Day Six: Damp Weather and High Spirits

Monday 4 Feb – From Korimako

The weather may have been damp for our visitors to the Festival but the locals would tell you that we badly needed rain.  The grass will green up and gardens flourish – especially with weeds

Still the School of Music auditorium was three-quarters full for the lunchtime Requiem concert – two works linked by the theme of death – David Popper’s Requiem and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata, his last work completed within days of his death.

Popper was a noted Bohemian cellist and a prolific composer whose best known work is this Requiem for three cellos and orchestra dating from 1891, heard today in an arrangement substituting piano for orchestra.  This Romantic work highlighting the dark tonal sounds of the cellos was composed  as a memorial to Popper’s publisher, and with lyrical expressiveness it’s both sombre and consoling.    The cellists were Colin Carr, Rolf Gjeltsen and Katie Schlaikjer of the Penderecki Quartet, with pianist Emma Sayers.  (Remember this is the same Colin Carr who completed playing Bach’s Six Cello Suites less than 24 hours ago! See my previous post on this and also Euan Murdoch’s entry)

Colin Carr, Rolf Gjeltsen & Katie Schlaikjer

Colin Carr, Rolf Gjeltsen & Katie Schlaikjer

Shostakovich wrote this Viola Sonata in 1975 knowing he was near death, and he never heard it performed.  Today it was played by NZSQ violist Gillian Ansell and Hungarian pianist Péter Nagy.

The three movements are somewhat derivative with the first Moderato having hints of Berg’s Violin Concerto, and the second Allegretto based on themes from his opera The Nose which is based on a story by Gogol.  The final movement Adagio presages his death with is descending ‘farewell’ theme, and hints of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  Gillian Ansell referred to this movement as a sad, epic, final journey.  Again, in spite of its solemn theme and mood,  this concert was received with great warmth.

We flitted in and out of rehearsals at the Cathedral for the evening concert.  What did strike us was the easy manner in which all the performers were getting on with each other; but without losing any of their professionalism … and the sun came out!

After no lights at Colin Carr’s performance on Sunday, they were all on last night for Bach by Candlelight.

Eight of Bach’s Two Part Inventions, originally composed for keyboard, had been arranged for violin and viola.  These were interspersed with soprano arias sung by Jenny Wollerman, with continuo Erin Helyard (harpsichord) and Rolf Gjeltsen (cello), two with flute obbligato played by Bridget Douglas.

Jenny Wollerman with Rolf Gjeltsen & Erin Helyard

Jenny Wollerman with Rolf Gjeltsen & Erin Helyard

The final piece was the Orchestral Suite No.2 in B minor which dates from the late 1720s.  Performers were the Penderecki and New Zealand String Quartets, with Bridget Douglas, Erin Helyard, and Hiroshi Ikematsu (double bass).

This is one of four surviving dance suites in the French style, evoking the easy going elegance of court music.  It was beautifully played and enthusiastically received in the full church; so much so that the brilliant Badinerie, a real show-piece for flute, was repeated as an encore.

Jeremy Bell, Helene Poh, Douglas Beilman, Jerzy Kaplanek, Bridget Douglas, Christine Vlajk

Jeremy Bell, Helene Poh, Douglas Beilman, Jerzy Kaplanek, Bridget Douglas, Christine Vlajk

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