The APO launched its 2019 Premier season last night with a trio of works which took the audience from Wagnerian comedy to Berlioz’s drug-raddled fantasies via the gravity defying orbits of Thomas Adès’s violin concerto.
The music’s dates ranged from 1839 through to 2005 and parts looked back to the Baroque but the APO under the ever-capable and ebullient conducting of Giordano Bellincampi delivered each of these varied works with style and panache.
Richard Wagner’s music is not famous for its hilarity and drollery. His 1868 opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is his only comedy and even then it is based on the aesthetic ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism.
Probably the most accessible of his later operas, Meistersinger remains popular despite its association with Nazism, racism, and Germanic nationalism.
The opera’s imposing overture made a fine curtain raiser last night with energetic playing by the APO that brought out the joy and freshness of the music. The complex final section with its brilliantly crafted counterpoint brought the overture to an exciting conclusion.
British composer Thomas Adès wrote his violin Concerto Concentric Circles for the violinist Anthony Marwood who is no stranger to New Zealand audiences. Last night Marwood delivered a visceral, riveting performance of the concerto.
From the opening of the first movement with its stratospheric, circling orbits of sound he brought out the intense lyricism of the music with effortless style despite the music’s quite fiendish technical challenges.
The centre of the concerto’s triptych structure is the large second movement which is based on the Baroque chaconne form. The music cycles down as if losing its fight against gravity and finished on the violin’s lowest notes after brilliant, tense and volatile playing from Marwood and the APO.
The short third movement had a lumbering dance like feel that was full of energy and ended with a sharp orchestral chord. A thrilling performance of this rigorous but accessible concerto which, despite its relatively short duration, contains worlds of complexity and emotion. It was the high point of the evening.
The concert’s final work was Hector Berlioz’s well-known Symphonie fantastique.
This opium-inspired five movement symphony gave the ‘Fantasy’ title to the concert with its programmatic structure of a series of hallucinations experienced by an artist.
This was a powerful performance that captured the individual characters of each movement (or vision). The third movement’s pastoral calm was slyly undercut by paranoid thoughts of betrayal and the four tympani provided suitably ominous distant thunder.
Bellincampi and the APO gave us a suitably nightmarish vision of execution in the fourth movement and had plenty in reserve for the demonic frenzy of the final.
It was dramatic ending to a varied evening that successfully launched the 2019 Premier season.
APO, 14 February 2019, Premier Series 1 ‘Fantasy’
Conductor – Giordano Bellincampi
Violin – Anthony Marwood
Wagner – Der Meistersinger Overture
Adès – Violin Concerto ‘Concentric Circles’
Berlioz – Symphonie fantastique