rotate” ($19,500) where the mathematical and dance notion collide in an unexpected combination of regular and off-centre shapes.

Good has always had an interest in shaped canvass and in these works,  there are  a variety of shapes , both of the exterior frame as well as within the frame .

There are the more complex ones such as “Squares Ascend No 1`” ($25,000) which is like an upended ziggurat and  “Squares Cascade – Fault Line” ($25,000) where the descending coloured squares appear to have dislodged part of the the frame

There are the couple of works which owe much to the Israeli artist Agam with  the raised  triangular forms producing an op art sensation with changing perspectives . “Squares Cascade Kinetic No 2” ($19,500) explores space and movement in an intriguing manner touching on the ides of meditation and contemplation,

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Jim Allen: The 1974 interview

John Daly-Peoples

Jim Allen, Arena 1970


Jim Allen who last week turned 100 has been developing his artistic practice since the 1950s, and was a pioneer of post-object art in New Zealand in the 1970s.

Nearly fifty years ago in 1974 I interviewed him as part of a series of video interviews with leading artists  -“ Interviews with six NZ Artists”  (Allan, Albrecht, Binney, Ellis, Hanly, Twiss.). This is a transcript of the interview.

At that time his major works included the designs for the windows, stations of the cross and crucifix for Futuna Chapel (1961) in Wellington, the ICI mural (1965) in Wellington ,”Wairaka” Lady of the Rock (1965) in Whakatane and his first post object exhibition at Barry Lett gallery including Tribute to Hone Tuwhare, 1969,

John Daly-Peoples: How do you describe the work that you now produce You don’t do figurative or  representational work – why don’t you, and what you see as a sculptor’s aim, or your aim as a sculptor?

Jim Allen: Well I have to talk about my own personal aim and it’s not that I dislike realist work, or have no interest in it, for instance, I get a lot of enjoyment from the work of

Brancusi and people like this. And it’s not as if I’ve turned my back completely on that in terms of appreciation. It’s just that my own preoccupations appear to take me a very long way from those kind of realist things. But my work seems to have two kinds of polarities – one is where I’m involved with a physical problem, which leads me to the evolution of structures to solve the physical problem, and here I’m talking about work of a more architectural nature. For instance, the work which I did at Palmerston North Teachers College, the design solution was based upon the architectural elements of the spaces surrounding the sculpture and the floor plan, on which the sculpture was standing on. And the fact that there was a considerable number of, flow of people walking backwards and forwards within the space which it’s situated in- And it’s very much a practical problem to evolve something which will complement the architecture stylistically, and also not to clutter up the foreground so as it becomes an obstacle for people to have to walk round, and so on.

When I get a problem I tend to approach it from a structural design analysis point of view, and produce a solution which meets the problems inherent in the site, rather than carrying an idea to the site and imposing it upon that situation. Now I’m not against that, I’m just saying, this is what I tend not to do. And the other thing, which is the other polarity, is where I’m concerned about ideas, and I seek to use materials, and methods to get to grips with the idea in a visual physical way. But, primarily I’m concerned about ideas, and the significance of ideas, in different kinds of relationships, and then I seek to use materials which will begin to deal with these ideas in a visual kind of way. And that leads me to use media which would be classed as being non-traditional, and in fact it leaves the whole media opportunity completely open, because when you’re dealing with ideas, anything becomes appropriate, as to that which will best explain, or demonstrate the idea. And I guess a lot of people have difficulty in getting close to my work because the materials which are used, and the way in which they’re used, differ greatly from traditional types of medium, to traditional types of usage of media. But it’s because I’m more interested in the idea, or ideas which can be generated by materials, rather than doing a purely formal exposition.

Jim Allen, Futuna (1961)

JDP: It would seem that the idea itself, was important – not so much the piece of sculpture or what comes out of it, but rather the actual involvement in the process.

JA: Yeah, on a lot of occasions the intentions are modified by the events as they occur at the time, particularly with this kind of work. And, with “Sonic MI”, what nobody else realises, but the problem is that had three things worked out for “Sonic W’, and that each of them was cancelled out, one after the other, because the venues, or the space available for me to perform these works, was changed. was told that was going to – I had the dining room as a space, and I evolved a work for that space, then that disappeared because they wanted to use it for coffee, or something. I then evolved a work to the place on the grounds on the lawn outside, in a marque, the marque didn’t materialise, and

twenty-four hours before the start of “Sonic Supers” I was given the room which I was placed in. Not using this as a way of excuse, but it certainly threw me a bit, and the work which has evolved for “Sonic W’ really wasn’t what I’d planned, it was something that I had to rush through, which was unfortunate. But nevertheless it has the bones of the approach which I would had to any of those spaces, which was to create a situation within which a certain amount of participation – free participation – both by performers who are used to the structures I was setting up, and people who would have been seeing it for the first time – could have got some feedback by becoming involved, in a physical situation. And in this sense most of the things I’m involved with are traditional, when one talks about them in these kinds of terms. They involve space, they involve sound, some sets of physical dimensions, but instead of the viewer, or spectator being on the outside of them, he becomes part of them and he becomes part of the sculpture itself, in many cases, not in all cases, but many cases.

JDP From the 1960’s on you are looking at new sculptural methods, you start to try out a lot more ideas than you had previously – would this be so? Or when you talk about abandoning Elam, did you start to have to redefine what you saw as sculpture, and re-examine and explore some of the new aspects?

JA: Well, prior to the 1960’s I’d been employed by the Education Department, doing experimental work in Māori schools in the far North of New Zealand, and I went straight from the Royal College in London to that job. And I think probably it was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it brought me into contact with people, and with children, who are operating at a very early creative stage. And I learnt an immense lot from these people and from the children, in fact they would be the biggest single influence on the way I think, and what I think is important and the way I work, and the values I place on things. When I came to Elam it gave me the opportunity to return to making things, which I hadn’t had for some time, and for a few years there was a heavy physical involvement in casting and moulding and welding, and so on like this. The kind of forms which emerge from those periods are, a generic term which applied to them, that was called “slotsies”, and they were in the main, cast pieces of aluminium which slotted together, and some of them had the possibility of a variety of combinations, you could slot them in different ways, and they formed different shapes. They were concerned about articulation, and things like that. With the “slotsies”, I was very much concerned with the articulation of things, and also, some exploration into casting techniques.

Jim Allen, ICI House mural (1965)

About that time, I did one of the largest castings in Australasia, by the polystyrene method, it involved quite a lot of experimental work in moulding with sand and so on. That’s the work which is in the Bank of NSW in Queen St. So, there was quite a heavy involvement with the experimental techniques with media, of a more traditional kind. But in terms of ideas, I was involved with the articulation of forms. The next sort of development from that, occurred after, or during the period I was on leave, in 1968, in Europe. And it was a very good time to be away. The art schools in Britain were in ferment, they were having riots going on, the schools were being closed, the students and staff were objecting to the administration of the colleges, and the aims and intentions of the courses, degree courses, and diploma courses. There was the French riots

which nearly overthrew the authority in France. There were riots in Germany. And we were in Britain, and I was very closely – I can’t say associated with – but I was in very close contact with the ferment in the art school at that time. We were in France when the riots were on in Paris We were living in an area in London, where groups of students were trafficking from both England to Europe, to France and to Germany, and backwards. And every evening there was a large campfire in this place, and hundreds of young people just sat round, and people were standing up and speaking and talking about what was happening in their country, and what they were concerned about, and what they were trying to do to right what was happening there. And the kind of proposals that were being put forward. And people were discussing for and against the proposals, which were being aired. And there was a time of great vitality, and big things were happening, old established modes of performance and behaviour in quite large sections of society were being set aside, and people were talking about alternatives in a very vigorous way.

I have counted myself being fortunate in Europe at that time. As far as what was happening in the art world – there was a development of multimedia activities, which I. hadn’t come into direct contact with before, there were experimental laboratories with sight and sound situations. There were many instances of development of mixed-media activities, it seemed that the dividing lines between painting and sculpture, and filmmaking, and drama – it was very difficult with many of these activities to set up any dividing line, it seemed to encompass all of these activities, in one way or another. Now this related to me in a very curious way, because it took me back to the experimental work which I’d done in the far North in New Zealand, particularly with a school called Oruaiti, and a teacher called Elwyn Richardson. And I started my activities in that school with him, and he later went on to write a book which is called “In The Early World”. But the main thesis of this activity was, we gained, or made, terrific strides in child growth, by using one activity to reinforce another.

By this means, we had children, for instance, a lot of poetic development, developed in this kind of way is an example; we had children climbing pine trees, and taking handfuls of the pine-needles and chewing them, and just climbing round the trees generally. And when they came back to the ground, we asked them to write about what the trees said to them, and we told them not them not to worry about any problems with grammar or spelling, or so on, just to set down what they felt and what they were thinking about when they were doing this activity. And we got a lot of free and direct poetic utterance through that. We got a lot of work, and a lot of development out of pottery, out of coil forms, and the children made animals. They also made lots of things out of clay. And they were asked to write what they were thinking about when they were making these things, or they were asked to  a story about the things which they were making. And they were asked to make paintings and Iino-cuts, about these things.

So, what began to happen after a while, as these activities developed, was that a child could start at any point; he could start by writing a poem and then the images conjured up by the poem he could make a painting, or he could make something in wood-carving or in clay. Or he could start off from the point of making something in clay and then write stories and poetry and so on like that. A lot of the work was based on the measurements of things which they were making, or areas in which they were going to use for making things in. And the ordinary arithmetic processes were dealt with largely in this kind of way, of just measuring and adding things up. A lot of these things weren’t new, except that I think in this case they were fully and well exploited. There was a school shop, operating in the classroom, and a lot of the number work was done through the activities of the shop. And the children made things to go into the shop, so a lot of the activity programme was geared in that direction. They also did a publication, which was a collection of their poems, and stories, and Iino prints. And when they had amassed a sufficient amount of material, they bound it all together and they did so many copies of it and put it out.

Those school magazines now are fairly highly prized in educational circles in this country now, because the kind of creative effort that came from these children has seldom, if ever, been equalled, since. The big lesson for me in it, was the development, or rates of development which could be obtained by the cross-fertilisation of ideas. Where one idea started off in one media and was carried through to another. It seemed that big jumps could be made, in understanding and comprehension, certainly with young children. And it seemed to, from what little I knew of education – well, let’s put it this way – the very young child can be stimulated by having a lot of things around it, which are twinkling and moving, and so on, so it’s attention is… it’s not just left there as a dormant, small being but is stimulated, visually and audibly, and if it’s involved , by adults, in a series of activities, it rates of growth and progression seem to be accelerated. And in a way, this is what we were doing in the schoolroom, we were stimulating the children by involving them in extended activity programmes, and crossing from one media into another, backwards and forwards. And by doing this, reinforced and developed increased rates of leaming. It was good school to work in because, we conducted I.Q. testing at the beginning of the programme and the levels we got were for an average group of children, but from the evidence of work which materialised, people wouldn’t have thought that. Well, I was going to go on and say that, when I went to Europe, and I was involved in all these ideas and different attitudes coming through, and coming up face-to-face with multi-media activities in their various forms, what I was seeing again there, were the developmental work which we’d done at Oruaiti and other schools, materialising at an adult level, and a much more extended level because the immediate facilities were much more extensive and much more sophisticated. But nevertheless, there was a clear identification with my previous activities, here in New Zealand, and with what I found overseas. And it led me to a re-evaluation, a rediscovery of my earlier work in schools, and since I’d returned in 1968, this had been my main preoccupation – the fertilisation of, and development of ideas, and the involvement of ideas, using, involving different medium. And I think it goes a long way to explaining why my present work differs so much from traditional usage of materials.

Jim Allen, Tribute to Hone Tuwhare, Barry Lett Gallery, 1969

JDP: You don’t in fact structure your art for a particular market, the interest is in the ideas, in the exploration of these in any form?

JA: Right…l think…one of the reasons why I concentrate on this, or free myself, to involve myself in this area – which I think is a better way of putting it – is that I have a job, I have the financial means to support myself. And so my object is not to become a successful artist in terms of producing objects which can be sold and given a monetary return to me – though I’m very pleased when I sell things of course, because it gives me more money to be able to develop my work further, and this is also essential. But basically, I operate on a loss. I’ve had to write any notions of being a success and that kind of thing, out. By doing that of course, it frees me to concentrate on problems, which I set myself. My activities are somewhat restricted because I’m working on my salary only, and I use all my salary for these kinds of purposes. And I’m in a continual state of debt because of this. But at the same time, I hold to the situation, that basically I do have a wage to support myself and the family, and I think of the work I do in terms of what’s involved with it and for no other reason.

JDP: Have you done any commission recently? What would you feel about commission sculpture at this point?

JA: Well I usually do commission sculpture if anything is offered to me, to get myself out of debt a little. And I certainly won’t – even in the commission field – I don’t accept any work unless I’m interested enough to do it. In other words, I’ve got to feel some identity with the problem before I’m prepared to spend my time doing that. And some of the interesting problems I’ve had – have been with the Palmerston North Teacher’s College work – the work for the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, and recently I did a work for Metal Import Company. I made very little money on the Palmerston North Work and also the Metal Import Company, and I owe money on, I operated on a loss for the Commonwealth Games sculpture. So, it’s not a profitable area, either financially, or in terms of my time. But nevertheless, one of the things about commercial work is that there is a certain amount of working capital, and that working capital is money which is not, in ordinary circumstances, available to you. And it gives you an opportunity to make structures which you wouldn’t have otherwise. And briefly speaking, that’s why I accept commissions of that kind – because couldn’t normally afford to do them with my salary.

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APO’s triumphant production of a fiery Il Trovatore

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Gustavo Porta (Manrico), Erika Grimaldi (Leonora) and Simon Piazzola (Conte di Luna) Image – Adrian Malloch

Verdi, Il Trovatore

The Trusts Community Foundation

Opera in Concert

Auckland Philharmonia 

New Zealand Opera Chorus

July 16

Auckland Town Hall

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

A couple of weeks ago we heard four great singers on stage singing Verdi’s Requiem in the Auckland Town Hall – Gustavo Porta, Erika Grimaldi, Olesya Petrova and Petri Lindroos. That tremendous concert was only their warmup to last  Saturday’s triumphant performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in which they all exceeded expectations.

Central to the story of Il Trovatore is the image of a woman being burned at the stake. This image of flames devouring a human being dominates much of the story and the characters of the opera. The twin notions of the flames of love   and the flames of destruction are ever present.

The opera takes place during a Civil War in Spain and has two intertwined stories. One is centred around Azucena and her quest for vengeance against the Count di Luna for burning her mother at the stake because she had bewitched the count’s infant brother.

The other plot concerns  a love triangle between the count who is pursuing Leonora, who is actually in love with the troubadour and  rebel leader, Manrico, who serenades Leonora. 

The count challenges Manrico to a duel, but Manrico is unable to kill the count despite gaining the advantage. Azucena is revealed as Manrico’s mother and then it turns out he is the infant brother the count believed was dead so when the count executes Manrico, Azucena has her revenge by declaring that the count has killed his own brother.

The imagery of the devouring flame is heard at its best at the beginning of the second act when the vengeful Azucena, sung by Olesya Petrova recalls the fire that killed her mother in the aria “Stride la Vampa” (“the flames are roaring). She describes her drive to see vengeance on Count di Luna, singing that “The dreadful memory torments me -It makes my blood run cold.”

Her telling of the horrific tale would have made  the audiences own blood run cold as well. She also conveyed the idea of the obsessed gypsy being  driven mad by her memories in a vital and nuanced emotional delivery.

Soprano Erika Grimaldi was an impressive Leonora  with a heavenly voice which, along with her facial and body language was able  to express a sense of ecstasy when singing of her love for  Manrico.

Gustavo Porta as Manrico had a commanding stage presence with a robust voice which captured  a sense of the heroic along with that of the ardent lover.

Simone Piazzola as the  Conte di Luna gave a great performance expressing his jealous rage. His sharp looks and menacing gestures were the embodiment of the ruthless, spurned suitor verging on mad man.  His ability to reach and hold high notes without being forced was very impressive.

In the first act when the two men and Leonora sang about love and death, they gave an inspiring and moving account.

In the third act when Manrico and Leanora  sing of their love, the two singers and orchestra merged in a spine tingling display. Then in the final moments of the opera  Leonora’s sweet, anguished voice erupted, soaring above the orchestra, as though in the throes of passion.

The chorus did a splendid job notably in the popular  Anvil Chorus where their singing of “Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie” (the sky reveals her nightly garb) reinforced the flame imagery.

In the minor roles Petri Lindroos as Ferrando made his bold entrance from the auditorium, striding up the aisle displaying an elegant manner with precise gestures and a authoritative voice  while Morag Atchison’s Ines was nice foil to Leonora

Throughout the performance conductor Giordano Bellincampi ensured that the orchestra served the needs of the singers, providing them with the necessary emotional emphasis and musical drama.

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NZSO and Paul Lewis perform Beethoven’s piano concertos

John Daly-Peoples

Paul Lewis

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Paul Lewis, The Beethoven Piano Concertos

Auckland Town Hall

August 12 – 14

Beethoven never got to play all of his own piano concertos as he was severely deaf by the time he had composed his fifth concerto. However next month the acclaimed English pianist Paul Lewis will perform the composers entire Piano Concerto cycle in three back-to-back concerts in Auckland with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

The pianist who is highly regarded for his interpretations of Beethoven’s piano works, joins the NZSO directly from the United States just days after performing the Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle at the prestigious Tanglewood festival with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a separate solo recital at the Aspen Music Festival.

The concerts which will be performed August 12 – 14, exclusively in Auckland, are understood to be the first time in Aotearoa New Zealand that all Beethoven Piano Concertos will have been performed  over three consecutive days.

Beethoven composed the five piano concertos over a twenty two year period between the late 1780’s and 1809 and his  affinity for rhythm and a desire to display a vibrant defiant energy shows in these works, all of which he initially conceived as vehicles for himself to perform. Given Beethoven’s hearing loss, which occurred gradually over two decades, it is no surprise that he connected most viscerally to rhythmic themes, which he could perceive through vibrations.

With these works Beethoven essentially declared the composer’s artistic imperative to make music that reflects the personal rather than the general.

Gemma New Image – Ray Cox

NZSO Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor Gemma New will lead the Orchestra for all three concerts, which are part of the NZSO’s Immerse 2022 festival in association with The New Zealand  Herald (nzherald.co.nz.)

Lewis knows Beethoven’s Piano Concerto cycle well and  was the first pianist to perform all five concertos at the  BBC Proms more than a decade ago when the Financial Times reviewer noted that “His Beethoven is a classy fellow, with considerable stature and depth, but meeting him can be a more soothing experience than one imagines. this fiery, cantankerous composer was in real life. In the Piano Concerto No.1 Lewis’s playing exhibited an exemplary sense of balance and finesse .

His later recording of the cycle with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was hailed by Gramophone magazine as “civilized, musically responsible and vital playing”.

“There’s definitely some kind of journey from the first to the last piano concerto,” Lewis has said. “I think it tells us very specific and valuable things about Beethoven. Each piece is completely unique.”

For Reverence, the second of the three concerts, New also leads the Orchestra for New Zealand composer Tabea Squire’s work Variations. For the third concert, Emperor, the programme finale is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Orpheus

Auckland Town Hall, Friday 12th  August, 7.30pm

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4

Reverence

Auckland Town Hall, Saturday 13 August, 7.30pm

TABEA SQUIRE Variations

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3

Emperor

Auckland  Town Hall, Sunday 14August 7.30pm

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Scheherazade

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NZSO and Paul Lewis perform Beethoven’s piano concertos

John Daly-Peoples

Paul Lewis

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Paul Lewis, The Beethoven Piano Concertos

Auckland Town Hall

August 12 – 14

Beethoven never got to play all of his own piano concertos as he was severely deaf by the time he had composed his fifth concerto. However next month the acclaimed English pianist Paul Lewis will perform the composers entire Piano Concerto cycle in three back-to-back concerts in Auckland with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

The pianist who is highly regarded for his interpretations of Beethoven’s piano works, joins the NZSO directly from the United States just days after performing the Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle at the prestigious Tanglewood festival with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a separate solo recital at the Aspen Music Festival.

The concerts which will be performed August 12 – 14, exclusively in Auckland, are understood to be the first time in Aotearoa New Zealand that all Beethoven Piano Concertos will have been performed  over three consecutive days.

Beethoven composed the five piano concertos over a twenty two year period between the late 1780’s and 1809 and his  affinity for rhythm and a desire to display a vibrant defiant energy shows in these works, all of which he initially conceived as vehicles for himself to perform. Given Beethoven’s hearing loss, which occurred gradually over two decades, it is no surprise that he connected most viscerally to rhythmic themes, which he could perceive through vibrations.

With these works Beethoven essentially declared the composer’s artistic imperative to make music that reflects the personal rather than the general.

Gemma New Image – Ray Cox

NZSO Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor Gemma New will lead the Orchestra for all three concerts, which are part of the NZSO’s Immerse 2022 festival in association with The New Zealand  Herald (nzherald.co.nz.)

Lewis knows Beethoven’s Piano Concerto cycle well and  was the first pianist to perform all five concertos at the  BBC Proms more than a decade ago when the Financial Times reviewer noted that “His Beethoven is a classy fellow, with considerable stature and depth, but meeting him can be a more soothing experience than one imagines. this fiery, cantankerous composer was in real life. In the Piano Concerto No.1 Lewis’s playing exhibited an exemplary sense of balance and finesse .

His later recording of the cycle with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was hailed by Gramophone magazine as “civilized, musically responsible and vital playing”.

“There’s definitely some kind of journey from the first to the last piano concerto,” Lewis has said. “I think it tells us very specific and valuable things about Beethoven. Each piece is completely unique.”

For Reverence, the second of the three concerts, New also leads the Orchestra for New Zealand composer Tabea Squire’s work Variations. For the third concert, Emperor, the programme finale is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Orpheus

Auckland Town Hall, Friday 12th  August, 7.30pm

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4

Reverence

Auckland Town Hall, Saturday 13 August, 7.30pm

TABEA SQUIRE Variations

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3

Emperor

Auckland  Town Hall, Sunday 14August 7.30pm

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Scheherazade

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ATC’s skilful probing of a messed-up family

Reviwed by John Daly-Peoples

Stephen Lovatt (James),Simon Leary (Edmund), Jarod Rawiri (Jamie), Theresa Healey (Mary) Image – Andi Crown

Eugene O ‘Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night

Auckland Theatre Company

Q Theatre

Until July 30

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Eugene O’Neill in his detailed notes describing the living room of the Tyrone family in “Long Day’s Journey into Night” requires that in the centre of the set above a bookcase is a portrait of William Shakespeare. The image of Shakespeare is an indication of the language O’Neill is aspiring to but also pointing out  that the Tyrone family is another in the list of great tragic families – the Lears, the Macbeths, the Montagues and the Capulets. *

Shane Bosher’s latest production of the work is a skilful probing of a messed-up family. We live a day and a night with the members of the Tyrone family: James, the brash celebrated alcoholic actor-father, Mary the opium-addicted mother who has just returned from a sanatorium, the rebellious, aspiring alcoholic older brother and Edmund the poetic, sickly younger  brother. Through them we explore the self-delusions, lack of communication, guilt and  accusations that bind the family together and that threaten to destroy them.

The play draws heavily on O’Neill’s personal history with the three male characters named after his father and the two brothers in a family where  death and misery were constant – his own suicidal impulses, and the fact that his father, mother, and brother all died within a four-year period.

Much of the tension in the play is around the family’s suspicions of Mary’s relapse into drug taking and the anticipation of a serious prognosis on Edmunds ailing health.

Each of them characters is self-centred and self-pitying. None seem to know what they want from life but blame the others for their position. They are each in their own cocoons and tip toe around each other. None of them can avoid dragging up the past to try and understand their present as they constantly deny the reality of the tragedies that beset them.

Theresa Healey’s performance as Mary is a remarkable exploration of addiction coupled with a mental condition  which means she is unable to connect with the problems of her sons and husband. Mary’s  flights of fancy are conveyed by Healey with an almost ethereal presence as she wanders the stage her eyes and hands only tentatively connecting with reality. Her second half soliloquy was tour de force, full of emotional energy

Much of Stephen Lovatt’s performance as James is filled with wry wit and clever observations. He does an exceptional drunken tirade where he includes the incisive and relevant Shakespearean quote from Julius Caeser “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.

He manages to portray the belligerent former actor who desperately tries to hold onto  his patriarchal position as he loses the respect of his children and wife    His position in the household  is continually being subverted, though he frequently succeeds at holding together his collapsing world by sheer force of will as well as a trace of violence

The dying Edmund who Simon Leary interprets as some late nineteenth century Romantic has an interdependent relationship with his mother in which death has links to the past and present. There are some fine scenes of the Mary and Edmund as they explore their tenuous connections.

Edmund and his older brother (Jarod Rawiri) also have some taut exchanges exploring their love / hate relationship which is brought into sharp relief in Jamie’s alcoholic ramble

John Verryt’s set works well sitting on what appeared to be crumbling foundations, this and the  mismatched chairs are all metaphors for the disintegrating family. The revolving stage presumably maps out the course of the day and night of the play but it seems to rotate in a random manner and without reason.

There are a couple of  fairly potent bits of symbolism – some white lilies  displayed on a central table symbolising the funeral state of the family and right near the end Man y dons her old wedding dress which James then cradle like a sleeping / dying infant.

*O’Neill was specific about the books displayed in the bookcase – novels by Balzac, Zola and Stendhal, philosophical works by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche Mark and Engels, plays by Ibsen, Shaw, Strindberg and poetry by Swinburne, Rossetti, Wilde and Kipling.

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Verdi’s Requiem filled with turbulent emotions and grand gestures

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

APO< Verdi Requiem. Photo Adrian Malloch

Giuseppe Verdi. Requiem

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

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

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

Auckland Town Hall

July 7

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Verdi’s Requiem was initially composed in memory of  Rossini but not performed until some time later when it was dedicated to Alessandro Manzoni the Italian poet, novelist and philosopher whose  novel The Betrothal was a symbol of the Italian Risorgimento.

The work is a Celebration Mass for the dead and is filled with themes of the wrath of God as well as words of mercy and forgiveness. It is the contrast between these two aspects of sustained drama and calmer moments which helps give the work its  power conveying turbulent emotions and  grand gestures.

Conductor Giovanni Bellincampi made sure the full range of emotions and tones were explored while maintaining a bracing tempo throughout.

He ensured that both the intimate moments as well as the grand panoramas and  explosions of sound were captured.

With the opening bars of the “Introit” he kept the strings to just a whisper, barely audible, adding warmth through the soft sighs of the chorus.

This opening was followed by the dramatic and terrifying  “Dies Irae” where the massed power of orchestra and chorus gave the work a sense of both the resurrection and the apocalypse.

The remarkable choral and orchestral forces were complemented by four soloists.

The Italian soprano Erika Grimaldi showed off a colourful voice with a luscious tone and her often piercing voice provided some moments of drama. Her rendition of the “Libera me” was flecked through with urgency, describing her terror in broken phrases.

Mezzo Soprano Olesya Petrova’s voluptuous voice expressed a sensitivity and intensity of emotion and when the two female voices combined they produced some splendid souring moments.

Bass Petri Lindroos intoned with a majestic sound, often touched with a sense of mystery while tenor Gustavo Porta who gave a fine rendering of ‘Ingemisco’ often seemed to struggle.

Next week the APO will be presenting Verdi’s Il Trovatore featuring many of the soloists form the Verdi performance including Erika Grimaldi as Leonora, Olesya Petrova as Azucena, Gustavo Porta as Manrico  and Petri Lindroos as Ferrando.

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“Collected Stories”. Superbly written, brilliantly directed, with two fine actors

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Ruth Steiner (Elizabeth Hawthorne) and Lisa Morrison (Michelle Blundell)

Collected Stories by Donald Margulies

Plumb Productions

Pitt  St Theatre

Until July 10

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Playwright Donald Margulies 1997 work Collected Stories is a brilliant piece of writing for  a couple of actors with its musing on the mentor- pupil relationship. Here we find Ruth Steiner (Elizabeth Hawthorne), a gifted New York writer (she must be important as she gets calls from Norman Mailer and Susan Sontag) and university lecturer with a keen sense of humour who lives by herself.

She has private sessions with aspiring writers and one day encounters the  lively , ambitious student writer, Lisa Morrison (Michelle Blundell) who so captivates Ruth that she takes her on as student and hires her as her personal assistant.

Over the course of several years, we listen to their conversations, learning much about the processes and perils of writing with Rath explaining and expounding on her own writing career including her time as a poet in Greenwich Village and her affair with one of  the great Beat poets. She talks about various approaches to writing including the concept of taking inspiration and ideas from any and all sources.

Over time the pair become close in a symbiotic relationship with  Lisa growing in stature as a writer with the publication of her collection of short stories and eventually a novel. Ruth is both impressed and happy with the book of poetry but when she reads the novel, she is appalled by the fact that Lisa has used Ruth’s Jewish background, her experiences of becoming a  writer and her affair with the poet as the basis of the tale.

The relationship becomes tense with Ruth seeing Lisa as a parasitic and Lisa unable to comprehend why her mentor’s  advice which she has taken is seen as some form of identity theft.

The play traverses notions of who should and can write about other people’s lives – is there a need for consent, how far does appropriation go, whose voice can be used.

But at it heart the work is about relationships and both characters have to deal with issues around  trust, loyalty, and mutual needs in a complex web of circumstances.

It’s a superbly written play and director Paul Gittins  has managed to bring together designers and actors who make the work immensely enjoyable and satisfying.

Elizabeth Hawthorne is it her best moving from the sharp academic to offended and hectoring ex teacher while  Michelle Blundell’s developing character gains in confidence and understanding. She is particularly spirited in her book-reading scene standing in front of the audience.

The two women create a nuanced, layered relationship and our sympathies are divided with the two characters laying out their lives and motivation.

Designers John Parker, Elizabeth Whiting and Michael Goodwin have done a remarkable job with the set, costumes and lighting to capture the period  and the location. The back projection of black and white film of late century New York are particularly  effective.

Book Reading scene. Lisa Morrison (Michelle Blundell) and Ruth Steiner (Elizabeth Hawthorne)
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Gilbert and George: The living sculptures documenting the life of the streets

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Gilbert and George, Bag Day

Gilbert & George

The Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Exhibition 2022

Auckland Art Gallery

Until September 11

Reviewed by John  Daly-Peoples

I had spent an hour with Gilbert and George talking about their work and a range of art issues. They were affable and measured in all the comments and views, genteel in their demeanour.

But as we were leaving the exhibition space a group of school children filed past and George heard one of the attendants say something to one of them. For the first time, George raised his voice and became agitated. “What! you’re not letting children into our exhibition“. It was quickly explained that this was a paying exhibition and that children didn’t automatically get admission. But George was still furious. This was an offence against his notions of the democracy of “art for all”, that culture which is the main driver of Western society was somehow being denied to a young child.

The idea of being denied  access to culture was something that troubles the two artists who often rail against cultural institutions. They know that there are too many artists and not enough spaces and walls to show all the art but the cultural gatekeepers wield too much power. But the are also aware of the contradictions of their stance in being feted by the institutions they criticise.

They know that the Tate in London has twenty-three of their works but rarely shows them. They also believe there has been a lot of hostility directed towards them and were  never perceived as being part of the art world. It is why they in the process of building the four storey Gilbert & George Centre in  London’s East End as part of the  Gilbert & George’s Art Foundation, and which will display their works  through changing exhibitions.

They like to think that they are enabling people to change, letting them see the  liberalism in the conservative and the conservativism in the liberal. They want people to change but will not tell them how to. For them the only way that society will change through, is by engaging with culture.

They believe that the greatness of Western culture has been achieved through culture, not wars or politics, that Western culture with its art, books and music has given us the freedoms we have from oppression of religion and tyranny.

Their work is generally anti-establishment, either gently mocking or offensively savage in rejecting the constraints of authority and giving the underbelly of society a voice. With the “Beard Paintings” they include the small advertisements which are found on lampposts and telephone boxes exposing the often-hidden world of sex escorts, fetishes and desperate aspirations.

These stand in contrast to the newspaper billboard works which show the media’s preoccupation with certain words such as “Death”, “Knife”, “Kill” and “Terror”.

Gilbert and George, Knife Straight

Many of their works take anti-religious position with works such as “Jesus Jack” and “Carry On” with a medieval Christ dismissed with a red cross. There are also  anti-Islam images such as “Mile End” and “Puttee” with burqa clad figures.

But when I note that in one of their works, “Bag Day” a reclining Gilbert looks like an ecstatic St Cecilia by Bernini he is almost offended as they have a distaste for religious art and religious thinking. George does say however that they would probably change their stance if the religions would apologise for all the wrongs they have perpetrated

While expressing many conservative views, their main concern is what they refer to as the world outside their door, the people of Spitalfields and their daily lives and environments. They look on their local area as part of their studio and walk through the area every day. Walking is their research method and where they gain inspiration. They photograph graffiti, unusual images of street life, newspaper billboards,  figures in burqas. They also use the things they find on the street – the small nitrous oxide capsules, balloons, rubbish and they photograph themselves with landmarks like the local bus shelter – all of which make their way into their montage prints.

The newspaper agent’s billboard which are used in a number of their works such as  “Knife Straight” are stolen when they go for their walks and currently they have a stock of more than 5000 of them.  .

These collections of objects, people and events build up a portrait of East London as well as documenting the pairs journey through their suburb and lives.

They made the decision to become living works of art shortly after leaving St Martins Art school, announcing their relationship by painting their faces silver and posing like two robots. From that time on they turned their very existence into works of art

They consider themselves something of outliers in the art world. They don’t have all that many friends and  don’t go to many of the art exhibitions.  Some of their contemporaries from St Martins Art School have gone on to be successful in other areas notably Richard Long and Barry Flanagan who I point out to them has a show currently on at Gow Langsford just across the road.  In 1969 they hosted The Meal, an elaborate dinner party that included thirteen people with David Hockney as the guest of honour.

Early on they were entranced on hearing Flanagan and Allen singing the music hall standard, “Underneath the Arches”. This idea of living under the railway arches and dreaming of being artists suited them perfectly and the song has become part of their persona, creating the idea of a “singing Sculpture” in which they sing the song besuited and blank-faced. The exhibition features them singing the song.

They produce all their work from taking the photographs (they take photos of each other), manipulating the images, experimenting with colour and even the  printing. They are now fully digital having given up their old cameras, dark room equipment and enlargers

“A lot of modern artists are not doing what we are doing. For us, the centre of our art is a human being. The others have a formalistic attitude, of nice colours and nice shapes. We have a moral dimension: what is good and what is bad in people.”