Chairman’s Newsletter – April 2017

It gives me great pleasure to invite you to attend the upcoming concerts being presented by AYO.

The Programme:

TCHAIKOVSKY  Romeo & Juliet Overture
ANTHONY RITCHIE   Cartoon: Fantasy for Oboe & Orchestra
STRAVINSKY  Firebird Suite

Soloist – Noah Rudd
Conductor – Antun Poljanich

Whitianga Town Hall – Sat. 6 May, 7pm   (Tickets $5-$20)
Thames St George’s Church – Sun. 7 May, 3pm (Tickets at the door, $5-$15)
Pukekohe* Town Hall – Sat. 20 May, 3.30pm (Donations)
Auckland Town Hall – Sun. 21 May, 2pm (Donations)

*This concert will include items from the
Pukekohe High School Senior Concert Band.

Looking back to the last concert… 
The AYO concert at Hopetoun Alpha, as I mentioned in my last newsletter, was very different from our usual Auckland concerts which are at the Town Hall and use the full resources of the symphony orchestra. I must confess I did not get a chance to get to any of the rehearsals and therefore did not know what the venue would be like, though I had been told I would be pleased. Hopetoun Alpha is a beautifully renovated old church and turned out to be ideal for the music we were presenting, which consisted of a wonderfully varied programme of baroque works, for which the acoustics were perfect.

On the evening of the concert, as I entered the interior of the building, golden light was filtering through the windows along one side of the hall creating a wonderful setting for the forthcoming concert. Along and around the upper level of the hall there is a gallery, and there is a small stage at the back which had drawn curtains between two pillars.

The concert opened with the first of two Gabrieli canzoni played by the brass players of AYO, set opposite each other on either side of the gallery. It was thrilling to hear the antiphonal effects from the two opposing groups, sounding just how Gabrieli intended when he wrote the works for the Basilica of St Mark’s in Venice. In fact it was not difficult to imagine oneself transported by the music and the venue to a church in Venice itself. This impression was reinforced as Noah Rudd and Josh Webster launched into a Vivaldi concerto for two oboes and strings, one of the hundreds of concertos Vivaldi wrote for the Ospeldale della Pieta in Venice, of which he was music director. Their playing was a delight, perfect in ensemble and intonation, and with beautiful phrasing. This was followed by another double concerto, this time by Telemann, played by the directors of the Pettman Academy, Wolfgang Kraemer, recorder, and Edith Salzmann, cello. They gave what amounted to a masterclass in the German baroque style. It was fascinating to hear how the recorder could be clearly heard right at the back of the hall where I was sitting.

The strings then performed a Handel Concerto Grosso. Every detail of the often intricate contrapuntal writing could be heard clearly, but the sound was also rich and glowing. One could not hope for a more sympathetic acoustic for a work like this. The strings had of course benefited from the skilled coaching they had received from the Pettman directors, and I was very impressed by how well they had absorbed the baroque style of string playing. Of course Anton Poljanich’s sensitive and idiomatic conducting showed that he too is very much at home in the baroque repertoire.

The concert was also a collaboration between AYO and the Auckland Opera Studio; two singers from the Studio went on to perform three arias from Handel Operas. Sophie Sparrow began with an enchanting performance of ’As When the Dove’ from ‘Acis and Galatea’ and then the sixteen year old Tayla Alexander, with a maturity far beyond her years, gave a truly moving performance of ‘Lascia chi’o pianga’ (Let me weep) from ‘Rinaldo’. It was sung with such feeling and artistry that at the end you could hear a pin drop as the audience was held enthralled, and I am sure there was hardly a dry eye in the house. The third aria ‘Tornami a vagheggiar’ (Return to me to languish) from ‘Alcina’ began unexpectedly, without the appearance of the soprano,  the orchestra on its own, and then the curtains on the little stage opened and Sophie Sparrow appeared as if on an opera set and, after a display of virtuoso coloratura singing and captivating acting, brought the house down.

The concert ended with the brass playing the second of the two Gabrieli canzoni; a fitting end to a truly wonderful evening.

The next AYO programme will of course feature the full symphony orchestra and the Auckland concert will be at the Town Hall but I personally would love to use Hopetoun Alpha again sometime in the future. The venue would also be suitable for a classical programme, featuring for example a Mozart piano concerto.

And in our forthcoming concerts…
By the strange coincidences that sometimes appear in concert programming, the two main works which feature in our next concerts were both written by young 27 year old composers at the start of their careers, and in both cases they are now recognized as masterpieces. The first, by Tchaikovsky, is the brilliant overture to ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and the second is Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird Suite’.

By another coincidence, both of these works are now generally played in revised versions written ten years after the first. The reason for Tchaikovsky’s revisions was the disastrous reception at its first performance and the barrage of hostile criticism which he endured as a result, and even after the final revision and publication, by which time he had established a European wide reputation, the overture took many years to establish itself as the immensely popular work it is today. Tchaikovsky wonderfully captures in music the drama and passion of Shakespeare’s play, and it contains one of the most beautiful melodies he ever wrote, tenderly depicting the two tragic young lovers.

Unlike ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’ was a sensational success and his revisions were for much more pragmatic reasons. The original ballet was scored for a huge orchestra of quadruple woodwind with three harps as well as piano. When in 1919 he decided to arrange the music from the ballet into a suite for concert performance, he rescored it for a standard symphony orchestra. Brilliantly orchestrated and filled with magical sounds and distinctive melodies, it encapsulates all the exotic imagery of Russian fairy tales, and it remains to this day the most popular and best loved of all Stravinsky’s compositions.

We are excited to also feature in this programme a premiere by one of New Zealand’s most well-known composers, Anthony Ritchie.

His concerto for oboe and orchestra will be performed by Noah Rudd the winner of the 2016 AYO Soloists Competition. Titled ‘Cartoon: Fantasy for Oboe and Orchestra’, the work was originally written for soprano saxophone and was transcribed for oboe and piano in 2002. This version for oboe and orchestra has been specially arranged by the composer for these performances by Noah Rudd.

Noah began his journey on the oboe with Alison Jepson at the age of 9.  He is now in his second year of a Bachelor of Music at the University of Auckland, studying with Martin Lee after a year with Robert Orr in which he was awarded the George Hopkins Prize for most outstanding woodwind student of the year.  Last year, Noah was also awarded an APO Orchestral Internship, where he was mentored by principal oboist Bede Hanley, and played in the Myths and Legends concert with the orchestra earlier this year.

Noah’s first foray into ensemble playing was with the Auckland Youth Symphonic Band.  Soon after, he joined the Aotea Youth Symphony Orchestra, and participated in their 2011 tour to China.  In 2013, Noah was principal oboe of the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Symphony Orchestra.

Noah has been a member of the Auckland Youth Orchestra since 2014.  In his first year in the AYO, Noah was the recipient of the Howard Wyatt Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Musical Performance – a scholarship generously presented by the Lodge of the Liberal Arts No. 500.

Thank You to our Special and General Supporters…
We have been delighted with the response to our invitations to the public, last year and this, to become Supporters of AYO.  These donations make a difference, supporting the ongoing work of the organisation.  In appreciation of our Supporters’ generosity, we are glad to be able to offer them reserved seating at our Auckland Town Hall concerts which allows them a more relaxed pre-concert experience.  If you have missed our email about this opportunity, click here.

Whitianga and Thames…
Touring to provincial areas has long been an AYO priority.  Our last performance in Thames was back in 2011 and so we are looking forward to returning. The Thames Music Group is in its 40th year of bringing concerts to interested local supporters and we are delighted to have an opportunity to perform as part of their 2017 Sunday afternoon concert series.  Fortuitously this fits in with the concert schedule of our friends in Whitianga where we will be performing the night before. This is our 7th consecutive year of performing in Whitianga and we thank Creative Mercury Bay for once again inviting us and enthusiastically facilitating the concert.
I look forward to seeing many of you at our May concerts.

Alexander Cowdell