News - 30 Aug 2023

Introducing Simon Over the Conductor for the Dvořák’s New World concert

At the time of my last concert in Dunedin in August 2019, none of us could have imagined that by the following April, the whole world would be in Lockdown. Returning to the country I love so much is always a great pleasure; this year, post- pandemic, returning takes on a much greater significance, and to be conducting another Anthony Ritchie première as well as another symphony that I’ve known and loved since childhood intensifies the anticipation.

As I prepare Anthony’s Sixth Symphony now, I’m reminded of music’s capacity to encapsulate the mood of a moment, a touchpoint to which we can return, to reflect on and re-live world-shattering events. In the symphony, I hear all the Ritchie hallmarks I love so much: beautiful harmonies, haunting melodies, driving rhythms and the capacity to take us to a new world; it immediately transports me to New Zealand and affords the opportunity to reflect on a post-pandemic world where so many things we previously took for granted are re-evaluated.

Dvořák, in writing his ninth symphony was influenced not only by music of his Czech heritage, but by having seen America. Inspired by the ‘wide open spaces’, he said, “I have not actually used any of the Native American melodies, I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint and orchestral colour”.

Mrs. Thurber, Dvořák’s American employer, had hoped he would compose an American opera based on Longfellow’s ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ (which Dvořák already knew from a Czech translation). Instead, it was this new symphony that was linked with Longfellow’s epic: the scherzo was suggested by the dance of Pau-Puk-Keewis at the wedding feast, and the Largo recalls the funeral of Minnehaha. One of the best-loved symphonies of all time, it never fails to delight performers and audiences alike.

The concert on 23 September promises to be a rich programme of music; beautiful, exciting and uplifting. I look forward to seeing you there.

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