Monday, October 03, 2011

Music in Dunedin

If health matters create the only real downside of my move to New Zealand,  Music certainly makes up for it.
Last Wednesday I attended a performance by  the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the Town Hall. It was excellent. The second half was Beethoven's Ninth Symphony "Ode to Joy"
The soloists were all Kiwis who are now making names for themselves overseas.
Madeleine Pierard soprano
Simon O’Neill tenor
Jonathan Lemalu bass
Sarah Castle mezzo-soprano

Simon studied at Otago University and Jonathan grew up in Dunedin. They were accompanied  by the NZ Chamber Choir and the  City of Dunedin Choir. I think about 100 voices. The conductor was Pietari Inkanen who is the Musical Director of the Orchestra and is originally from Finland.

By chance, I also heard Beethoven's Ninth just 4 weeks earlier when I went with my sister to hear it played by the Australian World Orchestra and the Sydney Philharmonia Choir at the Sydney Opera House.  I am far from being an expert but I thought the performance in Dunedin was just as good if not better.  It would have been helped by the fact that I was sitting much closer at one third the price.

In Sydney the first half was Brahms Academic Festival Overture which was also enjoyable and a modern Australian work "Vexations and Devotions" by Brett Dean who also conducted his own piece. It was one of the most horrible things (I would not call it music) I have ever had to sit through.
I was therefore a little nervous at seeing the first half in Dunedin was also a modern piece  Kaitiaki, Words by Witi Ihimaera and music by Gareth Farr. However it was also enjoyable, very impressive in parts. It was written especially for this performance. Ihimaera says the work is, for him, a mihi aroha or a greeting of love across space and time to honour Beethoven.

A week earlier I also attended the Town Hall for a "Last Night of the Proms" by the Southern Sinfonia and the City of Dunedin Choir.  This is usually held in February but the Town Hall will be closed for renovations next year and they decided to hold it to coincide with the  England team playing several Rugby World Cup matches in Dunedin.
I always love this and think it was actually better than in February. They also played the 1812 Overture, another favourite of mine,  and had a cannon.

The week before the Sinfonia played for the G&S society's performance of Utopia Ltd.
I also attended the Sinfonia in August with Brahms Symphony No 1 and Nikolai Demidenko playing Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 3.  Unfortunately the NZ Symphony's visit in August was cancelled due to the heavy snow.  I could add a short Organ concert in the Cathedral one recent Saturday afternoon.

As mentioned the NZSO musical director and regular conductor is Pietari Inkanen who is very cute.
I have found an interview he made with the violinist Hilary Hahn who also played at an earlier concert here in Dunedin.

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