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Review of March 2024 Concert

The near-capacity audience at The Dancing Violin, the first concert in the 2024 season, were treated to a stunning afternoon.


Harris Leung was a superb concert master and David Kay, conducted with a brisk beat, his warm rapport with the players, very obvious.


The concert opened with Overture to The Wasps, by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Part of a Suite, the overture is often performed as a stand-alone piece.  The larger than usual string section made a wonderful swarm of bees, vibrant and energetic.  The very well-rounded ensemble of horns, harp, woodwind, percussion, and brass all featured in the themes which followed – much more English sounding than anything from ancient Greece.    


Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole Op. 21 brought Martin Riseley to the podium.  Riseley is one of New Zealand’s greatest violin talents and his return to New Zealand after many years of overseas study and performance has been a great thrill to many music lovers here.  The Symphonie Espagnole is a virtuosic work, originally composed for the great Spanish violinist Sarasate.  Riseley’s brilliant technique was awe inspiring and matched with great sweetness and serenity of tone.  Soloist and orchestra were totally at one.  The five movements ranged from bravura gymnastics from the violinist, brassy blasts, bird song-like tunes, lyrical themes in the lower register of the violin, and frantic woodwind passages.  It was a tour de force and received with rapturous applause.  What a privilege to have the opportunity to hear Riseley here. 


After such staggering brilliance, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite Op. 20a was a different experience.  The large string section seemed to relish the rich ‘caramel’ Tchaikovsky- themes, the brilliant young harpist was in total control of the super runs up and down her strings.  Drums, suggesting threats in wait on the lake, combined with the brass and woodwinds.  The suite was full of beautiful melodies, and the two solos for violin and cello, played by Harris Leung and Claire Postlethwaite were stunning.   The whole suite was riveting. 


The orchestra seems to improve each concert it performs, and with a highly talented young conductor in David Kay who was in total harmony with the orchestra, it impressed on all fronts.  The promise that the printed programme promised when it was issued in November, was fully realized, and subscribers can look forward with confidence to another year of superb concerts.


Review by Rogan Falla

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