Review: “Cathedral of Sound” (Mozart / Bruckner) – Simone Young / New Zealand Symphony Orchestra – 18 August 2012


Just glorious.

Really, that would sum up the evening. Nothing more need be said.

But how ‘glorious’, I hear some of you ask ? Blissfully so. Billed as “Cathedral of Sound” , we all expected big things from a performance of Bruckner’s 5th Symphony. And we got them.

Making her NZSO debut was highly regarded Australian conductor Simone Young, currently the generalmusikdirector of the Hamburg Philharmonic, State Opera and Ballet. Ahead of what should be an exciting series of concerts with her orchestra, opera company and ballet company in Brisbane, she did a did a ‘fi-fo’ for two concerts,one in Wellington and one in Auckland.

Perhaps it’s a little tongue-in-cheek but I had suspected that after its concert performances of ‘Die Walkure’, a Bruckner symphony might seem like a walk in the park. But that’s not to say that it was played a carefree attitude – not at all. The 5th starts very quietly and the dynamic contrasts so fundamental to Bruckner’s symphonies were emphatically demonstrated throughout.

Young directed with precision which was particularly noticeable in the Adagio second movement and the contrapuntally complicated last movement. She’s not the most graceful conductor to watch, but she is effective and it was clear she knows this work very well. The NZSO certainly responded in kind and, with several contract players added to the ranks, showed no obvious fatigue from playing the same programme in Wellington the previous evening.

Earlier, Young didn’t so much as conduct the orchestra in a bright and breezy performance of Mozart’s “Linz” Symphony than urging the players on through flexible exhortation senza batone – a sprinkle of fairy dust here, a broad sweeping phrase there, a shake of the hands and almost dancing in her Louboutin heels everywhere. Interestingly, in the Menuetto, to emphasise the string quartet nature of the development, only the principals played creating an audible contrast. Clever thinking !

Footnote: the Ministry of Culture & Heritage has released the New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review Discussion Paper. Please read through the paper and make a submission.
http://www.mch.govt.nz/orchestra-review

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About TI

TI is based in Auckland, New Zealand. TI's somewhat eclectic interests include (but are certainly not limited to) legal humour (the law can be funny), good wine, the search for the best possible chocolate, alcoholic beverages, travel, commercial aircraft, photography, weird news stories and classical music.
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