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There is something very exhilarating about the fervent colourful orchestration of Russian and Eastern European music.
Last evening in the Dunedin Town Hall, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edo de Waart, presented a programme entirely of repertoire by the Russian composer and virtuosic pianist Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), one of the great late-Romantic musicians.
The opening Vocalise Op.34 No14 invited the listener to relax and wallow in sensuous highly emotive lyricism. Originally a vocal work without text for soprano, the work is also performed in arrangements for solo instruments. Last evening's orchestral version was sublime, tranquil and serene, ebbing and flowing with fabulous lyricism.
The absolute highlight of the orchestra's final Dunedin concert for the season was Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No3 in D Minor Op.30 with Korean soloist Joyce Yang. From the very first mesmerising opening bars, Yang delivered the famous work with unbelievable virtuosity.
Beautiful in a turquoise-blue gown, Yang displayed extraordinary physical strength and mastery throughout the entire pianoforte dialogue, conquering heavy chords and boisterous thematic intensity with unrelenting passion and assured technique.
De Waart responded with rich orchestral textures and an urgency, which at times tended to engulf the clarity of middle-register sections of pianoforte runs, as his instrumentalists matched the infectious fervour of the soloist. However, the work was an outright emotional triumph for all - performers and audience alike.
Symphonic Dances Op.45 was Rachmaninov's last completed work, composed in the United States where he had lived since 1918. The 35-minute work was a veritable feast of orchestral colours.
Haunting waltz interludes and dance passages with diverse rhythmic character and nuance involved every member of the orchestra in a busy kaleidoscope of instrumental shading. It was an outstanding performance by the NZSO.
-By Elizabeth Bouman