NZSO – Elgar and Strauss

Last night, I accompanied my mother back to the town hall where, after a superb meal in Elliot Stables (a must for all!), we went to the NZSO.

The programme began with Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave); most certainly a well known, well loved piece and composer. The orchestra was superb. Everything that I have been taught over my years was demonstrated faultlessly: from melding the sound to particular techniques for the cello regarding the placement, speed and pressure of the bow.  For me, this was a wonderful confirmation and has assured me further in my playing.

We then had Elgar’s Sea Pictures, a series of poems that he put to music, with a mezzo-soprano solo. These aren’t commonly known and are often disregard, perhaps because they were composed between his Enigma Variations and The Dream if Gerontius, but more so because many say they are absent of a particular, refined care or rigour. I found it evident that the orchestra’s favourite of the five pieces was In Haven. Everyone was smiling, and though discrete, it seemed to resemble how I feel when I have a piece of music, or a book, of which I have great intimacy with! The poem, or lyrics as Elgar made them, were composed by Elgar’s wife, Caroline; I suppose this also helped make the piece a favourite of the members – simply because it’s a very sweet token of love… then again, “between his Enigma Variations and The Dream if Gerontius”  who knows what intentions there were behind it? (Yes, I am referring to the initials that title each movement of the variations).

Lastly, after a shared orange juice over the interval, were Strauss’ twenty-two continuous movements that make up his Eine Alpensinfonie (or An Alpine Symphony). I found these very modern – certainly no familiar homophonic passages in this! Completed in 1915, just at the beginning of the Great War, it is easy to find certain parts and ideas of which would have been shaped quite significantly by what was going on around him.  The piece calls for an orchestra of at least 140 musicians and a particularly lavish percussion section. It was terribly exciting and demanding.

Overall, a glorious night, full of discovery.

-Phoebe P


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