THE ROMANTICS
Dunedin Symphony Orchestra
Dunedin Town Hall
13 August, 2016

Reviewed by MARIAN POOLE

A near capacity audience gave violin soloist, Noah Bendix-Balgley, full bodied applause for his performance of Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Orchestra op 77 with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jessica Cottis.

From the opening bars, Bendix-Balgley’s interpretation of this massive work was excellent in all aspects. The ease with which he accomplished passages of the work’s prolonged trilling, the dazzlingly quicksilver runs and its languid sensuality were truly wonderful.

The third movement “Allegro giocoso” revealed that the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra is increasingly capable of letting its hair down.

Bendix-Balgley received multiple curtain calls from an exuberant audience. His encore item, the Gavotte from J. S. Bach’s Partita in E major, was performed disarmingly with opportunities not missed to include ingratiating and tastefully measured embellishments.

Anthony Ritchie’s Albatross in Flight opened the evening. It is a succinct little work; a mere three minutes. Within that limitation it successfully conveys the glory of these magnificent birds and something of their joy in soaring effortless.

The work also marks the successful association Ritchie enjoys with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra as something of an unofficial composer-in-residence.

The evening performance closed with Bruckner’s exhaustive and exhausting Symphony No 4 in E flat major.

Dubbed the “Romantic”, its structure relies heavily on alternating thunderous gestures from the full Orchestra with soft quiet interludes from the Orchestra’s sections.

A convincing marriage of these disparities is difficult. Cottis is undoubtedly equal to steering the Orchestra’s forces through the loud and tumultuous climaxes.

However, she seemed unable to inspire comparable romantic intensity in the softer passages. While the melodies in the woodwind and brass held the momentum, those composed for cellos, double basses and violas drifted inconsequentially.