Contrast admirably achieved throughout

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto
Dunedin Symphony Orchestra

Dunedin Town Hall
Saturday, December 2

Conductor Umberto Clerici (now based in Australia) guided the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra through three popular classical works last Saturday evening, in a very well-filled Dunedin Town Hall.

It was an excellent and much appreciated concert, and I continue to marvel that a city of this size can assemble a symphony orchestra of such commendable standard without the need to import outside musicians.

They opened with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture.

Programmatic in character, there was room for much contrast, admirably achieved throughout, beginning with the commanding chordal section, before expressing the lyricism of the main subject with well-balanced legato from all sections.

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 stirs memories for me, because as a child I played a very simple piano version, and will never forget the excitement when once I heard and recognised the commanding opening bars coming from our Phillips wireless.

The orchestral short intro was strong and inviting and visiting international pianist Konstantin Shamray’s fervent response with the resonating chordal theme set his benchmark for an excellent performance of this popular work.

Clarity in thematic passages was paramount as pianistic fingers flew up and down the keyboard, and chordal strength accentuated the melodic beauty as demanded.

At times in robust tutti passages piano dominance was swallowed up by the orchestra’s climactic symphonic sound, despite formidable arm and body strength of the soloist.

There were some really beautiful woodwind highlights, especially in the second movement and appropriate gilding from the brass.

Overall, it was an excellent performance.

After long applause, Shamray returned to "unwind" with a short Rachmaninov prelude (Op 15 No 10.)

The DSO completed the concert with a colourful delivery of Rhenish Symphony.

This was an appealing five-movement Romantic work of pastoral nature, with many rustic themes and contrasting textures emulating Rhineland countryside, composed by Schumann in the latter part of his life before mental health issues overtook him.

By Elizabeth Bouman