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.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus are gracing our shores on the 28th of November at Galatos. After a 4-year hiatus, they have burst back onto the scene and headed straight for the spot they are most familiar with, number 1 on the Billboard Christian Rock Charts.
Breakups are never easy - whether it's a romantic tryst, a teenage crush, or with a young Mark and his favourite band Dream Theater, that dark moment when founding keyboardist Kevin Moore left the group in 1994.
There's no denying that at my core, I'm a lover of progressive music - whether that means I love "prog" music or not is a question for another day, and is a topic which I touched on whilst talking to Steven Wilson the other week regarding the upcoming To The Bone show at Auckland's Bruce Mason Centre.
Auckland-based quartet Openside have added an extra date to their first, all-ages, nationwide tour. The group headlines The Seamless Tour will now perform a final show in Tauranga on July 20th featuring special guests DUNES .
Consisting of drummer/vocalist Cat Leahy and guitarist/vocalist Leisha Jungalwalla, This Way Northwill be a part of a very special night in Auckland called ‘Sass the Patriarchy’ an event they have been running in Australia.
As the days and nights get colder, we need something more to laugh about than the unpredictability of Auckland weather and lucky for us, The New Zealand International Comedy Festivalreturns (kicking off this Thursday 26 April).
I Am Giant’s have recently released their third and final album ‘Life in Captivity’. Featuring the singles ‘Dead Flower’, ‘Playing With Fire’ and ‘Don’t Look Back’, the band are currently touring New Zealand; their final tour and last hurrah in NZ.
To this day I still remember my introduction to Sepultura - camped out in the granny flat bedroom of long-time friend Kerry - a live version of their cover of Motörhead's Orgasmatron, and from there it continues to this day
Legendary, GRAMMY-award winning band FLEETWOOD MAC today announced an Australian and New Zealand tour, set to kick off on August 9 with two shows in Auckland on September 16 and 19, along with a welcome return to Dunedin on September 21.
California’s radical sons, The Growlers arrive in the country this week for the start of the Australian leg of their mammoth worldwide ‘Beach Goth’ tour. In what is guaranteed to be a rollicking, majestic wave of movements all around our golden coast,
Timaru’s iconic Soundshell in Caroline Bay will host two of the most well-known bands in New Zealand in a one-day entertainment extravaganza this January. Katchafire and The Black Seeds will headline the R18+ event at the Soundshell on Saturday, January 26, 2019. They’ll be joined by The Butlers.
In true kiwi summer tour tradition Marlon Williams will now take The Tūrangawaewae Tour to a further six markets this February making it a total of 12 shows - Marlon’s most comprehensive New Zealand tour ever!
With sounds primed for a hot summer ahead, Christchurch four piece Mako Road have arrived with the perfect soundtrack for long nights, cold drinks and hazy days with the ‘Local Safari’ EP, which releases today.
“Music can bring us all together, it bonds us, it strengthens us...” this song “Your Guardian Angel” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has been dedicated to Toyah Cordingley.
Please spread the word to anyone who loves the song, or has lost someone too early also, feel free to leave any dedications in the comments of which we will share direct for Toyahs’ family and the band to see.
On the heels of releasing several collaborative hit tracks this year, five-time Grammy Award-winning artist and producer Mark Ronson returns with a brand new single of his own ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ featuring Miley Cyrus.
George Ezra toured the world nonstop for more than two years following the release of his debut LP Wanted On Voyage, finally making it to Aotearoa for one of the standout sets of this year’s Auckland City Limits.
Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood and Greg Proops the popular stars of the Emmy nominated Whose Line Is It Anyway? have teamed up to present an evening of extraordinary improvisational comedy for one show only at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland.
In a New Zealand first, five of the stars of Twin Peaks, Sheryl Lee, Kimmy Robertson, Michael Horse, Al Strobel, Dana Ashbrook and the Executive Producer of Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series, Sabrina S. Sutherland, will visit Auckland and Christchurch for an exclusive and unique CONVERSATION WITH THE STARS evening.
Singer Elaine Paige has announced an 8-date series of concerts from October 10 to October 25 2018, which will see her perform songs from her illustrious career along side an array of her favourite tracks by contemporary songwriters.
The critically acclaimed, award-winning comedian and actor, Catherine Tate, is bringing The Catherine Tate Show - Live to New Zealand for the first time, with shows in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch commencing November 28, 2018.
It has been announced overnight that Last Tapes Theatre Company's original production Valerie has been selected for a month-long season in the prestigious Summerhall programme at Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August.
Featuring Brouhaha: choreographer Malia Johnston, composer Eden Mulholland, AV designer Rowan Pierce; In Transit: choreographer Louise Potiki Bryant, composer/AV designer Paddy Free; The Geography of an Archipelago: choreographer Stephen Shropshire, composer Chris O’Connor.
The last hurrah of the Comedy Fest! The Season Finale! The bit at the end where the awards are decided, everybody relaxes and much fun is had. It’s the titled Last Laughs on Sunday 20 May at SkyCity Theatre.