Day Two: Salzburg of the South Pacific

Well it’s another beautiful morning in Nelson for the second day of concerts! But before I head out for day 2 I thought I should reflect on the highlight of yesterday… the Grand Opening Concert in the Cathedral.  The cathedral is atmospheric at any time, but in the warm evening with fading sunlight coming though stained glass windows it was the perfect venue. 

The opening Karakia sung by Cindy Batt accompanied by taonga puoro expert Richard Nunns was spine tingling.  And if you had a bird’s eye view, at the same time you could see Colleen Marshall (chair of the Nelson Music Festival Trust) and Chris Finlayson (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage) process up the aisle prior to the formal opening of the festival.  In his address, long-time festival attendee Mr Finlayson referred to this ‘Salzburg of the South Pacific’ and mentioned that there were four other current or former Cabinet Ministers in the audience (Michael Bassett, Ann Hercus, Geoffrey Palmer and Nick Smith).

The musicians view – Cindy Batt and Richard Nunns performing the Karakia before the concert

The musicians view – Cindy Batt and Richard Nunns performing the Karakia before the concert (Photo from the Nelson Mail)

First up was Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E flat written around 1782 for his good friend Ignaz Leutgeb, for whom he also wrote the four horn concertos.  This was precise, sensitive playing, and I spent much of it trying to imagine how Leutgeb pulled off the trills and complex runs on a valveless, hand horn of the day.  It sounds difficult enough on the high tech instruments we have now. 

Prokofiev wrote his Quintet in G minor in 1924 for a travelling troupe to use for a ballet accompaniment.  They were an unusual ensemble of oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and bass, so there were many interesting sound combinations in the six varied movements.  This was a Festival premier performance, and given the uncommon instrumentation, it’s rarely heard anywhere.

Post interval was Beethoven’s elegant Septet in E flat.  Encroaching deafness made no apparent difference to Beethoven’s output either in quantity or quality.  This was a fabulous performance – who’s surprised? – and it was rightly rewarded by prolonged applause.

The players in these three musical gems were members of the Penderecki String Quartet, the New Zealand String Quartet, Darryl Poulsen (horn), Robert Orr (oboe), Philip Green ( clarinet), Robert Weeks (bassoon) and Hiroshi Ikematsu (double bass).

I’m flitting off now to find out what happens when Goldilocks discovers that the three bears are really musicians in disguise???  

x Korimako


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