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Review of October 2023 Concert

St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra’s 2023 Subscription series has been a memorable one, and without detracting from the wonders we have heard in the first five in the series, this final concert will remain vivid in the mind for a long time.

The concert opened with Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro Op.47.  Led with confidence by Harris Leung and conducted by Michael Joel in his masterly style, the strings were at their most assured and polished.  Elgar’s rather haunting themes, rich harmonies, modal chords, and counterpoint were all there.  In the Allegro the quartet of section leaders introduced a new theme, and the solos for first violin and viola were particularly notable.

Bizet’s youthful symphony, No1 in C major was like a jewellery box of entrancing gems.  Each movement had special charm, and all were played with delicacy and humour.  The wonderful oboe solo in the Adagio, played by Eugenie Middleton was a sensuous treat, with great ensemble playing around her.  Michael Joel conducted with verve but never let the orchestra run away with over-enthusiasm.

New Zealand-born Alex Taylor’s 2011 work silk/gravel was dedicated to the victims and families involved in the Pike River Mine disaster.  Written for strings, it created a kaleidoscope of impressions.  Rebecca Hendl-Smith played the cello solo with great beauty.  From high sustained and piercing violin notes to sustained notes in lower strings below shimmering violins and violas, the piece encompassed a myriad of sounds and textures.

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C Op.56 was the final item.  The three soloists, pianist Gabriela Glapska, violinist Monique Lapins, and cellist Ken Ichinose displayed their virtuosic techniques and total love of this brilliant concerto.  The sense of fun and laughter was conveyed by all three soloists, and they exchanged solo lines as if in a conversation between friends.  Ichinose’s richly beautiful tone, Lapin’s warmth and serenity, and Glapskas’ clarity and facility of fingerwork made for a magical ensemble.

Michael Joel very skilfully led the orchestra into collaboration beyond the usual accompanying role.  The audience demonstrated its real appreciation of the high-quality performance with a standing ovation.

Details of the 2024 Subscription series were shared with the audience.  It promises to be another year of high-quality concerts.  Roll on 2024.

Review by Rogan Falla

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