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Beethoven 5  | Regional News

Beethoven 5

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: André de Ridder

Michael Fowler Centre, 30th Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

Da-da-da-dum. Da-da-da-dum. This famous start to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is often played portentously, seen as “fate knocking at the door.” In this performance it was over in a flash, signalling that this was to be a very high-energy version of the symphony. The rhythm of the motif is continually integrated throughout the first movement. It underlies or breaks into quieter passages of lyrical music which seem to wish to console the listener, only to be taken over by another strong and urgent climax.

In more subtle form, the motif continues through the other movements. The second and third movements are more lyrical but still punctuated by dramatic sections using the full resources of the orchestra. I feel like I hold my breath through these movements. Though quieter than the first, for me they have a suspense about them which is only resolved with the exuberant sense of triumph of the last movement.

At the same time as he was writing the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven was writing the Coriolan Overture. It also is a dramatic work with typical big contrasts of pace and power. It tells of Coriolanus, the Roman general who planned to punish his own people and sack Rome. His mother beseeches him to give away his terrible plans. The music beautifully contrasts his heroic and ruthless character with her gentle maternal entreaties. The work ends with his suicide.

Commissioned for Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, subito con forza by Korean Unsuk Chin completed the programme. Its opening copies the Coriolan Overture’s and then reflects an aspect of Beethoven which Unsuk Chin particularly likes: “the enormous contrasts from volcanic eruptions to extreme sensitivity”. The words beautifully sum up the concert.

I’d think that Maestro André de Ridder is a wonderfully dynamic and demanding conductor to work under. The ever-good NZSO was in especially excellent form.

Marsalis: Blues Symphony | Regional News

Marsalis: Blues Symphony

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: André de Ridder

Michael Fowler Centre, 29th July 2023

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

While not generally a fan of jazz, I thoroughly enjoyed the jazz idioms of this concert. From the enthusiastic applause throughout, I’d say the whole audience absolutely loved it.

The concert evidenced an attempt by American composers over many years to achieve some integration of the spontaneity and soundscapes of traditional American jazz and blues music with classical forms. The concert opened with Bryce Dessner’s 2020 work Mari, followed by George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and Wynton Marsalis’ Blues Symphony (2009).

Mari (Mari being the Basque forest goddess) was notable for its textures and sonic washes punctuated by small bites of more distinct sound, the whole evoking a forest, peaceful but teeming with buzzing, budding life. Rhapsody in Blue starts with a stunning glissando on the clarinet, which is then joined by trombone, horns, strings, and saxophone before the piano makes its entry. These beginnings are magical and the magic never stops. The music is, by turns, teasing, marching, thundering, lyrical, luscious, and spunky. It is irresistible. The piano soloist was Australian Simon Tedeschi, romantic, nonchalant, and virtuosic to suit the moment.

The Blues Symphony is something else again. It is huge: seven movements, an hour long, and alive every minute. It traverses several aspects of American music – jazz, blues, rag, and Latin dance. Horns, trumpets with wah-wah mutes, bassoons, saxophones, clarinets, and a variety of percussion, including hand clapping, provided much of the colour and drama. The strings were less dominant than in most classical compositions, but the double basses were in the thick of it and looked like they were having a ball.

André de Ridder was vigorous, emphatic, and expressive in his conducting, and a joy to watch as he danced his way through the programme. He could be well pleased with the orchestra’s performance.

Become Ocean | Regional News

Become Ocean

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: André de Ridder

Michael Fowler Centre, 28th Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

The opening notes of Tōru Takemitsu’s Rain Tree ringing delicately through the blue light bathing the stage set the scene for a beautiful and evocative programme. The tuned bells, each allowed to resonate in response to each other, signalled the moment rain began to fall. The bells gradually gave way to marimba, xylophone, and vibraphone, sometimes solo, otherwise in combination, suggesting the different patterns and sounds of rainfall on leaves, or creating ripples in a pond, or a more intense shower hitting the ground. Under changing lighting effects, the three percussionists had the stage to themselves yet filled the auditorium with highly picturesque sound.

Continuing the visual element of the concert, conductor André de Ridder described John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean as “an art sound installation with an orchestra”. de Ridder explained the orchestra was organised, more strictly than is usual, into three distinct sonic groups. Firstly, the strings, augmented with four harps, piano and celeste, then woodwind, and lastly the brass, the density of the sound they would produce being essential for the composer’s intentions.

While the work itself is highly structured, the impression on the listener was much closer to the experience promised in the title. The layers of music surrounded us with waves growing and breaking, a strong undertow and incredibly deep water, ripples on the surface, light moving across the distant view, conflicting energy where currents run in different directions, the rise of the waves before they break, and the rolling, barely restrained energy of a deep ocean swell.

They say we all associate with one of the elements. I think those of us who are water people were truly at home in this piece. It was an immersive and all-consuming experience. The mathematical precision of the composition perhaps evidence of the theory that all things in nature, including the sea, have an order we can describe in art.

Home Kills | Regional News

Home Kills

(Not rated)

110 minutes

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

When you’re drowning in debt, struggling to keep the whānau ‘home kills’ business alive, starting a family, and don’t even have money to buy toilet paper, you resort to drastic measures. In Haydn Butler’s Home Kills, screening this Whānau Mārama International Film Festival, brothers Tom (Cameron Jones) and Mark (Josh McKenzie) find a solution by switching livestock for human lives.

I have to be honest and say that Home Kills didn’t feel like a comedy to me. I’m a huge fan of dark comedies, so it’s not that I just didn’t get it. I’ve seen almost every Coen Brothers movie, I watched In Bruges with utter glee, The Banshees of Inisherin was delightfully unhinged. I went into Home Kills thinking it belonged in the genre, and while the central premise is great and there were a few funny lines, I just didn’t catch myself laughing all that much.

Perhaps it’s because I didn’t feel much sympathy for the protagonists? Though that’s common in the genre. I felt for Tom in the beginning since he was dragged into the mess by Mark, but by the end I think I wanted them both to pay their dues. That said, I’m not mad that I disliked them. McKenzie’s Mark is possibly one of the most unsympathetic characters I’ve ever encountered… and I kind of loved it. He truly has no redeeming qualities. He’s selfish, irritating, infuriatingly impulsive, and McKenzie does a bang-up job.

I was also struck by Alex Jenkins’ cinematography. The film is beautiful both in composition and setting, the light captured as brilliantly as the grungy, dank shadows. Furthermore, there were some innovative shots and angles. In a scene where the brothers flee a bar, the camera angle looks as though Mark is holding a GoPro up towards his face, the action in the background. It’s exquisitely stressful and adeptly builds tension.

Home Kills is a fresh romp through rural New Zealand from a different perspective. It was a bit grim at times and would have benefitted from more tongue in cheek, but it’s another quality Kiwi caper to add to our already impressive books.

Colours  | Regional News


Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 22nd Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

Compelling programming, three superb soloists, a committed orchestra, and a dedicated conductor made this an outstanding concert.

A quasi-piano concerto in Richard Strauss’ Burleske, a quasi-symphony in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and a work so outrageous in 1912 that people hissed its debut, Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, made up the programme. Jian Liu was the soloist in Burleske, while Oliver Sewell and Hadleigh Adams were the tenor and baritone soloists respectively in Mahler’s song cycle.

Burleske was written by Strauss at the age of 20. It is an exuberant, one-movement work, hugely challenging for the soloist. Throughout there was a bit of a dialogue between the piano and, of all things, the timpani. Several times, the work seemed to reach an extravagant finale, only to have the timpani intervene and set the piano off again. The timpani had the last word, as it had the first. Liu’s restrained and modest presentation belied the magic of his hands and fingers. Liu presented a solo encore which was as delicate and introspective as Burleske was sparkling and virtuosic.

Schoenberg’s short pieces sparkled in a different way. It feels nervous, unsettled, and unexpected, with instrumentation choices creating varied textures and timbre, complex soundscapes, and different moods. Tuneful it is not, and the effects are most often fleeting and splintered. Orchestra Wellington got into it with gusto, and it was certainly no hissing matter.

Das Lied von der Erde is a supremely emotional work, addressing Mahler’s concerns with nature and mortality. This work also demands much of its soloists. Sewell was sometimes drowned by the fullness of the orchestra, but the quality of his voice and interpretation was never in doubt. Adams brought great emotionality to his performance, and in the final movement, Der Abschied (The Farewell), his performance was intense and very moving.

Club Sandwich: Stand Up Comedy All Stars | Regional News

Club Sandwich: Stand Up Comedy All Stars

Presented by: Monfu

The Fringe Bar, 15th Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Club Sandwich is a monthly comedy night that serves up the city’s freshest comedians on a silver platter, sandwich style. Our headline act – the meat, if you will – is Taskmaster NZ star David Correos, who is sandwiched by local comedy ringleader Jerome Chandrahasen and award-winning storyteller, writer, and actor Sameena Zehra. After some introductory banter between the three, each comedian performs a solo 20-minute set to the capacity crowd.

It all starts with Chandrahasen, the perfect opening act. His crowd work is exceptional, particularly when dissing our responses (in a friendly way). Speaking of friends, Chandrahasen is really good at making new ones when out drinking. His Shrewsbury biscuit anecdote is my favourite of the evening. Warm and golden like cookies fresh out the oven, his comedy is as Kiwi as it gets, with plenty of yeah-nahs, ois, and genial profanities that we lap up and gobble down, bellies full of laughs and hypothetical bikkies.

Zehra covers the big stuff – gender, race, religion, politics – and concludes her set with a bang: a story about the best sexual harassment she's experienced yet. Sharp and artfully crafted, her material includes a tasty morsel about confusing the bigots of the world. With a decidedly more laid-back, quietly assured delivery style, she serves as a grounding anchor between Chandrahasen, whose manic energy is a 10, and Correos, whose manic energy is… um, infinite.

At one point, Correos makes me fall out of my chair. He charges onto the stage like a bull in a china shop, tearing up the place, sending it harder and harder, bucking wilder and wilder, crunching fragments of broken porcelain beneath his hooves and practically frothing at the mouth as he impersonates a fish, a mime, and a Filipino dad whose grasp of English slips in stressful situations. It’s frantic, frenzied, feverish, frenetic. It’s cataclysmic chaos. It’s the epitome of lesh gooo. I’ve never seen anything like it. And my God, I loved it.

Guy Wilson Creating Golf Excellence: The Genesis of Lydia Ko & More Stars | Regional News

Guy Wilson Creating Golf Excellence: The Genesis of Lydia Ko & More Stars

Written by: Bruce Miller

Bruce Miller and Team Golfwell

Reviewed by: Kerry Lee 

Lydia Ko will go down in history as one of South Korea and New Zealand’s (let’s share her) greatest golfers. But as the saying goes, a person is only as great as the people behind them – the ones who believe in them and put in the hard work to see that belief turned into reality.

In the beginning, those ‘people’ had one name: Guy Wilson. For those unfamiliar with Guy, he was the man who took Lydia under his wing and coached her when, as a five-year-old, she accompanied her mother to the Pupuke Golf Club. While they got off to a shaky start (Lydia did not know much English or about golf), it was not long before Guy was building up her confidence and fostering her love of the sport.

With a foreword by former Prime Minister Sir John Key, an avid golfer himself (and one who scored a hole in one for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2022), Guy Wilson Creating Golf Excellence is essentially an analysis of what makes sportspeople like Lydia such a pro, and what steps she took earlier in her career. Bruce Miller interviews several greats in the golfing world and through them we find out that golf is more than just hitting a little white ball into a hole. Instead, we discover it is part-physical, part-mental, and requires a huge amount of commitment from the player and their coaching staff.

The author’s writing is clear, simple, and a pleasure to read. The only downside is that, unless you are familiar with the sport, some of the terminology may pass over your head. It’s not a big negative and I still enjoyed the read, but it might be something to consider. However, if you love golf, want to get into it, are after some tips to improve your game, or want to learn more about Lydia and Guy’s early process, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Saga | Regional News


Written by: Hannah Mettner

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

If the cover of this book is anything to go by, the poems therein will be puzzling and require more than a second look. So far, so mysterious.

Hannah Mettner introduces herself in her first poem, which is titled after the book and refers to “a long and winding story that neither starts at the beginning nor finishes at the end”. That neatly captures the definition of saga: a story of heroic achievement, especially in Old Norse or Icelandic. Indeed, Mettner’s Scandinavian roots predominate in a sometimes curious, sometimes quizzical, and often humorous fashion.

I don’t usually have much patience with long poems, but Birth Control had me from the start. Its preface references the so-called virgin birth of an anaconda, and here’s our writer visiting the Vatican and worrying about “the small T-shaped thing” inside her as she “walks through the metal detectors and bag check”. Chilling. The rest of the poem is hardly a celebration of women and their ability/duty to bear children, but it’s horrifyingly accurate. “If men can’t explain a thing, they call it witchcraft and destroy it.”

Breakup poem at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is a delightfully wry reflection on ending a relationship. Backgrounded by Gretchen Albrecht’s and Frida Kahlo’s paintings, our poet can’t contemplate the Frida and Diego kind of love, and comments “This is a high stakes way to break up – being psycho- / analysed via text in a terracotta-red room / with a thousand painted old people looking down on me / from their gold frames.”

I find myself glorying in Butch era, in which Mettner describes herself thus: “One perfect pair of new trousers / and suddenly I’m in charge.” She flirts with the bartender, cats and women flock to her, and her phone autocorrects ‘butch’ to ‘b*tch’, but she don’t care.

Poem while watching the world burn demands my attention even though I wish it didn’t. It’s realistic, frank, and saddeningly prophetic.

This poet has important things to say, and she says them remarkably well – it’s a sagacious accomplishment.

Audition | Regional News


Written by: Pip Adam

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Courtney Rose Brown

“We have measured our days by the sun, and now there is no sun.” 

What does society do when people take up too much room? What do we do with their violence? How do we treat what we cannot explain? Pip Adam strives to figure out these questions in her latest novel Audition. Audition is part-science fiction and part-social realism, flipping between the past and the present. 

Alba, Stanley, and Drew became too big of a problem. Like everyone else who grew too big (literally) to control, they are sent to space. Audition begins with the three characters on the spaceship, unsure if they’re all one being as they try to think their own thoughts and remember anything. The lack of memory and individualism is gripping, but the author lingers too long in the grey areas and the introduction loses its impact. 

When we’re swung out of the spaceship and back into the past on Earth, new life is breathed into the work. Crashing back down to reality reveals shocking truths and evokes that familiar feeling of dread we get when science fiction hits a little too close to home. Is this how society could end up? We see Alba’s past and her connection with both Stanley and Drew, and how they came to be in space. We see the impacts of hate and violence. Fear turned to anger, submission, and the desire for invisibility. 

The dream-like, sedated states of the giants shows the impact of power in the wrong hands. I’m still not sure how the space exploration ties in or what it means, and the end of the novel does little to clarify things. But as the wool is pulled off over our eyes, as layers of time reveal why each character ended up in this position, it’s clear there aren’t obvious answers to the questions Adam is posing. Audition makes you think outside of the box. You’ll question how crimes are dealt with, and how we value the lives of others.