Chairman’s Newsletter – September 2017

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

The Programme

BEETHOVEN      Egmont Overture
JOHN WELLS    Organ Concerto No. 2 (premiere)
BERLIOZ            Symphonie Fantastique

Soloist – Rebecca Lee
Conductor – Antun Poljanich

Kerikeri       Turner Centre            – Sat.  7 October, 7pm (Tickets )
Warkworth Town Hall                  – Sun. 8 October, 4pm (Tickets and Door Sales*)
Helensville  War Memorial Hall – Sat. 14 October, 7pm (Tickets and Door Sales*)
Auckland      Town Hall                – Sun. 15 October, 4pm (Donations)

*  Door Sales are cash only – no EFTPOS available

Looking back to the last concert… 
The great French writer Marcel Proust, in the first of his six volumes making up ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’ (‘In search of lost time’), relates how the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea had transported him back to his aunt’s room in his childhood home of Combray, and how this insubstantial but intense experience had awaked in him the immense edifice of memory which inspired his work.

Hearing music can often bring about a similar experience. As I sat listening to the AYO performing the Firebird Suite at our last concert, I closed my eyes and immediately felt myself back in 1961, when I heard Stravinsky himself conduct the work with the National Orchestra of New Zealand. I was still at school at the time but had somehow been able to obtain tickets for the concert, and I travelled up to Auckland from Waihi to hear the most famous composer in the world conduct his own music. Most of the concert was in fact conducted by Stravinsky’s assistant Robert Craft, but when the composer himself appeared I remember he was met with the most overwhelming ovation. He appeared a very tiny and frail figure as he made his way to the front of the orchestra, but when he began conducting his authority was without question, though his strange jerky beat seemed to bear little relation to the magical sounds emanating from the orchestra. I remember thinking how miraculous it was that such wonderful music could have come from the head of that little man.

Our forthcoming concerts…
It is sad to think there is no living composer today who has the universal recognition, and commands the admiration and affection of the general public, in the way that Stravinsky did then. The musical world has changed so much and there is no longer a mainstream audience for new music. AYO takes very seriously, though, its responsibility to programme works by living composers whenever the opportunity presents itself. So it was pleasing that Noah Rudd, the winner of the 2016 AYO Soloist Competition, chose a work by the New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie for his concerto. His performance of the work was totally professional and accomplished, something we have come to expect from our concerto winners. It can now be heard on the AYO website. There does seem to be an unending supply of amazing talent in this orchestra; our previous prize winner, Eva Ding, also chose a work by a living composer, ‘The Golden Flute’ by Chen Yi, and in our forthcoming programme we are very proud to present the world premiere of a new organ concerto by John Wells.  This work was composed with support from the Donny Charitable Trust. John Wells needs little introduction to New Zealand’s concert-going public; he has an international reputation as an organist, composer and teacher. As Auckland’s City Organist he instigated the project to rebuild the Auckland Town Hall organ and it will be fascinating to hear how he will exploit some of its special features in his concerto. No one knows this organ as he does.

On this occasion, however, he will not be playing the work himself. The soloist will be one of his past pupils, Rebecca Soojung Lee.  Rebecca started learning the piano when she was 7 years old and, after her family immigrated to New Zealand in 2007, she began to also learn the violin.  Rebecca obtained her ATCL Diploma in piano from Trinity College London and Grade 8 violin in 2013.

Towards the end of 2014, Rebecca was captivated with the sound of the organ and began her organ studies under Miran Park, continuing her studies with Dr John Wells in 2016.   Rebecca graduated from Westlake Girls High School in 2016 and currently studies organ at the University of Auckland under James Tibbles.

The programme will also include Beethoven’s ‘Egmont Overture’ and ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz. This astonishing work was first performed in 1830, amazingly only three years after Beethoven’s death. Inspired by his passion for the actress Harriot Smithson, whose performances of Shakespeare in Paris had caused a sensation in the French capital, it is one of the most extreme manifestations of the romantic sensibility which swept through Europe at that time. Artists became intoxicated by the expression of their own individual personalities and emotions. The classical ideals of balance between form, expression, and taste were cast aside in pursuit of this new overwhelming artistic vision. Berlioz created a symphony of compelling originality unlike any other ever composed before. It is in five movements, instead of the usual four, and it is written to a programme, telling the story of a poet’s obsessive and destructive love for ‘the unattainable beloved’. Formally it introduces the concept of the ‘idée fixe’, a theme which runs through each of the movements in varying forms as the work progresses. The symphony’s technical demands will present a great challenge for the orchestra but I am sure the youthful passion and commitment of our young musicians in AYO will produce a performance which will be truly memorable.

AYO Librarian
Sourcing the scores and parts of the music programmed in our concerts is one of the most important and complex administrative jobs which has to be undertaken, before even the first rehearsal takes place. For the last ten years or so we have been fortunate to have the services of our librarian Anne Wells to do this for us. She has undertaken this task with unfailing efficiency and good humour despite all the problems of dealing with publishers, performing rights and copyright, which can be very frustrating at times. She and Antun have enjoyed working together, discussing how to obtain the best editions and other erudite matters. However she has decided that the time has come to move on, and though we will miss her reassuring presence we would like to thank her for all she has done for us and wish her all the best for the future.  Thankfully, Alison Dunlop and Louise Roe, two former members of AYO, have offered to take over from Anne after the October concert, and we extend a warm welcome to them both.

Robert Issell 
Sadly I also have to announce the death of Robert Issell (1938-2017). Robert, a true friend of AYO, was a concertmaster of the Auckland Symphonia (the forerunner of the current APO) in the 1970’s, and a 1st violinist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. He generously gave a great deal of his time in tutoring the violin sections of AYO, and became a valued support and friend to our music director, Antun Poljanich. We extend our sympathies to his family. Robert will be remembered with appreciation by AYO.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our October concerts.

Alexander Cowdell