Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
J.S. Bach, Orchestral Suite No.3
Hans Abrahamsen, Horn Concerto (Australasian premiere)
Brahms, Symphony No.2
Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples
The APO’s latest concert “Bach & Brahms” concert presented works spanning three hundred years - a Bach work from around 1730, the Brahms from the late 1870’s and a new work by the Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen first performed last year in Berlin.
His Horn Concerto has been commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia along with Berlin Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Radio Philharmonia Orchestra (Amsterdam) and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
There was also a real sense of experimentation with both the horn and the use of percussion instruments as was shown in the opening section where the simple woodblock was used for the entry of percussion instruments which then evolved into the full orchestra before the appearance of the horn.
The work featured a , elegant musical wilderness which was punctuated by blasts of the percussion. There was a sense of travelling through a landscape which mirrored a landscape of the mind, where the dreamlike intersected with the nightmarish.
This idea of the contemplative punctuated by nervous strings and percussion continued throughout the work. There was a continual interplay between orchestra and soloist sometimes the horn was an intrusion into the eerie soundscape of the orchestra with the work culminating in a cacophony of apocalyptic sound.
Dohr who seemed to be immersed in the washes of sounds from his horn displayed incomparable stylishness with playing which ranged from the delicate to the intense, at times jarring and discordant at others gentle and almost diaphanous.
The orchestra played the Bach Orchestral Suite as it would have been played 300 years ago, the harpsichord placed centrally, and the strings grouped on either side. At times it looked as though there was a competition between the two groups.
The close grouping help make the structure and the dynamics of the small orchestra much more apparent. It also meant that conductor Giordano Bellincampi was much more involved and his conducting took on a more dynamic and emotional quality.
He was carefully able to indicate the complex layering the instrumental sounds making obvious what at the time of Bach would have been an experimental approach and with some passages one could hear a prefiguring of the Romantic style of the next century.
Brahms had written a very dramatic First Symphony, and this contrasts with the more pastoral Second which is filled with luscious melodies and it was this sublime atmosphere that Bellincampi emphasised over the more melancholic moods that are occasionally heard.
He ensured that the extended and delicate phrases were played in this tranquil atmosphere with some of the woodwinds and brass alluding to a deeper drama below the surface. He also ensured that the lighter, spirited passages of the work provided a hint of the lyrical narrative which is threaded through the work.
Future APO Concerts
March 5 ,Cityscapes
Conductor Robert Spano
Flute Melanie Lançon
Harp Ingrid Bauer
Jennifer Higdon, City Scape: river sings a song to trees
Mozart, Concerto for Flute and Harp
Vaughan Williams, A London Symphony
The Cityscapes concert features music reflecting three different cities – Atlanta, Paris and London. Jennifer Higdon’s tribute to her hometown of Atlanta, celebrates the ‘lush carpet’ of its parks and gardens, fed by ‘streams, creeks and rivers’.
Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp was written while he was in Paris and shows Mozart adapting to the new style of the Sinfonia Concertante, which was extremely popular in Paris at the time as well as his experimenting with the harp.
Although much of Vaughan Williams’ music was inspired by the English countryside and the rural folk tunes , he was also a man of his city and his London Symphony is a portrait of the Edwardian metropolis at the height of its power.
March 21 – 29 The Beethoven Symphonies
In conjunction with the Auckland Arts Festival the APO will present Beethoven 250, performing the complete cycle of nine Beethoven symphonies in four concerts over nine days, led by APO Music Director Giordano Bellincampi, culminating in a performance of the Ninth Symphony featuring New Zealand soloists Madeleine Pierard, Kristin Darragh, Amitai Pati and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.
Concert 1: The Classicist Symphony No.1, 2 & 3
Concert 2: The Romantic Symphony No.4 & 5
Concert 3: The Revolutionary Symphony No.6 & 7
Concert 4: The Radical Symphony No.8 & 9