New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Friday 17 June 2016, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor
Johannes Moser, cello
Dances of Galánta – Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)
Cello Concerto in d minor – Édouard Lalo (1823-1892)
Scheherazade – Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
I have seen many performances by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra over the years, and I have reviewed the last four concerts this year, and their standard of playing is always exceptional. So it was disquieting that this concert began with a disparaging note: the cellos entry was ragged –mistimed – and the blaring solo horn that answered it was overblown and overpitched. Galvanised, the orchestra settled down and the rest of the programme was up to their excellent standard.
The Kodály was fresh and vibrant: the woodwind were particularly fine and the strings were alternatively frivolous and passionate.
The conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, was flamboyant and athletic in his gestures. In the Kodály and the Rimsky-Korsakov, he dispensed with the score and podium, so he choreographed his expressive movement with abandon, exhorting the various sections to do his will. It was entertaining and appropriate for this music. And impressive – that he committed to memory the score of the 40-odd minutes of Scheherazade.
The Lalo Cello Concerto was very well played and the soloist, Johannes Moser, was faultless and authoritative. Every note was perfectly in tune – as we say, “the middle of the note.” Singing and soaring above the orchestral texture, he commanded the platform – contained in the beginning of his phrases but mobile and florid at the climax – enraptured, bow flying.
The audience rewarded him with three ovations and he responded with a encore: the Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No.1, with Baroque-style appoggiaturas and flourishes. It was odd, given the Romantic nature of the rest of the concert, but he played beautifully and at the end [forgive the cliche] you could have heard a pin drop, even in the Michael Fowler Centre. I am a cellist – I loved it!
The second half was devoted the Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Maybe I have heard it before too many times but, despite the exemplary playing from the orchestra and the ardent gesticulations from the conductor, it didn’t gel with me. Basically the piece is a Theme and Variations on two or three motifs, extended over four movements and 40 minutes. The orchestra was magnificent and the soloists: concertmaster, piccolo, cor anglais, oboe, bassoon, trumpets …. but it didn’t do it for me. It was like an actor who had too many roles in recent times – over-exposed. Sorry.
The star of the show was Patrick Barry, principal clarinet. He provided solos in each of the three pieces in the programme and his tone, fluidity, breath and dynamic control was magnificent.