New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Auckland Town Hall
The highlight of the NZSO’s recent Beethoven and Bruch concert was Bruch's Violin Concerto played by Canadian violinist Karen Gomyo.
With most popular pieces of classical music played by international soloists, you normally get what you were expecting, some performances better than others but the soloists are normally inspiring.
Karen Gomyo was more than inspiring – she was spectacular. She not only played with an exceptional, technical wizardry but also her demeanour added to the richness of the work.
She was thoughtful and focused in the gentler passages, playing with soft strokes of the bow but was electrifying in dealing with the more dramatic sequences, attacking her violin aggressively.
At times, she appeared to go into a state of contemplation inspired by the romantic love or religious obsession conveyed by the work, and her body trembled as though impelled by the music. She also brought a dignity to the work, seeming to respond to the emotional core of the music.
Although the luminous sounds she created may have been due to her 300-year-old Stradivarius, it was her own incomparable ability to understand the music that made her performance so seductive.
She received a series of resounding ovations from the audience which was rewarded with an elegant piece by Piazzolla. The NZSO got even more for its money from Gomyo as she joined the first violins in the major work on the programme, Beethoven's Symphony No 7.
The work had been written for a concert for Austrian and Bavarian troops wounded at the Battle of Hanau, the last of Napoleon's successful battles. It anticipates the emperor's eventual defeat and combines martial themes, dance melodies, reflective passages and a memorable funeral march.
The work can be played as would have been the first concert with lots of bravado and flamboyance but conductor Edo de Waart carefully led the orchestra in exploring the themes and structures of the music. He got to the heart of the interwoven aspects of architecture and landscape of fury, joy and reflection.
The short opening work on the programme was Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams, which is a brilliant introduction to the composer’s brand of minimalist music. The piece uses the full orchestra at times like a giant mechanical machine, with violin bows pumping along with the other instruments, which were in constant motion.
The symphony orchestra will make a national tour from September 14-23 featuring Pianomania with Freddy Kempf. Works to be played are:
Handel's Concerto for Keyboard, op. 4. No. 1 in G minor, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, in C major (2nd movement), Chopin's Andante spianto et Grande polonaise brillante, Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor (3rd movement), Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor (2nd movement) and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.
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