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Review of March 2023 Concert

The first concert of the 2023 season, fluently conducted by Brent Stewart, and confidently led by Simon Ansell,  had more than a hint of the exotic with Saint Saens’ Havanaise Op 80 and Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No 2, played with impeccable brilliance by Andrew Beer.  These two virtuosic pieces were sandwiched between Schumann and Schubert.  Beer would be known to most members of the audience as the Concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. 

Schumann’s Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Op 52, was one of Schumann’s early orchestral works and may be referred to as a symphony without a slow movement.  Opening with a slow introduction in E minor, the Overture quickly moved into a sunny springlike theme in E major. The orchestra played the dotted rhythms of the Scherzo and the fugue-like entries in the Finale with precision and energy.

Andrew Beer’s warm and sensuous violin tone shone in Saint-Saens’ Havanaise for Violin and Orchestra, Op.83.  The orchestra was ever supportive and allowed the soloist to revel in the sultry rhythms of the Cuban-Spanish music.

Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No 2 was also written for a brilliant violinist.  Wieniawski had an illustrious career from early childhood and was regarded by many as more brilliant than Paganini.  He wrote his second concerto when he was thirty-five and almost in the twilight of his career.   It was received warmly and quickly became part of the violin and orchestra repertoire.  Andrew Beer’s performance was full of lyricism and elegant bowing, as well as stunning gypsy rhythms and virtuosic bravura.  The beauty of the slow movement was a really high point.

After rapturous applause, Beer played a gentle piece by the Russian-born Canadian composer Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt – incidentally the violin teacher of Beer’s teacher.

Schubert’s Eighth Symphony, the Unfinished, offered the orchestra the opportunity to shine, and take it they did.  The beautifully rich cello and bass opening set the mood, followed by the violins, violas and wistful wind playing. The quality of the playing was more evident in the reflective passages.  There were beautifully serene solos and ensembles from the woodwinds and strings, and an abundance of bravura from the brass and timpani. The strings played with great warmth and lyricism throughout – the string introduction to the oboe and clarinet solo in the second movement was ethereal and beautiful.  The blending of the upper strings and the woodwinds was glorious, and the ending of the symphony was sublime.

It was a concert of good humour and warm melodies, and both orchestra under the total control of the enthusiastic Brent Stewart, and the audience seemed to enjoy it greatly.

Review by Rogan Falla

Review of March 2023 Concert: News and Updates
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