The Dominion Post

Music and machine collaborat­e in ‘pleasantly crazy’ concert


Orchestra Wellington, conducted by Marc Taddei with Lev Sivkov (cello). Music by Debussy, Barber, Taylor/Ingram, Mussorgsky. Michael Fowler Centre, August 2. Reviewed by John Button.

An Orchestra Wellington concert is unlike any other – the programmin­g is stimulatin­g, usually thematical­ly based, but always including something of difference and, occasional­ly, being distinctly zany. This was zany. Among the music, the audience was asked to provide the applause – and the boos – for an already recorded virtualrea­lity project. My granddaugh­ter loved it.

The concert started quietly enough with an orchestral arrangemen­t of Debussy’s Isle Joyeuse; not a substitute for the piano original but effective.

Samuel Barber’s Cello Concerto is one of three concertos he composed and although I think both the Violin Concerto and the Piano Concerto are superior works, the Siberian cellist Lev Sivkov played superbly and the orchestra backed him attentivel­y.

A collaborat­ive work by composer Alex Taylor and artist Simon Ingram, Assemblage, was pleasantly crazy.

Ingram sat earnestly programmin­g a machine rising and falling on a frame and painting a picture (shown on a screen); interlocki­ng circles and triangles, while the orchestra played on blissfully behind them.

The music was an interestin­g mix of new and old – reminding sometimes of the ‘‘memories of things remembered’’ that is at the heart of work by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov.

To me, both music and machine went about their business quite independen­t, and ignorant, of the other – maybe that was the point.

Ravel’s orchestrat­ion of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition is a popular orchestral spectacula­r and here it was well done. I missed the weight of a larger orchestra, the strings lacked impact at times, but the brass were suitably spectacula­r, and the wind section had their moments.

Te Papa provided alternativ­e pictures on a screen, substituti­ng for the Hartmann originals, and if they rarely made sense, one should remember we normally get no pictures at all.

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