Review - 08 Jul 2024

NZ modern music at its most authentic

Despite the lure of an international sporting event on Saturday evening, the Dunedin Town Hall was packed for the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra’s midwinter concert conducted by James Judd

After a formal mihi by an unnamed person (which was not followed by an English translation), the programme began with Rerenga, a work by Michael Norris for which Alistair Fraser played a variety of taoka pūoro, backed by the orchestra.

A wide selection of timbres created a musically integrated soundscape of sea and nature.

Shimmering strings blended with mysterious sounds of the hue puruhau, the majestic pūkāea, and when pitched European woodwind instruments coincided exactly with the Māori instruments the effect was mesmerising.

This musical integration is surely an example of New Zealand contemporary music at its most authentic.

Violinist Vesa-Matti Lepannen (concertmaster of the NZSO) played Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5, nicknamed Turkish due to suggestions of Turkish music and "things Turkish" which were in vogue at the time and which Mozart would would have hoped would have given instant popularity to his new work.

Lepannen excels with producing a gentle soft-toned resonance, with clean precise release — absolutely perfect for Mozart and the orchestra matched, never overpowering.

His cadenzas were virtuosic and the entire performance was "Mozart at its very best".

Dunedin’s own international bass Jonathan Lemalu, together with the orchestra, presented songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, by Mahler.

Five songs with contrasting text ranged from sadness and despair and a lovers’ quarrel, to the humour of a preacher giving a sermon to fish.

It was great to hear Lemalu’s deep tones and confident delivery on his home stage.

The concert concluded with Sibelius’ Symphony No 7 — a very colourful one-movement work.

The orchestra was in top form and I heard nothing but praise from satisfied patrons in the foyer.

The entire programme was a great success. Well done Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and guest performers.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman

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