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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Vector Wellington Orchestra

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The programme was a provocative mix of different musical personalities from two very contrasting periods during music. The works chosen were excellent examples of profound ingenuity in modern orchestration, but also paramount in the advent and stylistic perpetuity of new eras of musical ideation. Under the directorship of Mark Taddei, the Vector Wellington Orchestra proved themselves to be a very dedicated and competent ensemble.

The concert opened with ‘Three Dance Episodes’ from Leonard Bernstein’s musical On the Town. Bernstein was not only a renown and celebrated American conductor, but equally as gifted as a composer of musical theatre. On the Town was his first venture onto Broadway, although it was based on the ballet Fancy Free, also scored by himself. Portraying three sailors’ 24 hours of leave in New York city, the show enjoyed 462 performances over two years in Broadway’s Aldephi Theatre. Bernstein’s success was quite possibly due to his classical experience and the great use of jazz instruments in the scoring. The show’s songs are still well known to this day, including ‘New York, New York’. Mark Taddei made the piece with his attack and decisive conducting, Taddei being from the Julliard Music School in Manhattan itself.

The pinnacle of the programme was certainly Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. It is arguably almost as transitional as his third symphony, and ultimately eventuating with the influx of the romantic period. Not only a product of the unsurpassable orchestration of Beethoven, but also an unheard, finely structured integration and extension of the piano’s position as a concert instrument. The performance was without compromise or hesitation by virtuoso Michael Houstoun.

Following the interval was the music of Benjamin Britten, the most significant English composer since the long-past Henry Purcell. The piece Les Illuminations eventuated after time spent in America with poet W.H. Auden. Introduced to Rimbaud, he set his poetry to his own music. Orchestrated for String Orchestra, it sits among the likes of Stravinsky’s Apollo and Khachaturian’s Gayane. Albeit, carrying far stranger and extraordinary harmonies. Benjamin Fifita Makisi, a New Zealand School of Music graduate, sung a very strong tenor, supported with the large Tongan population in the audience.

Ending the concert was Johannes Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn, claimed to be the first independent variations for orchestra. The exact theme, however, is probably not by Haydn at all. Nevertheless, it was the irregular and asymmetric phrasing of that theme that particularly attracted Brahms’ attention. The stylistic inclination that he chose to take coming from a later anachronism, threaded with contrapuntal textures and ending with a swift passacaglia. Yet still, it was true to Brahmsian form and studded with archetypal cadences.

The concert displayed the symphonic orchestra as a highly dynamic and versatile medium. A fresh revelation to those whom classical music is unknown, and I’m sure, even those for whom it is not. And much like the pieces themselves, the contrast certainly confronted the listener, that being the very impetus of music itself.

Saturday 25 July – Wellington Town Hall

Bernstein—On the Town: ‘Three Dance Episodes’
Beethoven—Piano Concerto No 3 in C Minor, Op 37
Britten—Les Illuminations
Brahms—Variations on a Theme of Haydn, Op 56a
Marc Taddei—conductor
Michael Houstoun—piano
Benjamin Fifita Makisi—tenor

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