All week I was priming myself for something special. This took the form of a rare bout with Mahler's 9th Symphony as the NZSO opened their latest season, Terrifying Beauty, at the Michael Fowler Centre,Wellington. Mozart's Violin Concerto No.4 played worthy entrée to Mahler's profoundly moving, and what would prove to be his last symphony. Under the baton of renowned conductor Edo de Waart, the music certainly found its right audience.
The first half saw de Waart join forces with Dutch violin soloist Simone Lamsma who together led a smaller chamber orchestra in Mozart's violin concerto. Lamsma captured the youthfulness of Mozart's music with an intensity and sharpness which showed her as a fine soloist. Usually when I think of Mozart's solo and chamber works, it is hard not to think of such themes as indulgent virtuosity, youthful flamboyance and intricately penned melodic lines that flow lightly and effortlessly from the superior creative mind of a genius. It is, however, possible this is coloured by the impression the 1984 film ‘Amadeus' has left on me.
Watching Lamsma I didn't feel I was watching a musician needing to prove their Mozartian virtuosic credentials. Instead, I found a relaxed performer whose natural and perceptive approach captured the lyricism of the upper-stringed sections and brought depth and warmth to the slower movements. What I enjoyed most about this performance, aside from the welcome distraction of Lamsma's red dress, was the relationship between soloist and orchestra. It was a delight to listen to the delicate interplay between the two, and the orchestra proved worthy support for the violinist as she decorated the main themes of the concerto.
The audience showed their appreciation of this appetising prelude to the evening's main course - Mahler's 9th!
First reactions to Mahler symphonies are often to do with their length. Many run for well over an hour -- potentially challenging for both performer and listener. It's a demanding work to perform, its reputation par excellence. After three intense movements making up the first hour, the orchestra moves on to a final slow Adagio movement which, while it may not have the fast notes and the wild climaxes of the others sections, has its own complexities. And it lasts another twenty minutes!
All Mahler's symphonies are rich with specific musical references to events in the composer's life. The 9th was written during an incredibly difficult period which saw, amongst other traumas, his four year old daughter die from scarlet fever and the composer's own terminal diagnosis for a heart condition. It is unsurprising composers are superstitious about writing a 9th symphony. Fateful parallels put Mahler in the company of Beethoven and Bruckner whose own 9th symphonies became their unintended farewells. As Schoenberg said, "those that have written a 9th have stood too close to the hereafter". For me, the challenge for both player and conductor in taking on Mahler's 9th is to offer more than technical brilliance. The 9th is a symphony in which, when played well, the audience can lose themselves in the visual and emotional imagery inherent in the music. It hit that on Friday night as if we were taken on trip through Mahler's very existence.
The first two movements were performed splendidly and you could see the concentration of players and conductor as the music unfolded. There were some striking instrumental colours; the combination of rhythmical cellos and horns emerging from silence were particularly noteworthy. So too the tolling harp and the rich, clear and focussed brass were chilling. The transition from impassioned melody to the delicate series of duets, trios and quartets at the end of the 1st movement were very well played. The middle movements, though not as unbridled and wild as I felt the orchestra wanted to be, were still penetrating, and de Waart's sure footing led the orchestra successfully through the various changes in character and tempi. The solo trumpet near the end of the 3rd movement was incredibly touching as it transformed a punctuated burleske theme into a warm and tender melody.
The final movement was gripping, and at times heart-wrenching. The opening cry of violins was haunting, though I still wanted more from the strings as the passionate theme grew in intensity. The movement progressed. The themes and instruments began to dissolve. The silences grew wider; finally only the violins held on playing pianiss-iss-iss-imo until ultimate silence - death personified, prophetic.
Coughing distractions aside, the impact of the final movement is memorable. Overall, it was a standout performance and the five encores proved the orchestra was in fine voice.
In the mid to late 90's, when grunge began to wither away and MTV strived to find the next easy to access label to attach to new batch of up and coming rock bands, global attention started to shine on the Alt Rock scene.
The I Love The 90s Tour returns to Auckland next year March 23rd at Auckland’s Spark Arena, with a completely off the chain lineup featuring classic Hip Hop crew Naughty by Nature. Vin Rock from the Grammy Award winning rap group speaks fondly of this country and love of our people.
The Soundsplash Festival is returning to Raglan in January 2018. Local reggae favourites Katchafire are returning to feature on the bill. We sent a few questions over to lead vocalist Logan Bell ahead of the festival.
Following 2015’s Kitty, Daisy & Lewis'The Third', the sibling trio are back stronger than ever, harnessing their ability to create pop-infused soul, blues, rock n roll and a large mix of genres to perfection, in the shape of their fourth studio album, Superscope.
Kylie Price has just released her new album Bones. Last week she appeared on theNZ Entertainment Podcast, where she sang a new song I Dont Want To Go off the album while talking shop about her dream gig to play with Ed Sheeran and her Philipino roots.
Last week I caught up withPeter Hook ahead of returning down under for Australasian leg of the Joy Division and New Order Substance tour. We had a great chat about the spirit of punk, what it takes to write a book and why shows like the X-factor are so unhealthy…
Long established as one of New Zealand’s finest acts, South Pacific reggae-soul legends, The Black Seeds are set to tour the country in September, following the release of their long awaited 6th studio album Fabric, (out today - Friday September 8th).
Jacqueline Nalpant is a Booking Agent for the Paradigm Talent Agency, and is heading to New Zealand early next month where she'll be one of the speakers for the Going Global Music Summit (Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd September at Roundhead Studios, Auckland).
Since making her musical debut with her song Drift early last year, fast attracting a solid fan base and over 1 million plays across Spotify and Soundcloud in just a few months, Madeline North, better known by her musical moniker So Below, has once again blessed us with a moodier, masterful electro-pop banger, titled Ruin.
Since forming in 1998, the Antwerp, Belgium based trio Triggerfinger have long become a mainstay on the rock scene, building a solid reputation across Europe, the US, Canada and beyond, as one of the hardest-driving and sharpest dressing bands around.
Popular metalcore group Northlane are on their way to New Zealand. The Sydney band are touring North America taking in countries like Chile and Mexico as they head our way down-under next month to play Wellington’s San Fran then Auckland at the iconic Kings Arms.
Returning to New Zealand for the first time in three years, Australian metalcore band In Hearts Wake are on their way to our shores next month for a quick run of shows supporting their label cohorts Northlane.
Courtney Marie Andrews has landed in New Zealand, and set to play two concerts this week with Joe Pug - tonight at San Fran in Wellington (Wed July 19) and tomorrow night at The Tuning Fork in Auckland (Thu July 20).
Auckland two-piece Skinny Hobos, Alex Elvis and Texas Holdom, are heading on a 5 date New Zealand tour with headliners Decades, Bakers Eddy and Dead Favours. Kicking off tonight in Hamilton (July 14), the tour will also take them to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and finishes up in Dunedin.
Have you ever considered sharing your most personal experiences with the entire world? Well come this Friday 14th July, that’s what Emma Cameron, the rocking front-woman of kiwi band Decades is about to do, when they release their long-awaited full length debut album, The Truth And Other People, so we sat down with the cheerful front woman to discover just what truth this album reveals..
Whilst Sonny Landreth is a well known slide-guitar master, zydeco enthusiast and phenomenal blues legend, what you may not know about him, is that he is one of the nicest gentlemen in the entire universe.
He was always the boy next door type energy, that type of person you just always wanted to be around. From day one, Shay Taylor has always been one to break the mold and live life in such a vibrant and contagious manner, that no matter who he spoke to, they walked away feeling great!
Anthonie Tonnon is taking his new Extended Player and single to Australia, and to New Zealand towns that missed the first run of dates, or sold out too quickly. He’ll also be appearing at three summer festivals this February.
After a stand of three Auckland concerts that sold out in minutes in January, Connan Mockasin is hitting the road across Aotearoa for the first time in eight years this summer for a select run of headline shows.