Otter and VWO thrill audience

16:00, Nov 22 2011
SWEDISH MEZZO: Anne Sofie von Otter performed with the Vector Wellington Orchestra at Wellington Town Hall.
SWEDISH MEZZO: Anne Sofie von Otter performed with the Vector Wellington Orchestra at Wellington Town Hall.

As one would expect, the hall was very full for the much awaited appearance in Wellington of the great Swedish mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter, and they were not disappointed. She sang seven of Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne beautifully.

Her superbly modulated voice and her sense of style, gently inflected for the character of each song, caught the essence of these popular melodies. But Canteloube's rather overblown orchestrations occasionally threatened to overwhelm Ms Otter, making one wish that, seeing as this was a concert strongly featuring Berlioz, that we did not have his song cycle Les Nuits d'Ete instead. But that is probably unfair in the circumstances, and the encore, a charming song by ex Abba member Benny Andersson, was deliciously done.

But the concert will be, for many, best remembered for the rip-snorting performance of Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. Over the years I have heard innumerable performances of this astonishing work, premiered just three years after Beethoven's death, and few of them captured the intensity needed. No problems here as Marc Taddei revealed  his understanding of just how to approach Berlioz. In the excitement of the last two movements he took no prisoners with wonderfully precise, snarling brass, bass drums walloping away and a breathtaking sense of the almost visually illustrative visual  nature of this visionary piece was breathtaking.

I would not want to imply any lack of sensitivity or subtlety. The Ball was infectiously balletic and, best of all, the Scene in the Country, which can drag, was here played and conducted with wonderful poise. Like a fine painting, the colours were vividly drawn.

The concert opened with a superbly paced performance of Debussy's ground-breaking Prelude a l'apres-midi d'une faune; a performance that featured lovely flute playing, and an overall sheen from the orchestra that belies their status in the eyes of our cultural funders.

Vector Wellington Orchestra: Conducted by Marc Taddei with Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo), Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Music by Debussy, Canteloube and Berlioz

Wellington Town Hall, November 18

Reviewed by John Button


The Dominion Post