London music season includes New Zealand premiere

Mendelssohn and Brahms
Philharmonia Orchestra
Royal Festival Hall

The Royal Festival Hall in London is one of the important cultural centres of the city as part of the Southbank centre.  Next week the centre will feature the London premiere of a major work by New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

His oratorio Gallipoli to the Somme, which premiered in Dunedin last year, is impressive in the way in which the composer has combined orchestra, choir and soloists. He has also carefully combined poetry with extracts from diaries and letters. The concert will also include works by Vaughan Williams.

Last week the Philharmonia Orchestra’s concert, which was conducted by the Italian conductor Daniel Gatti, featured work by Mendelssohn and Brahms.

Gatti exhibited a remarkable range of gestures with baton and hands as well as some distinctive body language that seemed to trace out the drama of the music. He inspired the orchestra with the elaborate flexing of his twirling baton and hand motions that seemed to be tracing out elaborate three-dimensional constructions of the music as well as the beauty and delicacy.

He was fully aware of layered and overlapping themes of the music and guided the orchestra through the romantic fervour of the work, never forgetting the touches of musical whimsy or the grand expressive moments of colour and emotion that convey something of the composer’s life and his delight in the Italian landscape, especially Naples and Capri.

There are also passages that prefigure Mahler and Gatti ensured that we got the connection with the deep bass sounds with their sense of foreboding and austere grandeur.

Brahms’s First Symphony had a brooding character to it while the second is much livelier and more like a pastoral work. Particularly in the first movement there is a lightness and freshness, with the conductor ensuring the orchestra gave a bright and colourful interpretation. Later in the work there were darker elements intruding into the idyllic landscape with highly expressive crescendos. In the third movement there was a splendid dialogue between woodwinds and strings while the last movement with kits muscular motifs was splendidly realised.

Future Concerts  Royal Festival Hall include:

June 13: Southbank Sinfonia with Parliament Choir, Anthony Ritchie's Gallipoli to the Somme.(Queen Elizabeth Hall)

June 14: Philharmonia Orchestra, Rossini's William Tell Overture, Grieg's Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 5.

June 28: Philharmonia Orchestra, works by Schoenberg, Gurreleider.

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