NZSO starts touring season with Strauss, Mozart and Beethoven

NZSO concerts feature acclaimed mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung  and clarinetist Martin Frost.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra: Elgar & Strauss
In association with Crowne Plaza Auckland
Edo de Waart conductor
Michelle DeYoung mezzo-soprano
Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave)
Elgar, Sea Pictures
Richard Strauss, Eine Alpensinfonie (Alpine Symphony)
Auckland, March 24
Wellington, March 25

New Zealand  Symphony Orchestra: Mozart & Beethoven
In association with Dimension Data
Edo de Waart conductor
Martin Fröst clarinet
John Adams Shaker Loops
Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
Beethoven Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, Pastoral
Hamilton, March 30; Auckland, March 31; Napier, April 1; Christchurch, April 4; Dunedin, April 5; Wellington, April 7

Two major concerts by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will begin touring the country later this month featuring two major musical stars.

Grammy Award-winning singer Michelle DeYoung makes her debut performing Edward Elgar’s song cycle Sea Pictures, which features in the NZSO’s Elgar & Strauss concerts in Auckland and Wellington.

DeYoung has performed in the world’s finest opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and Opera National de Paris, and has starred in many lauded productions, including Samson et Dalila, Parsifal, Bluebeard’s Castle, Hamlet and Oedipus Rex.

She has sung with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and Berliner Staatskapelle.

In 2001 DeYoung won Grammy Awards for best classical album and best opera recording and in 2003 for best classical album.

The internationally renowned NZSO music director, Edo de Waart, has previously worked with DeYoung and is delighted she will be performing with the NZSO. “She is a marvellous artist and one of the world’s best mezzo-soprano singers,” he says.

For the Elgar & Strauss season, de Waart will also conduct two other great works inspired by nature – Richard Strauss’ epic Alpine Symphony and Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave).

The extraordinarily evocative and detailed Alpine Symphony celebrates a day’s climbing in the Alps and was inspired by Strauss’ own walks in the mountains and his love of nature. “It’s a huge piece with enormous forces on stage and I’m very pleased that it’s part of my Masterworks series for 2017,”  de Waart says.

Mendelssohn’s enchanting Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) drew inspiration from the German composer’s visit at age 20 to Fingal’s Cave on the isolated Scottish island of Staffa. The overture premiered in 1832. Years later Richard Wagner described it as Mendelssohn’s masterpiece.

Elgar’s Sea Pictures, composed between his magnificent Enigma Variations and his powerful The Dream of Gerontius, was his only song cycle for voice and orchestra and remains a favourite with singers. Elgar set the music to five poems, including works by his wife Alice and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning.

Renowned English contralto Clara Butt was chosen as the singer for the premiere of Sea Pictures in 1899. Instead of wearing formal recital attire she caused a stir by wearing a mermaid costume.

Swedish musician, Martin Fröst, who is rated as one of the best clarinettists in the world today and was hailed by the New York Times as “breathtaking” and “a paragon of lyricism” is to perform for the first time with the Symphony Orchestra from March 30.

Fröst joins the NZSO for its six-city Mozart & Beethoven tour, the second of de Waart’s 2017 Masterworks concert series.

Fröst will perform Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, a piece he says changed how composers treat the clarinet. “I always say that Mozart was really the one who blew life into the instrument. With the second movement of that concerto, he invented the soul of the clarinet.”

Critics love Fröst. The New York Times described him as having “a virtuosity and musicianship unsurpassed by any clarinettist – perhaps any instrumentalist – in my memory”.

The Guardian praised “his extraordinarily pure tone, sinuous phrasing and seamless breathing technique,” while The Times declared: “Until you’ve heard Martin Fröst, you really haven’t heard the clarinet.”

Viewing a single performance by the instrumentalist was enough to convince de Waart that Fröst must play with the NZSO. “He is a marvellous musician and a terrific clarinettist,” says de Waart. “I know that he will bring great musicality and inventiveness to the work.”

De Waart and the NZSO will also bring to life Ludwig van Beethoven’s unforgettable Symphony No. 6 in F majorPastoral.

Composed and first performed in 1808 the ‘Pastoral’ symphony remains one of the most iconic works in the classical canon. It was immortalised for many in the 20th century by its inclusion in Walt Disney’s Fantasia, where it played against centaurs, cupids and satyrs.

The concert will open with American composer John Adams’ minimalist masterpiece Shaker Loops.

Adams, considered one of the world’s most important living composers, turned 70 in February. To celebrate his 70th year, the NZSO, which turned 70 in March, will feature some of Adams’ most significant works throughout 2017.

De Waart has a lasting friendship and association with Adams. Shaker Loops was the first work by Adams that de Waart conducted.