Saturday 9 June, 7.30pm
Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Mozart’s Prague symphony makes a perfect curtain-raiser to the orchestra’s 2018 season, from its dramatic opening chords to the crackling energy of its main themes. Seldom has a work expressed the clear light of reason with such a sense of joy. Mozart counted the day he presented this symphony to the public, in 1787, as one of the happiest in his life.
The orchestra’s concertmaster, Amalia Hall, takes up solo duties in Bartók’s amazing Violin Concerto No. 2. “It may sound odd,” said Bartók in a 1920 essay, “But I do not hesitate to say that the simpler the melody the more complex and strange may be the harmonisation and accompaniment that go well with it.” Bartók’s imagination is evident from the opening, as a gently strummed harp leads us into a mercurial piece that dances between folk-inspired melodies, birdsong-like gestures and lively dialogues with the orchestra in the outer movements. The slow movement presents a simple, appealing theme that Bartók extends with five magically inventive variations.
Dvořák’s Fifth Symphony opens with a fanfare scored for clarinets, whose softer tones turn an otherwise military gesture into the perfect introduction to a movement full of sweetness and beauty. It shares a similar air of woods and streams to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, and it is probably no accident that it shares the same F major key. The second movement continues a calmer variant of the same mood, with long, gentle melodies featuring the orchestra’s most lovely colours in turn.
A lively scherzo alternates delicacy with the boisterousness of a peasant dance, while the Finale takes a dramatic theme reminiscent of Tchaikovsky and develops it at length before restoring the sunny mood of the beginning.