NZSO and Opera NZ performing great 19th century compositions

Karen Gomyo

Salina Fisher Rainphase, Berg Violin Concerto, Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D major, The Titan
Wellington August 11, Auckland August 18

John Adams Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A major
Wellington August 12, Auckland Augurs 19

Berlioz, La Damnation de Faust 
Wellington, August 25, Auckland August 27

This month the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will be playing three major 19th-century works, including Mahler’s Symphony No 1, Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 and the Damnation of Faust by Berlioz.

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, The Titan is probably the first of the great modern symphonies. While it draws on Beethoven and Wagner, it is a work in which the search for personal expression has the composer creating a work that speaks of the angst of the 20th-century.

Beethoven had a changeable relationship with Napoleon and his Symphony No 3 (The Eroica) was originally intended as a celebration of the great man but, when Napoleon crowned himself, the composer deleted the dedication. His seventh symphony, however, began as a celebration of Napoleon's retreat from Russia and his other defeats on European soil. One of Beethoven's most popular works at the time, it combines martial themes, dance melodies, reflective passages and a memorable funeral march.

Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust features four solo voices, the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus, a children's chorus, along with the NZSO. It is a work of extremely broad scope; part opera, part cantata. It is an epic retelling of the Faust story that captures the extremes of man’s ambition and folly in music, by turns exquisite and grotesque, described by Berlioz as a "dramatic legend."

British tenor Andrew Staples will sing Faust, a role he performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra recently where he was praised as being an absolute revelation.

He will be joined by Eric Owens performing the demonic Mephistopheles. Russian mezzo-soprano Alisa Kolosova will portray the tragic Marguerite and New Zealander James Clayton will sing the role of Brander.

In addition to these three major works, the orchestra is also presenting Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto and Max Bruch’s incandescent Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor played by Karen Gomyo who impressed New Zealand audiences in 2015 with her performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

There are a couple of newer works on the programme with John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine and a recent work by New Zealand composer Salina Fisher whose haunting work, Rainphase, was inspired by Wellington’s infamously intemperate weather.


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