Music review: Fine playing by Orchestra Wellington

Jian Liu played Grieg's evergreen Piano Concerto in A minor with ideal simplicity.
Maarten Holl/Stuff

Jian Liu played Grieg's evergreen Piano Concerto in A minor with ideal simplicity.

Music by Ravel, Grieg, Weber, Orchestra Wellington conducted by Marc Taddei with Jian Liu (piano), Michael Fowler Centre, September 9.

 

A large audience was in attendance for this continuation of the year's theme of Diaghilev and the Ballets Russe; here called Invitation to the Dance.

At times the works played were only loosely within this description but it was an attractive, undemanding programme that displayed the continued growth of this underfunded local orchestra.

Two contrasting waltz themed works by Ravel bookended the concert; first the elegant suite of waltzes Noble and Sentimental Waltzes. Starting life as works for piano, then beautifully orchestrated by Ravel, these superbly poised pieces drew from the orchestra polished playing. Maybe slightly more robust than ideal at times, but impressive nonetheless.

The manic La Valse tested the players but they responded splendidly with the final chaotic destruction of the waltz managed with a clarity often lost in performances by more illustrious orchestras.

Weber's Invitation to the Dance in the orchestration by Berlioz was also extremely well done. Featuring lovely solo work from cellist Brenton Veitch and clarinetist Mark Cookson there was a fine bite and rhythmic security to the playing.

But the performance of Grieg's evergreen Piano Concerto in A minor was the heart of the concert. Some people look down their nose at its popularity but Schoenberg once said: ".. I would loved to have composed this piece..". And pianist Jian Liu played it with an ideal simplicity.

There was never an attempt to gild the lily – just excellent pianism and a simple straightforward poetry. Occasionally there was a small, almost imperceptible, hesitation, but nothing serious enough to mar a very fine performance.

All in all, a most enjoyable, well played, well conducted concert. 

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 - Stuff

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