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A large audience was treated to a really exceptional performance of Brahms' dramatic and grandiose Piano Concerto No 1 by Joyce Yang. She brought to it not only a little impromptu DIY with a pesky top C string and a spanner which appeared miraculously from behind her skirts, but also an uplifting interpretation of a much loved and well-known work.
Her powerfully ferocious playing perfectly matched that of the Orchestra, entries were perfectly attuned to the preceding lines and her trills were miraculous. Her rubato, where time is held in limbo, breathed just the right amount of air into the work.
Yang's performance of the Adagio movement stood out for its intense delicacy and attention to the beautiful melody. The audience rewarded the performance with great enthusiasm.
The evening opened with a commemoration to those still suffering from the massacre in Christchurch, Ross Harris' quietly serene lament Music for Johnny. A most fitting work - uplifting and deeply respectful.
Richard Strauss' juvenile work Serenade for Strings provided another lull in an excellently designed programme. A sweet little thing, it shows Strauss' early appreciation for the versatilities and sonorities of wind instruments and the tension which can be achieved between flute and double bass and horn.
The evening ended with the work which epitomises Elgar's career and value. The Enigma Variations encapsulates that all too English sense of wit combined with sharp observation. Its variations oscillate between the robust, splashy and pompous to the fidgety, flippant, nuanced and to the loquacious to the succinct with foreboding undercurrent. Its overall charming guile remains in its music but relies heavily on its subjects being wrapped in a mystery despite musicological discovery. Elgar's personifications are widely applicable.
The NZSO under Edo de Waart's baton performed the work beautifully, with most themes discernable throughout. Their excellence was applauded with great enthusiasm.
- Marian Poole