Dvorak’s New World

Saturday 10 September 2016 7:30 pm
Dunedin Town Hall
Nicholas Braithwaite Conductor
Michael Houstoun Piano

Jack Speirs: Fanfare
Beethoven: Leonora Overture No. 3
Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 3
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, From the New World


A near capacity crowd was enthralled by Michael Houstoun’s performance of Bartok’s  Concerto No 3 for Piano and Orchestra with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Nicholas Braithwaite in the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday night.

Houstoun’s technique is nothing short of miraculous.

Chords were attacked with crisp precision, extended trills shimmered and runs were delivered with lightning speed.

The birdsong conjured in the second movement Adagio religioso was  perfectly conjured.

Overall, Houstoun’s interpretation of this 1945 work accentuated Bartok’s allegiance to Beethoven and the Baroque idioms.

The orchestra made more of its Romantic nature as, directed by the amiable Braithwaite.

Houstoun’s clinically perfect but stilted performance produced a work of two parts sometimes at odds with each other.

The final movement, Allegro vivace, brought the work to a exhilaratingly furious climax.

Wild approval from the audience won an encore from Houstoun of Satie’s Gnossienne No 1, also played with sharp pointedness from a score.

The programme opened with Jack Speirs’ medieval sounding  Fanfare.

Commissioned for the orchestra’s 30th anniversary, brass dominates an  overly succinct score.

Beethoven’s programmatic Leonore Overture No 3, Op 72b has a wealth of lovely episodes and a final flurry of exuberance.

The orchestra produced a convincing performance keeping the work coherent.

Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 in E Minor, “From the New World”  is well known and well loved.

In Saturday’s performance, the Largo became its highlight.

The orchestra kept its broad gestures of grave portent and disarming lyricism perfectly balanced and alive.

Other movements seemed not to hold the audience’s attention to quite the same extent.

The programme achieved a coherent balance between Bartok’s spine-chilling harmonies and the Romantic sublimity of Speirs, Dvorak and Beethoven.

Reviewed by Marian Poole  for the Otago Daily Times, Monday, 12 September 2016.

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