Presented by: Orchestra Wellington
Conducted by: Marc Taddei
Michael Fowler Centre, 21st May 2022
Reviewed by: Dawn Brook
The undoubted highlight of this excellent concert was The All-Seeing Sky by John Psathas, Orchestra Wellington’s composer-in-residence. The work is scored for orchestra and two percussion instruments, marimba and vibraphone. They were played by Swiss artists, Fabian Ziegler and Luca Staffelbach, with whom Psathas worked during the composition process. Quite apart from the music, this was a visual delight with the percussionists wielding their mallets like magicians.
Psathas described the music as grim, dealing with Dante’s underworld. But in fact, while there was furious strength and rhythmic drama, there was also great delicacy and the creation of beautiful soundscapes. This was partly thanks to the qualities of the solo instruments, and partly to the beautiful passages where they were coupled with individual instruments such as the bassoon, cello, clarinet, harp, and whispering strings.
Enough of Psathas! There were two other wonderful performances in this concert! Orchestra Wellington’s theme for the season is Circle of Friends featuring works by Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara, by Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny, and by Brahms and others whose lives were intertwined.
Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture in C opened the concert. After a thoughtful and graceful introduction, the work breaks out into a very attractive liveliness which leads to a bold, final burst of energy. What might Fanny have produced if she were not a woman at the wrong time in history, constrained by family wealth and position as well. The orchestra gave a sparkling performance of her work.
It was only when Robert Schumann married Clara that he turned to symphonic composition producing the masterly Spring Symphony, conducted by Mendelssohn at the first performance. It is a hugely joyful work with new life flowing and bursting out relentlessly. Taddei luxuriated in both the energy and the tender passion expressed in the work.
Thank you, Orchestra Wellington.