New Zealand Symphony Orchestra plays Bach in its first 2018 concert

The will begin this year with performances over two nights in February with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra presenting some of Bach’s best-loved works on February 2, followed by a summer concert by the NZSO National Youth Orchestra on February 3.

Back to Bach, at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, will feature works by the music giant and two of his contemporaries, Italian violinist Pietro Locatelli and French opera composer Jean-Philippe Rameau.

The orchestra will perform J S Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major; Locatelli's Concerto Grosso in E flat major, Op. 7 No. 6; Rameau's Suite from Dardanus; J S Bach's  Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048;  and J S Bach's  Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068.

NZSO concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen, who will direct the concert and perform, says it will be a superb mix of music from the Baroque era 1600-1750. The Cathedral of St Paul is also an appropriate venue as Bach composed many of his works to be performed in churches.

Back to Bach is exciting not only because we play two of his very famous Brandenburg concertos but also music from the same era by Locatelli and Rameau. This music is the basis for what classical music is now.”

Mr Leppänen says the concert is also special because there is no conductor. “Every player is extremely important. Everyone is basically leading the music, so you will see and hear a very active performance from all of us.”

The concert will also include one of Bach’s most popular and admired works, the 2nd movement of Suite No. 3 in D major, best known as Air on the G String.

The 60-member National Youth Orchestra will perform Beethoven's Leonore No. 3. Op. 72b, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 and Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88 on February 2 at Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch and on February 3 at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

The orchestra will be conducted by Australian Guy Noble and will accompany the young Kiwi cellist Matthias Balzat. Balzat won the prestigious National Concerto Competition last year and will perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto, one of the most popular cello concerti ever written. The programme also features Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, from his only opera, Fidelio, and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 inspired by the composer’s love of Bohemian music.

The Wellington concert will be the culmination of a week-long summer music camp in Lyttlelton that includes intensive rehearsals with the conductor and select NZSO players, followed by a public performance in Christchurch.

“The NZSO National Youth Orchestra players are excited to rehearse with Guy Noble and members of the NZSO. For them, it’s not only a chance to perform three great works. They know the rehearsals will help them grow as musicians,” NZSO chief executive Christopher Blake says.