Transfigured Night - Reviewed by Dawn Brook | Regional News Connecting Wellington

Transfigured Night

Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 21st Sep 2019

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

The programming for this concert seemed pretty odd. How were Schoenberg, a radical composer of the early 20th century, Bach from around 1740, and a late Beethoven work to hang together? And why were we presented with all three compositions in different forms from their originals? And no place for the woodwind, brass, and percussion sections of Orchestra Wellington? I’m not sure I know the answers, but Orchestra Wellington filled the venue and the audience went away well satisfied with their evening’s listening.

Particularly well received was Bach’s Concerto No 1 in D Minor. It is thought that Bach may have based this work on an earlier, now lost, violin concerto. If so, it survives only as a work for harpsichord and strings. Commonly, as on this occasion, the piano replaces the harpsichord. The soloist was the ever-amazing Diedre Irons who played with bright and sparkling virtuosity and driving energy in a wonderful partnership with a small string orchestra led by Amalia Hall.

On either side of this work were Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Beethoven’s String Quartet No 14. Schoenberg re-worked his original string sextet for string orchestra. Beethoven’s quartet was orchestrated in 1937 by Dimitri Mitropoulos. At this concert both works were played by an enlarged string orchestra, including some NZSO and New Zealand String Quartet members. Great partnering!

At the pre-concert talk, the NZSQ played the Beethoven quartet in its original form. I could have done without the orchestral version. It lacks the tension and intensity of the original. Probably Mark Taddei and the orchestra enjoyed playing it, but really, why bother?

On the other hand, Verklärte Nacht was wonderful. It was amazing to see the colour that could be created by strings alone in the hands of an innovative composer. It was spooky, seductive, dramatic, and sweet in turn, and the solo parts performed by the lead violin and lead viola were strikingly lovely.

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