Orchestra Wellington NEW WORLD
Saturday, December 1
The closing event in Orchestra Wellington’s 2018 program was a suitably epic closer to the “Great and Noble” season, featuring a guest conductor for one piece, a guest soloist in regular concert master Amalia Hall, a world premiere and some stately performances of the classical music world’s equivalent of “Greatest Hits” staples. It was, as Orchestra Wellington does so well, something for everyone – for the purists and the all-comers; any and all stages of knowledge and experience catered to.
Our curtain-raiser was Mozart’s overture to his opera Don Giovanni. Here, guest conductor – the orchestra’s conductor-in-training – Andrew Atkins brought an enthusiast style; his gusto felt. Safe hands though. In the Orchestra’s clever programming they’re able to take three distinct works from different countries and eras and allow the pieces to talk to one another, an overarching theme in each self-contained concert and across the entire season. And so if this overture wasn’t big enough to be “Great” it was certainly the “Noble” way to start.
Particularly as the world premiere of local composer Michael Norris’ violin concerto was easily the least instantly-accessible of the evening’s pieces. That’s neither faint praise nor being dismissive. I loved this work. Heavily percussive, it was billed as a Violin Concerto – subtitled ‘Sama a Sufi ceremony’ but it featured the entire orchestra of course and seemed to come from so many worlds; there was shades of Herman’s film scores, late night washes of cymbals and the robust kettle and tom drumming and when Amalia Hall worked in drone shapes and nocturnal scrapes the sufi theme emerged. The music bounced around the hall, to watch this live was to imagine a ping-pong ball batted around the stage by the orchestra members; dizzying, hypnotic, ultimately electric. It was an endurance test for the players, I’m sure and it left me wanting – straight away – to hear it again.
After the interval we heard Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (‘From The New World’, giving the evening’s program its title).
This is one of classical music’s best known pieces – so familiar, bursting with memorable moments; Louise Cox’s cor anglais holds the centre in the famous slowed movement; but again we had the waft and drift of the melodies, moving about the stage. A theme stated by the violins and backed by the bowed double basses; the brass restating, taking charge.
Listen in and you hear John Williams’ clever lift for his own famous Jaws score; pieces from his original Star Wars score were lifted from Dvorak too, I’m sure. Williams takes from the best after all. Paul McCartney’s orchestral work and his most overtly orchestrated pop songs owe something to Dvorak’s # 9 too.
As well as the uplifting music, there was the announcement and launch of Orchestra Wellington’s double vinyl featuring two Beethoven Symphonies and a first glimpse at the 2019 series.
There was, as always with Orchestra Wellington, such a warm vibe, the audience there to learn, to take part, to share in the magic.
A sublime concert. One of my favourites from this year.
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