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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - Bold New Worlds - Christchurch 4 October 2016

Keeping things far more cultured again, we attended this, our second only classical music concert by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Like the previous concert, I was attracted to this particular concert by the inclusion of the piece "Three Movements" by Steve Reich. I have a soft spot for Minimalist music and have several Steve Reich CD's in my collection, including one with the above piece. Other pieces preformed this night were Mason bates "Violin Concerto" and  Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No.9 "From the New World"
  The concert was preformed at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena, and although I have been to quite a number of concerts there, this was the first of this type. Normally something like this would have been held at the Christchurch Town Hall but that venue is still closed from the 2011 earthquakes. Unfortunately, I felt the Horncastle arena isn't quite the ideal venue acoustically for this type of music, it is a sports arena and has a concrete floor and very high roof and also our seats were much further away form the orchestra than I would have liked. The ticket allocation, when I was purchasing the tickets suggested all the closer seats were sold and ye there were many empty seats below us on the night, go figure? The Charles Lumley Auditorium, where we saw the recent CSO concert was far superior to this sort of music, although may be a bit small to house the NZSO on it preforming area. I thought maybe the Aurora Center at Burnside High School might have been a better venue, but I'm not sure if their staging area is big enough.
  We took our seats about 10 minutes before the show, along with about 300 other patrons. It was more of a mix of ages this time, as the last show we were almost the youngest there, and although the very grey did predominate, many other age groups were present in numbers.
  They opened the concert with the Steve Reich piece, it's inclusion in the concert was in celebration of his 80th birthday, and in live performance I found it much more interesting and enjoyable than listening on CD. It is a great piece of music and it is gratifying to see this "Modern" music getting played here.
  After a big stage reshuffle, during witch the composer, Fawzi Haimor, gave a talk on the three pieces to be played this night, they then presented Mason Bates "Violin Concerto". Batede is a much younger composer and this piece was written specifically for Anne Akiko Meyers, whom we had the privilege to see actually preform this piece herself here in Christchurch. This modern piece is a very enjoyable composition with some great melodies and some outstanding violin from Anne Akiko Meyers. It also had some cool percussive moments and the orchestra did a great job of presenting this piece. Below is a video of the same piece played in 2013 by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

 The final piece, after intermission, was Dvorak's "From the New World" Symphony. I  had no idea what this would be like, I know Dvorak's name but couldn't tell you if I knew of his music. It turns out this Symphony is very well known and I certainly recognised the Melodies presented in both the first movement and especially the fourth movement. A great piece of music that, like the Copeland piece we heard at the earlier concert we attended by the CSO, evoked images of western movies ( the first movement) and surprisingly, the Star Wars movies. I wonder if John Williams borrowed from this music when composing the Star Wars music. The violins in the third movement reminded me strongly of the music to the fight scene with the Sith and the Jedi in the Phantom Menace. The forth movement evoked vision of Luke Skywalker on Tatooine in the very first Star Wars Movie. A robust and vigorous Symphony, full of great melodies and preformed with much gusto by the NZSO, it turned out to be the highlight of the night. 

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