Review of March 2018 Concert

A VIRTUOSO CELLO PERFORMANCE

St Matthew’s Church was well filled for the opening concert of the Chamber Orchestra, and the audience was treated to a wonderfully well balanced program.

First up was Mozart’s Ballet Music for the opera Idomeneo.  This gave the composer the opportunity to display his melodic invention in showy dance rhythms.   His Chaconne, a stately dance in triple time, featured woodwind and the brass section, followed by a Passepied, also in quick triple time leading on to an elegant gavotte.  The composer’s neat and tidy melodic invention was well presented and led on to a brilliant conclusion.

It is believed that Haydn wrote his Cello Concerto No 1 between 1761 and 1765 for Joseph F. Weigl, the principal cello of Nicholas Esterhazy’s orchestra.  It then disappeared from the repertoire for over 200 years until it was discovered in 1961 in the Prague National Library by musicologist, Oldrich Pulkert.  Its authenticity has been questioned but it is now generally accepted that it is by Haydn.   It is a virtuoso work that makes stringent demands on the soloist, and with Ashley Brown on the podium we were treated to a brilliant performance.   One of New Zealand’s leading cellists, his fingering was a joy to behold and the rich honeyed tones that he was able to coax from his 260 year old cello soared over the orchestra with total ease. He gave us an exceptional reading of this wonderful concerto and at the conclusion he was given deservedly rapturous applause by the audience.

The final work was Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 in D Major.  This work was completed in 1802 while the composer was living in Heiligenstadt.  Oddly enough this bright and cheerful work gives no hint of the anguish that the composer was suffering as a result of his incipient deafness.  In the traditional four movements, it opens slowly with several melodic themes which are developed and heard later in the work.  The symphony is bright and cheerful throughout, although it was not immediately accepted at its premiere in Vienna in 1803.  The Larghetto movement begins with a meltingly beautiful melody not unlike Schubert might have written.  To this is added a second and third subject to bring the whole to a powerful climax before returning to the first theme.  The Scherzo is in true comic fashion bright and breezy.  The final movement, Allegro molto continues in light hearted fashion with the woodwinds, especially the bassoon, floating above the scurrying strings.  A pizzicato passage in the coda offers a sense of mystery before the symphony is brought to a happy conclusion.  This work was a happy choice to conclude what proved to be a well-balanced program.

The next St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra concert on May 20th will feature Hawke’s Bay conductor, Jose Aparicio and Auckland University Students, the Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 4, various Arias and Schubert’s Symphony No 5.

Robert O’Hara