Nelson Symphony Orchestra's intoxicating alternative to Marchfest

John Rimmer conducts the Nelson Symphony Orchestra rehearsing at the Old St John's Hall.
MARION VAN DIJK/FairfaxNZ

John Rimmer conducts the Nelson Symphony Orchestra rehearsing at the Old St John's Hall.

Nelson Symphony Orchestra "Transformations" 

Old St John's, Saturday March 25

It was a chilly, damp, drizzly evening in Nelson when I stepped into the warmth of Old St John's for the Nelson Symphony Orchestra's first concert of 2017.

Beginning with Weber's Overture to Turandot, conductor John Rimmer masterfully moved the orchestra from delicateness to full harmonic power.

Throughout Haydn's Symphony No 93 in D woodwind, brass, strings and percussion blended into impressive oneness and the playfulness of bowing, punctuated with pizzicato, expressed the Austrian joy of living moment by moment.

Each of the next four pieces of the "Transformations" programme was, Rimmer writes, "a work by one composer transformed by another in the style of a musical commentary".

To this end Rimmer, himself a composer, was bound to create layers upon layers of emotions, textures and depth.

In Liugi Dallapicccola's Tartiniana Suite No 2, lone voices spoke out, violin, keyboard, flute, in longing and hope. The sublime emotive beauty of violin soloist John Thomson's rendition was captivating, sensual and sublime, and, as fit for an alternative to Marchfest, intoxicating.

The audience was left still and spellbound after the orchestra's final note. 

Gallo's Trio Sonata No 1 in G, movement 1, was a feat of vibrancy and complexity, sections converging urgently back together like trapeze artists, composer like conductor intentionally pushing the players to the edge of their comfort zone with no net, and diverse sections of the orchestra clinging back to each other as a feeling of risk, daring and excitement filled the space.

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Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite and Brahms' St Anthony Variations were more safely and often soothingly rendered. When I stepped back out into the drizzle of the night, it didn't feel dreary any longer and I raised my face to embrace its having magically turned fresh and invigorating.

 - Stuff

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