Moving into soloist's spotlight

Two of the Southern Sinfonia's principal woodwind players,   Luca Manghi (flute, left) and...
Two of the Southern Sinfonia's principal woodwind players, Luca Manghi (flute, left) and Nicholas Cornish (oboe) will perform in the Sinfonia's Wind Power concerts at the King's and Queen's Performing Arts Centre this weekend. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Two of the Southern Sinfonia's principal wind players are moving from the centre of the orchestra to the soloist's spotlight at the front. Charmian Smith talks to oboist Nicholas Cornish and flautist Luca Manghi.

Playing as part of an orchestra is a different skill from playing solo, according to Nicholas Cornish, principal oboe in the Southern Sinfonia.

He and Luca Manghi, principal flute, are moving from the woodwind section of the orchestra to the soloist's spot for the Sinfonia's concerts this weekend.

The first of its Matinee series, the concerts on Saturday and Sunday feature Cornish playing Mozart's oboe concerto and Manghi playing Carl Nielsen's flute concerto.

"As a member of the orchestra you are a team player so you will fit in with everyone around you, but as a soloist it's your job to stand out.

"In a way, that role in some respects can be slightly easier because you are the soloist and the light is already shining on you.

"You are sort of on top of everything rather than being in the middle of it," Cornish says.

He looked at 20 or 30 oboe concertos, including those by Strauss and Haydn, but, keeping in mind the size of the orchestra, he decided on the Mozart.

"It sparkles and it's very lively.

It's a positive work, a young, vigorous work. I like it because it has such a lively temperament and bounces along."

The second movement is more reflective and he says he will need to work on sustaining the long, serene phrases.

It contrasts with the last movement, which is sprightly and full of life and humour.

"We know Mozart had a very cheeky sense of humour and I think that comes across in the last movement often in a sudden change of mood or theme just when you are not expecting it.

"Something out of the ordinary happens and there's a real feeling of tongue-in-cheek of a certain theme, or you arrive at a cadence then the music carries on unexpectedly.

"You can hold that moment out a little and it can bring a chuckle to the audience," he says.

Cornish teaches music - oboe, saxophone, flute, clarinet and bassoon - as an itinerant music teacher and at the University of Otago and, besides the Sinfonia, is in a duo with Trevor Coleman doing improvisations on classics, plays saxophone in a fusion band, Subject2Change, is in the Dunedin City Jazz orchestra and is a member of the Oxo Cubans.

He is comfortable with many genres of music, from classical to jazz, he says.

"It occupies a different part of your brain and stimulates different feelings and areas of creative endeavour. I don't see them as being that different.

"They are still a channel for the person who had the idea in the first place, so whether you are interpreting Mozart or Bach or Keith Jarrett or Miles Davis, there's still a creative spark you are exploring."

Cornish grew up in the United Kingdom where he met his ex-wife, a New Zealander also studying oboe.

They lived and worked in London for several years, among other things forming an oboe trio and playing in stately homes.

After a trip to New Zealand for her brother's wedding in Cromwell, they fell in love with the environment and decided to move.

He taught music in schools in Cromwell and Dunedin before becoming an itinerant music teacher.

He has been a member of the Sinfonia from the mid-1990s and principal oboe from about 2003.


Luca Manghi hails from Italy where he started playing flute in the village band when he was 9.

"It was a little community and all my friends were there, and little by little I got dragged in and I remember going to the CD shop and buying a lot of classical music," he says.

He studied at the Parma Conservatory of Music and by 18 had graduated and was playing in an orchestra.

After seven years, he moved to Paris to try to establish himself as a soloist, entering competitions, winning some, but mostly still working as a freelance musician and teacher.

Then he came to New Zealand for a holiday, fell in love with the country and the lifestyle and moved to Christchurch in 2006 - joining the Southern Sinfonia the same year.

After 10 years of trying to establish himself in Paris, he found doors opened quickly in New Zealand.

He now lives in Auckland, also plays in the Auckland Philharmonia, the Christchurch Symphony and the NZSO, and teaches at Auckland, Otago and Waikato universities.

Despite all this and the travelling it entails, life is not as hectic as it was in Europe - you don't have to book ahead to see exhibitions or concerts, or queue for hours at supermarket checkouts, he says.

For the Sinfonia's concert, he has chosen to play Nielsen's flute concerto, which he has played several times before as it is often a set piece in competitions.

"It uses the possibilities of the flute very well and is a very challenging piece of music technically but I never had the chance to perform it in a concert so I'm very excited about finally having the opportunity," he says.

Nielsen, a Danish composer, wrote the flute concerto in the 1920s for a member of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet.

He had planned to write a concerto for each of the players expressing the personalities of the instruments and the players, but managed to complete only two before his death.

"It has a beautiful melody but it's also sparkling and full of humour, and there's a lot of dialogue with the other players in the orchestra, especially the clarinet, the bassoon and the bass trombone.

"The trombone has an important role in the piece because it's like the complete opposite of the flute in terms of sound."

There's a comical situation when it comes in with very low accented notes and the flute reacts with high notes almost like a scream, he says.

See it
The Southern Sinfonia's Wind Power concert, conducted by Benjamin Northey and featuring Nicholas Cornish and Luca Manghi, is at the King's and Queen's Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, May 5, at 5pm and Sunday, May 6, at 3pm.


Add a Comment