Saturday, June 20
For the second performance in Wellington Orchestra’s six-part series it was to Leila Adu, 2014’s emerging composer in residence. Her commissioned piece, Rain as Blessings Fall, kicked off the evening, a dose of rain – and cold – in the air, but a bigger turnout for this one than the opening night back in April.
Leila is currently studying and performing in America but as a regular fixture in Wellington for many years she has performed and written across almost all styles of music. A singer/songwriter, improviser, as part of bands or alone she seems to take from – and then make music in – all styles. The thread, always, is her voice. And Blessings featured a Buddhist text by Kalu Rinpoche and revised by Chime Shore (an early meeting with Shore had been a formative experience in Adu’s life) with Leila singing against the rise and fall of the orchestra. It was mesmerising as the voice became a mantra when singing of mantras, as the strings and horns moved around in a constantly modulating piece, tempo shifting, keys changing, it had busyness but never bluster.
I’m not entirely sure that many of those there to see yet another in the series of Tchaikovsky symphonies could quite grasp Leila’s compositional approach. But it was stunning. One clue, always, is the beam of the players. They, and the captain of the team, the always generous in and of spirit conductor Marc Taddei seemed genuinely moved and thrilled to have been a part of this performance. It was certainly something special.
Michael Houstoun performed Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 next. A lively piece – and one where we got to see (if seated on the right side of the building – well, perhaps technically the left) the way Houstoun burrowed down into and across the keys, working hard at the piano to fill in the spaces around the orchestra. Houstoun, a constant in this series, makes it look mostly easy of course. He’s wonderful to watch.
I’m loving the Tchaikovsky – the thread for this series. So it was to Symphony No.2 – the Little Russian of this program’s title. The name from a folk tune from the Ukraine which forms the final part of this piece, the last movement. It’s amazing to watch the orchestra in the musical version of full flight, as was the case with Symphony No.1 and most certainly here. The brass and double bass the propulsive sounds here, the percussion working, as it so often does in symphonic works, as punctuation and I loved the cascade of this work, and then the steady build, working to that ultimate crescendo. I’ve spent some time with Tchaikovsky’s music but not the symphonies so much, so far they’ve been a thrill. Roll on number three in this series.
Click here to read my review of the earlier performance, April 18’s 1. KAMARINSKAYA