Review: The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's Fireworks and Fantasy

DAVID SELL
Last updated 07:51 14/11/2013

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A mighty mixture of fun, fireworks and fantasy made for a great concert, the last of the NZSO's for this year.

Fun characterises Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, included here in recognition of the centenary of the birth of the composer.

The NZSO's spirited performance confirmed Britten's brilliance in writing music of appeal to children.

Julian Kuerti chose his tempi well for the acoustical reticence of the CBS Arena, a reticence that is nevertheless very revealing, and initially had me worried with the pace at which he took the fugue.

My worry was quite unjustified. The NZSO is a magnificent instrument that gave never a hint of losing control, but built the work to a peak of fun and fireworks.

Add poetic to the mix and we approach the artistry of the Bulgarian pianist Plamena Mangova in her account of Tchaikowsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

Mangova had it all: huge power that was never coarse, an agility that was scrupulously clear and, in the second movement, especially, the most exquisite poetry.

Julian Kuerti was a perfect partner in his guidance of the orchestra and shaping the work as a whole.

And so to the fantasy. Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique remains the epitome of adult musical fantasy.

It has kept its strength for 180 years, even while the mystery of the fantastic is debased in a modern impatient world.

Berlioz still makes us think, a factor that Julian Kuerti brought convincingly to his interpretation.

It is a work that demands insight if it is to convince. And convince it did.

Kuerti shaped it brilliantly, ensuring that each of the five clearly defined parts plays its role to the maximum, allowing fantasy to explode in the right place and to the right degree of fireworks in the witches' Sabbath.

Fireworks & Fantasy. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, with piano soloist Plamena Mangova, conducted by Julian Kuerti. The CBS Canterbury Arena; November 13, 2013. Reviewed by David Sell.

 

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