Bella Hristova

International Series Two – Saturday 31 May 2014, 8:00 pm Dunedin Town Hall

Tecwyn Evans, Conductor; Bella Hristova, Violin

Programme:
Bach (arr. Stokowski): Toccata and Fugue
Anthony Ritchie: Violin Concerto – world première
Sibelius: Symphony No. 1

Review:

Conductor Tecwyn Evans produced an expressively inspired and cohesive sound from the Southern Sinfonia in an exceptional programme in the Town Hall. The highly appreciative audience was initiated into the aural excitement to follow with a masterful and energetic rendition of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue arranged by Stokowski for orchestra.

The world premiére of Anthony Ritchie’s Violin Concerto composed and performed by Bella Hristova was highly anticipated. The work is based on a five note scale which, repeated in ascending lines, becomes embedded in the ear and becomes readily identifiable throughout its various developments and interpretations. Its rise culminates in a serene high melody from the solo violin and the audience was entranced from that moment. Deft changes in orchestral texture, echoes of other influences such as the gamelan, jazz inflections, the lyric romanticism and furious energy of early the twentieth century become compelling sensations. This music rejoices autonomously in its own languages, rather than achieving mere allusions to accumulated soundscapes. Ritchie has created an overwhelmingly personal statement of creative maturity. There is much there to reward many repeat live performances.

Hristova plays the violin as if it were an extension of her own body and emotional life. She became enveloped with this work dedicated to her strengths in passages of intense furious verocity and lyrical long melodies. Her dedication is reminiscent of that great violinist Heifetz.

The energy in Sibelius’s First Symphony, which closed the evening, reinvents New Zealanders’ sense of turangawaiwai. His apologetic cadences might also say something of our self-depreciation. Evans straddles two homes on either side of the globe and retains an open down-home Dunedin geniality. His world-class leadership skills inspired the best in the Southern Sinfonia. Ritchie’s Violin Concerto is a landmark work. Hristova’s performance was awesome. What a fittingly auspicious celebration of New Zealand Music Month!

Bravo.

Reviewed by Marian Poole for the Otago Daily Times, Monday, 2 June 2014.