Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra: Settling the Score

3 Dec

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It was my birthday last Thursday, incidentally a date shared with the late, great Jimi Hendrix. I had planned a full day, catching David Tennant in a film of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Richard II in the afternoon, and then cycling along the waterfront before capping the day off with my third Auckland Philharmonia concert. But you know what they say about best laid plans; the film was canceled and the cycling put off due to an inopportune cold, so it was left to the APO in their ominously titled concert Settling the Score to salvage the remains of my name day.

For those of you who, like me, are new to APO concerts, Settling the Score is one of the final performances by the orchestra for the year, and the programme is comprised of a selection of the top ten classical pieces as chosen by their followers. Due to time constraints only the top seven were performed on this occasion, but the full ten were revealed to a highly anticipating, and often surprised audience.

I am, and have always been a rock and roller, so I still find APO concerts a little daunting, pressing me out of my comfort zone. But what always surprises me is that each time I go something new resonates with the rocker in me. At the first concert I noticed how similar the buzz and hum of the expectant audience was, at the second it was the eclectic mix of people who turned up, but at Settling the Score it was that most precious and revered of all rock and roll traits; the cult of the rock star.

There were many fine pieces played that night, including the challenging but undeniably powerful Forces by New Zealand composer Dame Gillian Whitehead, but it was those pieces which included soloists Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck and Natalia Lomeiko, as well as soprano Patricia Wright, those rock stars of the classical world, that really stood out for me. These began when the APO’s principal cellist Sakakushev-von Bismarck took to the stage to perform Dvorak’s Cello Concerto which came in at a respectable number five in the chart. He swayed and drifted away with the music, teasingly running fingers and bow across his instrument before ever playing a note, for as well as Sakakushev-von Bismarck plays the cello, he knows how to play his audience. His performance was divine in the truest sense of the word. Music appeared to flow through him as if he was simply a messenger for some higher power, making Sakakushev-von Bismarck one of a very small handful of musicians who I honestly believe were born to do nothing else.

Sakakushev-von Bismarck was followed by the award winning violinist Natalia Lomeiko in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Though physically slight, Lomeiko’s talent shone through by force of sheer passion for the music. She returned to the stage to perform Vaughan William’s Lark Ascending. Lomeiko again dazzled, her playing creating bold, beautiful soundscapes upon which for the little lark to soar.

Finally, the world famous soprano Patricia Wright was brought out to round out the top two spots, beginning with Song to the Moon from Dvorak’s Rusalka. Of all the pieces on the night this one was my favourite with Dvorak’s music swoon made song, and Wright’s performance so perfectly elegant one would have had no difficulty believing it was the voice of a lovelorn water nymph they were hearing that night. A perfect marriage between excellent source material and expert interpretation.

The show closed with Wright in Strauss’ Four Last Songs, the perfect end to a perfect evening; my desire for entertainment thoroughly sated, I slipped off my glittered heels and padded barefoot out into the night. After a day of misfortune the score was finally settled; APO one: Birthday Blues nil.

 

Ed.

 

The APO has two final Christmas concerts left in their 2013 programme before returning on January 30th with The Adults meet the APO. For ticketing and information on upcoming events visit: http://apo.co.nz/

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