Review: 'Vivaldi triumphs in the NZSO’s Italian celebration'

 Brett Mitchell led the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in an Italian-themed program at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington on Saturday, May 12.

Brett Mitchell led the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in an Italian-themed program at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington on Saturday, May 12.

Middle C (New Zealand) has published a review of Brett Mitchell's Italian-themed program with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, presented at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington on Saturday, May 12:

What a boringly predictable world it would be if everything in it turned out as one anticipated! I sat pondering this earth-shattering truism during the interval of Saturday evening’s NZSO concert in the wake of the most inspiring and life-enhancing performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” I’ve heard since...the 1970s. Just as that performance blew away the cobwebs and reinvented the work for its time, so did Angelo Xiang Yu’s absolutely riveting playing of the solo violin part and the NZSO players’ galvanic response do much the same for me on this occasion.

I listened to the thistledown-like opening, and straightaway pricked up my ears at its wind-blown, spontaneous-sounding quality, replete with inflections of phrasing and dynamics that suggested the musicians seemed to really “care” about the music.

Both Angelo Xiang Yu and conductor Brett Mitchell readily encouraged the playing’s “pictorial” effects suggested by the music’s different episodes. The playing and its “engagement factor” simply went from strength to strength throughout each of the remaining concerti....

The spectacular opening of Respighi’s Pini di Roma (Pines of Rome), had plenty of impact, conductor Brett Mitchell keeping the music’s pulses steady, thus allowing the players space in which to generate plenty of weight of tone, and flood the ambiences with that barely-contained sense of excitement suggested by the opening Pines of the Villa Borghese. As the tempi quickened, everything came together in a great torrent of sound, as overwhelming in its insistence as tantalising in its sudden disappearance, leaving a vast, resonating space of darkness and mystery. Conductor and players here enabled those spaces to be filled with properly subterranean sounds of breath-taking quality, as if the earth itself was softly resonating with its own music...

For this performance the NZSO enjoyed the sterling services of a number of players from the Wellington Brass Band, whose body of tone with that of the full orchestra’s at the piece’s climax had an almost apocalyptic effect. As he’d done throughout, Brett Mitchell controlled both momentums and dynamics with great tactical and musical skill, holding the legions in check until they actually swung into view in the mind’s eye, and came among us, amid scenes of incredible splendour and awe. Respighi actually wanted the ground beneath his army’s feet to tremble with the excitement of it all, and conductor and players triumphantly achieved that impression over the piece’s last few tumultuous bars.

To read the complete review, please click here.