The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is touring the country playing some of your favourite classical hits.
The Classical Hits tour, which visits eight more centres across both major islands, heads to Hamilton on Wednesday night.
Conducted by Hamish McKeich Classical Hits features Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture and Variations on a Rococo Theme, with principal cello Andrew Joyce as the featured soloist.
Gillian Whitehead’s Turanga-nui also had its world premiere as part of the tour.
Andrew Joyce joined Upbeat in the studio to talk us through the hits.
Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D.759, ‘Unfinished’
This is a special piece for Andrew because he says the NZSO doesn’t play nearly enough Schubert. But 2019 will bring more of the composer’s works to the concert hall.
The ‘Unfinished’ symphony is “fabulous” according to the cellist. “It’s hard to pull off, but it’s wonderful,” he says. “For a string player it’s right up there with one of the best things to play.”
Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
Andrew says the work written for cellist as orchestra is like “walking on a tightrope”. It’s 18 minutes of intensive focus for the soloist.
“It’s scored very sparsely. You feel like you are alone [as a soloist],” Andrew says. “[Tchaikovsky] packs it in into 18 minutes and you don’t stop when you start. It’s very intense.”
Gillian Whitehead Turanga-nui (World Premiere)
Andrew had the opportunity to hear the orchestra play the piece in Auckland. It is a reflection on the history of this country.
“It’s a really powerful piece,” he says. “It’s very evocative. Some have struggled with the subject matter. It’s not a happy story.”
RNZ Concert will be recording Turanga-nui in Wellington this week.
Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
For a lot of people, this piece marks the beginning of modern music.
Andrew feels the same. “The colours… the use of orchestral colour is like nothing else.”
Andrew was able to sit back stage to listen to the famous Debussy work being played in Gisborne and heard things he’d never heard before. “It reminded me of what a glorious piece it is.”
Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
This technically demanding piece is “textbook Tchaikovsky” according to Andrew.
He says it’s great to perform as a string player. “It’s rewarding and fun to play,” he says. “It’s everything Tchaikovsky is famous for… romantic melodies, passion, fiery emotion. It’s great. Love it.”