Petrouchka Music by Squire, Nielsen and Stravinsky, Orchestra Wellington, conducted by Marc Taddei, with Suyeon Kang (violin) and Arohanui Strings. Michael Fowler Centre, November 4.
This concert featured the annual visit from the Arohanui Strings – Sistema Hutt Valley, a group of young string players who, under Alison Eldredge’s tutelage, is achieving remarkable things, musically and socially.
After some brief unison playing, there was a short piece by Tabea Squire with members of Orchestra Wellington.
Then it was on to the main concert: two works from 1911. The Nielsen Violin Concerto was superbly played by Suyeon Kang, winner of the 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, in which she showed a mastery of a very difficult solo part – two massive cadenzas – and a real understanding of Nielsen’s highly distinctive sound world.
So, too, did the orchestra, which made light of some very tricky writing. Maybe there was not quite enough weight of sound at times, but this was a minor matter, and the crispness of the brass and the stylishness of the strings made Nielsen come alive.
But Stravinsky’s Petrouchka was, perhaps, the orchestra’s greatest challenge this year. It requires playing of great personality and character, and places demands on individuals.
The challenges were triumphantly met, with the brilliant trumpet playing of Josh Rogan a highlight, closely followed by the piano of Andrew Atkins and the bassoon playing of Leni Maeckle.
The horns, led by Shadley van Wyk, were finely assured and Karen Batten’s flute was very stylish. IThe whole orchestra showed an ease and precision not always found in this difficult piece.
Roll on The Rite of Spring next month. – John Button