NZSO rounds off the year with spectacular concert

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Auckland Town Hall

Rounding off its concert year the NZSO presented one of its more spectacular concerts, featuring the Brahms Symphony No 3, the Sibelius Violin Concerto and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll.

The Sibelius Violin Concerto, which is one of a handful of great violin works, needs to be played with careful attention to detail Dutch violinist Janine Jansen gave a technically brilliant performance of work and displayed an understanding and sympathy for the work, exploring its range of moods.

She played in a way that emphasised the strong restless passages and the brooding earthy passages as well as the quiet contemplative sequences. These conveyed both images of landscape and personal emotional states. It was the landscape of Finland coupled with his own nationalism that was the driving force behind much of Sibelius' work and his search for the sounds and sense of the Finnish landscape. These aspects need to be considered and Jansen did so with absolute finesse.

There were times where she seemed to be caressing her instrument in an almost passionate display while at other times she was ferociously attacking it. There were passages where the playing was limpid and ghost-like and sometimes impressionistic. Then in the passages that were probably derived from folk melodies she played like an exuberant gypsy.

She made all the transitions from the light touch to the aggressive easily, creating dramatic and expressive moments. Her bowing at the end of the second movement seemed to display a mixture of gratification and exasperation, somehow acknowledging the physical demands the work places on the player.

Conductor Edo de Waart’s sensitive conducting emphasised the strong brass as well as the full orchestral sounds but held back on overpowering the violinist, creating a tension between orchestra and soloist that added to the drama of the work.

Preceding the Sibelius was a forceful playing of Brahms' Symphony No 3, which like his other symphonies is not as heroic as Beethoven or as despairing as Mahler but the work has a dramatic, atmospheric quality that gives a sense of the composer contemplating his life and his world.

Mr De Waart ensured the ever-changing melodies flowed elegantly and there was a real sense of the various parts of the orchestra interrelating.

Also on the programme was Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, a piece written as a birthday gift to his wife, Cosima. As an introduction to the music of Wagner it is the ideal starting place. The music was filled with passion and drama. The orchestra was in grand form, giving the work an enthusiastic performance.

Next year’s programme also features some major soloists including Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto, Augustin Hadelich playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Peter Oundjian playing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto and the NZSO concert master playing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto.

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