On Thursday April 7, 2011, I was lucky enough to score tickets to a Brett Dean concert with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. The program consisted of Johannes Brahms Tragic Overture, op. 81; Dean’s The Lost Art of Letter Writing; and Ross Harris’ Symphony No. 4. The concerts are held at Auckland’s Town Hall, in an auditorium modeled after the old Leipzig Gewandhaus (it is remarkable to see, since Symphony Hall was modeled after the old Gewandhaus as well). Unfortunately, the Gewandhaus was destroyed in World War II.
Photography was not allowed, so I’ll just have to link to a photo. The hall itself was recently renovated, so it is a nice enough space to hear a concert. Tickets are much more expensive than back in Boston (a student rush ticket is NZ$15.00, which is US$11.75). Although, expensive, I was able to sit right above the horns, which was a great experience, especially for the Harris. The Auckland Philharmonia is a great orchestra and I is a rewarding experience to go to their concerts.
The Brahms was nicely paced and atmospheric. It felt weighty enough for my tastes, even if the orchestra was too small (only five basses!?!) The balance was correct, which is all that matters. The Dean was a nice violin concerto (with a blue-haired Kristian Winther). It is the only time I have ever seen a soloist come out on stage with noticeably color-dyed hair. The piece itself was certainly interesting and the soloist was amazing.
The Harris was obviously a labor of love for the composer. He is one of New Zealand’s most well-known composers, and people seem to really enjoy his work. In fact, this concert was recorded to be released at a later date. The composition was dedicated to Mahinarangi Tocker, a singer, composer, and poet who died three years ago. Each of the pieces five sections is linked by a “bell toll.” It has some great brass and string writing. But, one has to wonder, if all the percussion noise was really necessary. Is that what compositions must have, lots of senseless noise? I hope not. Melody is still quite important. The brain, in fact, is able to link and follow melody quite easily.
All in all, this was a concert worth going to. I have even just become a student subscriber to the APO, so it will be nice to finally hear all the concerts. Up next week, a concert called Organ and Orchestra. It will be fun to finally hear the organ play!
Rob TedescoUniversity of Auckland, New Zealand