Serenity, exuberance combine to create sense of joy

NZSO, Poem of Ecstasy, Dunedin Town Hall, Friday, November 3.

A small audience in the Dunedin Town Hall on Friday roundly applauded NZSO performances of early 20th century works and a new one from Ken Young under the baton of Gemma New.

The excellently devised programme centred on instilling a sense of joy into our lives.

New has a distinctively balletic conducting style.

Her pointed, focused precision, broadly encompassing gestures, musicality and poise envelope both orchestra and audience.

She is rewarded with excellence and is a pure joy to watch.

Ken Young’s 1997 work Dance is a tour de force in its own right.

Opening with beautifully drawn lines and textures, it bursts into a rambunctious dance of rapid fire rhythms.

A brief and welcome reprieve to the opening serenity is quickly opposed by yet more giddy exuberance.

Young conjures other well-known works while remaining uniquely inventive. The oneness of the work’s tonality successfully encourages trust in naivety.

Scriabin’s symphonic work The Poem of Ecstasy is replete with impressionistic lines abetted by ambiguous tonalities, cavorting mythical creatures, swollen romanticism and strong scoring for the wind and brass. A magical work performed with wonderful presence.

The well-loved and transfixing solo flute melody of Debussy’s Syrinx was played exquisitely by Bridget Williams from the choir stalls and under a sole spotlight. She received spontaneously warm applause.

Luonnotar, by Sibelius, was powerfully sung by soprano Madeleine Pierard. Her voice has gained rich depths; her control and dramatic gravitas explored in retelling this compelling Finnish creation story created a mesmerising performance.

Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe’s spine-chilling single notes from the harp evolve with increasing intensity into a full rhapsodic declaration from the orchestra.

Gentle siren notes from the City of Dunedin Choir complemented a stellar display of cultural pride.