Review of August 2019 Concert

Stimulating Mix of New and Old

At its concert on Sunday 18 August, St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra again demonstrated its ability to perform to a very high level and to present a stimulating mix of works.

To have one of Auckland’s most talented composers as a member of the orchestra Is a huge bonus.  Louise Webster’s “Falling brittle on the wing” was written for SMCO and dedicated to Dinny Lennon,  a friend and colleague of the composer, who died in 2018.  It is a piece which offered beautiful themes for all sections of the orchestra.  A quiet woodwind theme of dreamy atmosphere led into pizzicato strings as a rippling foundation.  There were periods of silence which threw the discordant woodwind and the solo violin, played expressively by the concertmaster, John Thomson, into sharp profile – as did the xylophone and oboe lines. It was played with sensitivity and sincere feeling.

St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra has already reaped significant benefits from the new piano at St Matthew’s.  To have two soloists of the calibre of Michael Houstoun and Diedre Irons in one year has made the 2019 subscription series one to remember.  Diedre Irons, one of NZ’s foremost pianists was soloist in Schumann’s only piano concerto.  Woodwinds, horns and strings responded with equal brilliance – never dominating the piano line.  There was a wonderful soaring line from clarinet and oboe in the first movement. 

The string tone was well blended, and intonation was immaculate.  Iron’s energy and clarity of finger work made this an emotionally charged experience.  Both soloist and orchestra well deserved the very warm applause.  Michael Joel, who conducted the performance is the orchestra’s Musical Director and the very real rapport he has with the players brought a special degree of accord.

Beethoven’s Symphony No 4 began with a measured slow introduction before moving into an energetic Allegro.  Themes were tossed between brass, woodwind and strings.  The orchestra played in top form following Michael Joel’s clear beat and variations of tempi.

The Menuetto was more Scherzo – jubilant trumpets and woodwind with excellent cello playing.  The horns were excellent throughout and the finale allowed the bassoons to demonstrate their clever fingering in the jocular theme in the Finale.  The tempi throughout were a little slower than often played but this allowed for clarity, with all sections able to present their themes with no feeling of stress.  This symphony can be seen as a tribute to the memory of Haydn, who will be featured in the next SMCO concert on 15 September.

Rogan Falla