Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by: Edo de Waart
Michael Fowler Centre, 22nd Nov 2019
Reviewed by: Sam Hollis
The NZSO set about performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Resurrection, a panoptic musical opus. From the addition of two vocal soloists and the combined efforts of the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and the Orpheus Choir, to a panoramic soundscape achieved through off-stage horns and woodwinds, Resurrection was packed with surprises. Conductor Edo de Waart’s effortless control over the 220-odd musicians involved was astounding.
Mahler’s second symphony was a fantastic example of the variety and innovation that can be found in classical music of this period. Debuted in 1895, the relatively modern work encompassed that which came before it but even now feels futuristic in its approach. Menace and triumph, romance and betrayal, there was no end to the stories it had to tell.
Soprano Lauren Snouffer and mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson had one hell of a job. To rise above such a kaleidoscopic sound was no mean feat, but both voices flew with ease. Larsson’s solo was a highlight, with a mellow tone warm enough to melt butter but strong enough to convey the symphony’s darker moments.
Other highlights included a sinister introduction from the cellos (a section that stood out for their solidarity throughout the performance), strong percussion with the most powerful timpani rolls these ears have heard, and a sweet pizzicato segment in the second movement, which the strings nailed.
It all came together in the epic climax, which the orchestra pushed through with total clarity despite their numbers. If anything was lacking in this moment it was the choirs, their sound slightly drowned at the back of the Michael Fowler Centre.
In his final Wellington performance as musical director for the NZSO, de Waart proved himself as a force that will be missed. Under his cool, calm baton, I was almost fooled into believing this was just another performance, rather than an ambitious, striking, and graceful exit.