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Cultural confusion: APO and NZSO go to Spain and Russia

Vero Season, Viva EspanaAuckland Philharmonia OrchestraAuckland Town HallJune 17Russian RomanticsNew Zealand Symphony OrchestraAuckland Town HallJune 18An Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra concert entitled Viva Espana might well have led the audience to thi

John Daly-Peoples
Tue, 22 Jun 2010

Vero Season, Viva Espana
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Auckland Town Hall
June 17

Russian Romantics
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Auckland Town Hall
June 18

An Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra concert entitled Viva Espana might well have led the audience to think it was going to be a concert of Spanish music.

But no, this was music inspired by Spain. All the composers were French rather than Spanish, although Ravel had been born on the border with Spain and Bizet had Spanish ancestry.

Not to be outdone in the cultural confusion stakes, the next night the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra offered a concert of Russian Romantics, which featured Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, that managed to slip in Dvorak, the Czech composer.

The highlight of the APO’s concert was Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol with the violinist Josef Spacek, who was the winner of last year's Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

He gave the work a wondrous sound, dealing with both the pianissimo sections of the work as well as the great rasping sounds with equal finesse.

He seemed to take on different personae when playing various parts of the piece, which ranged from the classical tradition to the gypsy violin. At times he was almost laid-back and unruffled while at other times he was animated and frenetic, bringing out the drama of the work.

The APO under conductor Baldur Bronnimann played a lively and expressive Carmen Suite by Bizet as well as Ravel’s masterful Bolero.

The works may not have been the great classical pieces but they provided the audience with a thoroughly entertaining evening.

Freddy Kempf showed himself to be not only a great technician but also a suave showman, opening the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto with a dazzling explosion of chords.

Most of the time he seemed to be setting the tempo, leading the orchestra on a frantic race, but then he would demure, allowing the orchestra to dominate, the piano a mere accompaniment.

All the time he was watching the orchestra and conductor Alexander Lazarev, the interplay between pianist, conductor and orchestra creating an intense romantic display.

He ranged from maniacal passages of playing, thundering through the music to tentative sections where he seemed to be exploring completely new musical territory.

Freddy Kempf the showman came out at the end of the concert with his encore. Rather than show off his brilliant technique he played like a honky tonk keyboard man with a brash version of Souza’s Stars and Stripes, in which he seems to be intent on demolishing the piano with his huge attacking chords.

Forthcoming concerts:

Presenting Midori
Beethoven, Violin Concerto
Neilsen, Helios
Bartok, The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
Auckland Town Hall
June 24

Schoenberg, Transfigured Night
Schumann, Cello Concerto (soloist Li-Wei)
Brahms, Piano Quartet
Wellington July 16; Napier July 20; Auckland July 23

John Daly-Peoples
Tue, 22 Jun 2010
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Cultural confusion: APO and NZSO go to Spain and Russia