NZSO at 70: Ten things you need to know about our symphony orchestra

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Although their players come from around the country, the Wellington-based NZSO have shown an affinity for the capital.

March 6 marks 70 years since the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's (NZSO) first performance.

To celebrate, the orchestra is performing to a full house at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre on Monday night. 

The audience will  include a few who attended the orchestra's first concert on March 6, 1947 at the Wellington Town Hall.

Works by Dvorak, Elgar, Gareth Farr, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Verdi, Sibelius, Ron Goodwin and Strauss have been specially chosen by the orchestra's players for the 7pm concert which will also be broadcast live on Radio New Zealand Concert from 7pm.

The first official photograph of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
NZSO

The first official photograph of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

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In another way to mark the NZSO's milestone, they have also released 10 facts about themselves that may surprise you:

1.       When it first performed on  March 6, 1947 only a few of the musicians had played in other symphony orchestras. The rest were former students, ex-cinema players or ex-members of the RNZAF Band.

The NZSO's first performance was at the Wellington Town Hall on March 6, 1947.
N/A

The NZSO's first performance was at the Wellington Town Hall on March 6, 1947.

2.       In its first year, some players objected to being told to wear white rather than black ties with their dinner jackets. A few players rebelled and sported black ties at performances until they were threatened with dismissal.

3.       In the mid-1950s, the orchestra performed Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with musicians firing shotguns into 1500 litre tanks to sound like field cannons. In rehearsals, the sound was so loud it shook plaster from the ceiling and frightened players.  During a performance a shotgun wasn't aimed deep enough into the tank and instead blew the music score off a stand.

4.       In 1969, at a series of hit concerts, several orchestra players used beer flagons to perform Haydn's Surprise Symphony.  

The inaugural visit of the orchestra to Christchurch in April 1947 was advertised as "An Event of National Importance" ...
NZSO

The inaugural visit of the orchestra to Christchurch in April 1947 was advertised as "An Event of National Importance" in the window of the city's DIC department store.

5.       The NZSO has worked with some of the biggest names in classical music including Igor Stravinsky, Jacqueline du Pre, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, James Galway, Dames Kiri Te Kanawa and Malvina Major, Nigel Kennedy and Renee Fleming.

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6.       Among the big pop, rock and dance names the NZSO has performed with are Sting, Sir Cliff Richard and Dionne Warwick, Split Enz and Salmonella Dub.

7.       The NZSO first toured overseas in 1974, performed at Expo '92 in Seville, Spain. The BBC Proms in London, the World Expo at Aichi, Japan and Europe in 2010 to full houses, standing ovations and outstanding reviews.

Richard Farrell is presented to The Queen at the NZSO's first Royal Performance in Dunedin in 1954.
NZSO

Richard Farrell is presented to The Queen at the NZSO's first Royal Performance in Dunedin in 1954.

8.       The NZSO has performed all or part of scores for about 20 movies, including The Fellowship of the Ring and The Hobbit films The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies,  The Lovely Bones, Under the Mountain, Emperor, Mr Pip, horror movie Krampus and the action blockbuster Escape Plan, starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

9.       The NZSO performed music for big-selling video game, Titanfall 2, released in 2016 by video game giant Electronic Arts.

10.   In 2016, the NZSO was nominated for its first Grammy Award – Best Orchestral Performance – for a recording of works by Pulitzer Prize-winning Chinese composer Zhou Long and the Symphony Humen 1839, written in collaboration with compatriot Chen Yi.

Igor Stravinsky celebrates his performance with the NZSO in Wellington in 1961.
NZSO

Igor Stravinsky celebrates his performance with the NZSO in Wellington in 1961.

 

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa performed with the NZSO at the Sydney Opera House in 1974.
Supplied

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa performed with the NZSO at the Sydney Opera House in 1974.

Over the years, the NZSO have toured the world, with some orchestra members even taking their families on the road.
Mark Coote

Over the years, the NZSO have toured the world, with some orchestra members even taking their families on the road.

 - Stuff

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