Concert Review: NZSO, Bold Worlds: New Frontiers

Anne Akiko Meyers is billed as one of the world's most adventurous violin virtuosos

Bold Worlds: New Frontiers 
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conductor Fawzi Haimor with Anne Akiko Meyers (violin).
Horncastle Arena,  October 4.
Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd.

Having heard and played Dvořák's 9th Symphony "From the New World" many times, I was really here for the first half.

However, I'm going to lead with the Dvořák as, in many ways, it actually made the night. I doubt you could hear a better performance, it was superb, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The orchestra gave us a performance to remember and conductor Fawzi Haimor provided a textbook exercise in how it should be done for any budding conductors in the audience. Not only did he do it from memory, but he knew every cue, nuance and tempo shift, and drew what I felt was a stunning performance from the orchestra. The horns were immaculate and the cor anglais solo in the slow movement was spot on. The strings carried much of the heavy lifting throughout with many exciting moments, but the delicacy shown in the adagio and the string octet was magnificent. I can't leave this without mentioning the sensitivity and tight ensemble of the brass.

​So much for what I thought was going to be a couple of lines at the end! The two works in the first half, Steve Reich's Three Movements, and Mason Bates' Violin Concerto, combined to give a pretty accurate insight into the current American scene – the now commonplace (some might say passé) minimalist textures that still perplex some concertgoers, coupled with lyricism of an almost cinematographic proportion, and an edge derived from popular and rock music.

Anne Akiko Meyers delivered a breathtaking, out of this world performance in Christchurch on Tuesday night.

Anne Akiko Meyers delivered a breathtaking, out of this world performance in Christchurch on Tuesday night.

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

Anne Akiko Meyers had her work cut out with Bates' Violin Concerto. Fearfully hard, it reminded me of the "sheets of sound" saxophonist John Coltrane was known for, an unrelenting moto perpetuo of sheer virtuosity, but also with long periods of unabashed beauty. Bates must be thrilled to have Meyers championing his work as she is out of this world, scampering around the instrument, up to the dizzy heights with ease and flying around like a whirlwind – breathtaking. Plenty of interest for the orchestra, too, bringing sound effects and music together in a piece that one senses has an internal logic, begging a second and a third listen.

I love the Reich for its antiphonal exchanges and the climax that is, in fact, an abrupt end. The orchestra was magnificent, the two string sections and mallet instruments allowing the brass and woodwind through the middle in a mix I doubt a sound engineer could better.

The NZSO will also perform Bold Worlds: New Frontiers in Auckland on Friday and Wellington on Saturday.

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