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Review of October 2022 Concert

 

St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra’s final concert of this year was a huge success for the players, soloist Catherine Kwak, and conductor David Kay.

 

In keeping with the theme of New Zealand composers, the programme featured two NZ composers.  Albatross In Flight by Anthony Ritchie was a joyful evocation of an albatross soaring in the sky around Tairoa Head at the mouth of the Otago Harbour.  Bells, piccolo and other woodwind, seemed to reflect the glistening sun on the water as well as the graceful bird. 

 

Louise Webster, one of New Zealand’s foremost composers, and incidentally a member of the SMCO violins, was commissioned to write the short work Stretching the Space.  It was reflective, wistful, and dwelt on the way in which created sounds form dynamic relationships with the space around them.  Both the Webster and the Richie were thoroughly accessible to the audience and received warmly.

Elgar’s glorious Cello Concerto in E Minor Op.85 received a most sensitive and thoughtful performance from Catherine Kwak, who in 2021 won the National Concerto Competition playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto.  There are many interpretations of the concerto available on disk, ranging from the dramatic style of Jacqueline du Pres to more ‘laid back’ versions.  Catherine’s performance seemed to be a deeply felt personal analysis of what many feel is a rather heart-wrenching cry for the lost generation of the First World War and the despair felt after it.  Catherine’s technique is of the very highest standard and she produces a real richness of tone – as good at all ends of the register – a serenity linked with sorrow.  The jocular dance-like theme of the second movement and the jubilant two-way chat with various sections of the orchestra lifted the work from solely ruminating on sorrow.  A performance of the highest calibre, with a real maturity of interpretation.  Congratulations to the orchestra for their supportiveand sensitive playing.

 

The final work played was Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Op.36.  The variations are all numbered and given the initials of the various friends Elgar was portraying.  Arguably the most famous is Variation 9 (Nimrod), but each received its full share of magnificent melody.  Triumphal horns, brilliant brass including contra bassoon, timpani, percussion, chirpy woodwind, sensitive and rich strings – all made for a superb performance.  


Ably led by Simon Ansell and conducted by David Kay, this was a brilliant end to the season.  


Review by Rogan Falla