Concert Review: NZSO, Bold Worlds: New Frontiers

Anne Akiko Meyers joined the NZSO for Bold Worlds: New Frontiers.
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Anne Akiko Meyers joined the NZSO for Bold Worlds: New Frontiers.

Bold Worlds: New Frontiers
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fawzi Haimor, with Anne Akiko Meyers (violin).
Music by Reich, Bates and Dvorak.
Michael Fowler Centre,  October 8.

On paper, this concert did not, clearly, appeal to many subscribers – there where far too many empty seats and this was a pity, for there was a refreshing edge to the whole concert in its journey through the unfamiliar, the not very familiar and the downright popular.

Steve Reich is 80 years old this year and 1986's Three Movements is a concise reminder of his pivotal role in the development of minimalism. Modelled on a baroque structure of fast-slow-fast movements this example of pure, unadulterated minimalism has a simplicity of purpose that has been submerged beneath the huge, and increasingly meaningless, output of Philip Glass. It retains a certain fascination for the endless repetition of very little through the subtlest of variation.

Mason Bates is a young American composer, best-known as a DJ who works mostly in digital media, but this work shows that he is completely comfortable working with a conventional orchestra in a standard violin concerto. His use of the orchestra is brilliantly coloured and constantly on the move; for the first bar we are thrust into a road trip of cross rhythms, syncopations and endless colours from the orchestra. Ideas come and go, rarely repeated, with the world of the cinema not very far away.

The violin part is, frankly, less interesting though it is clearly demanding and there is a long cadenza in the third movement. The work is inspired by the development of birds from the time of the dinosaur to the present day – but forget that – it is merely a highly attractive post-modern, audience-friendly, work that was greeted with great enthusiasm.

READ MORE: Support for Canes reaches crescendo as NZSO chimes in 

The second half gave us a thrillingly direct performance of Dvorak's perennial favourite – the Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" – in which conductor Haimor, who had impressed all night, gave us Dvorak without frills, abetted by some excellent, highly responsive, playing from the orchestra.

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 - Stuff

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