Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by: Gemma New
Michael Fowler Centre, 17th Nov 2023
Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans
Although I am in the tiny minority of my generation who have somehow never seen the film, it says much about John Williams’ music that the opening piece, Adventures on Earth from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, was immediately recognisable to me. It was played with gusto and the smiles on the faces of the orchestra immediately engaged the attentive full house.
At first glance the programme was predominantly film soundtracks, and it would have been easy to overlook the Violin Concerto No. 2 (New Zealand premiere) tucked between E.T. and the interval. However, it was utterly impossible to ignore a single note of the spectacular performance we were lucky enough to hear next.
Anne-Sophie Mutter is a renowned violinist with a long career and, aged only 60, many years ahead of her. Mutter commissioned the Violin Concerto No. 2 from Williams and, in what must be a reflection of his respect and admiration for her talent and skill, it is technically hugely demanding, with achingly beautiful passages, fearsome cadenzas, and plenty of drama and atmosphere.
Mutter showed complete ease, total confidence, and absolute commitment to the music. Famed for her technique, she augmented and varied her tone brilliantly. The balance with the orchestra was perfect. New brought in the orchestra imperceptibly and with such cohesion it was impossible to tell sometimes where violin stopped and orchestra started.
The second half was all cinema with tracks from Hook, The Adventures of Tintin, Cinderella, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. Williams can extract such extraordinary sounds from the orchestra, there were reminders music accompanied movies long before electronic sounds and effects. We were also treated to three additional film tracks Williams had arranged for violin. Mutter dedicated the theme from Schindler’s List to all those suffering in the world through war, reminding us how fortunate we are to be able to find escapism in music and film.