10 Jun 2022

Auckland Philharmonia - Ebb & Flow

From Music Alive, 8:00 pm on 10 June 2022

Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead's new violin concerto, written for Andrew Beer and the Auckland Philharmonia, is the highlight of this concert. James Feddeck conducts.

Gillian Whitehead

Gillian Whitehead Photo: Gareth Watkins / Lilburn Trust / Wallace Arts Trust.

WHITEHEAD: Tai timu, tai pari

Dame Gillian writes:

“I wrote the concerto on the Otago Peninsula, in the wake of the first wave of Covid. I felt initially that I couldn’t write anything that was harsh or strident, but rather the sounds had to be gentle.

"However, as I wrote, the structure of the piece took over, and that self-censorship went away.

"From my studio I can look across the harbour and what I see constantly changes. The tide ebbs and flows, light plays on the water, birds forage for food, rest on the water, whirl in flocks. When I was writing, images of waves lapping on the shore, of distant disputes between creatures, of birds in flight, of footprints on the beach came to mind.”

The title Tai timu, tai pari translates from te reo Māori as “low tide, high tide”.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

WHITEHEAD: Song without words, for Helen Young

Helen Young, former RNZ Concert Manager

Helen Young, former RNZ Concert Manager Photo: RNZ

As an encore, Andrew Beer plays Gillian Whitehead's short tribute to Helen Young, the legendary manager of the Concert Programme in the 1970s and 80s.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

RACHMANINOV: Symphony No 2 in E minor Op 27

Rachmaninov's Second Symphony was premiered in February of 1908 in a program in which he conducted and also appeared in as piano soloist with his Second Piano Concerto.

 One critic wrote: “After a year-and-a-half stay abroad Rachmaninoff again appears before the Moscow public as composer, conductor, and pianist. ... And Rachmaninoff is worth an entire concert devoted to his works. Despite his thirty-four years he is one of the most significant figures in the contemporary music world, a worthy successor to Tchaikovsky. Successor, and not imitator, for he has already his own individuality. This was confirmed most impressively by the new E-minor Symphony.”

It had been a long road to this second symphony. In 1897 the young composer was devastated by the failure of his First Symphony. Damned by critics and not helped by Glazunov who conducted (allegedly) drunk at the wheel, the work’s rejection had sent Rachmaninoff into a tailspin.

In his memoirs he recalled: "Something within me snapped. All my self-confidence broke down. ... A paralyzing apathy possessed me. Half my days were spent on a couch sighing over my ruined life."

He gradually rebuilt his battered musical ego through writing smaller works and, beginning in 1900, daily therapy sessions with a physician who was experimenting with hypnosis.

What to say about the work itself? It’s classic Rachmaninov and one of his most popular works — a general melancholy, lush harmonies, and gorgeous melodies to die for. Listen out especially for the clarinet solo in the third movement, played in this performance by Jonathan Cohen.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Recorded by RNZ Concert, Auckland Town Hall, 10 June 2022
Producer: Tim Dodd
Engineer: Adrian Hollay


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