Welcome to Orchestra Wellington’s 2019 season, EPIC!
This year, Orchestra Wellington is pulling out all of the stops! True to form, we have a theme for the season, but instead of focusing completely on an individual composer, style, or period in history, we are going BIG. In each concert, we will showcase a work that is so enormous, so important, and so pivotal, that the only word that can be used to describe it is EPIC.
For centuries, composers have created their most epic works for orchestra and the concert hall. These public arenas demanded a vision from composers that could harness the full expressive power of the symphonic orchestra, inspiring their communities with music and in doing so, inviting a larger theme of interpretation.
During this time, halls, orchestras, and even the technology of individual instruments have developed to accomodate these singular and epic visions.
Every one of these epic works is a monument of classical music, introducing developments so important that the history of music is inconceivable without them.
Featuring the imagination of the original Fantastic Symphony (and its even more fantastic sequel), the brilliant craft of classical music’s most famous orchestration, the great American Symphony, and from the other side of the Iron Curtain, Shostakovich’s decisive work; Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Bruckner’s mighty response to it, and finally Beethoven’s most radical masterpiece, Orchestra Wellington’s 2019 season offers works that speak to the loftiest ideals of humanity.
We balance these works carefully in each programme, either by presenting the masterwork’s intended sequel, following its theme, or by pairing it with works it inspired. While each programme is self-contained and follows a clear individual theme, attending the entire season will be a cumulative emotional experience that gains resonance as the season progresses. I hope that the juxtaposition of these works adds to your enjoyment.
These themes are as varied as the masterpieces that we will be performing. I have already spoken of Bruckner’s response to Mozart’s final and greatest symphony, but we also explore Bach’s influence on two visionary masters - Beethoven and Schoenberg. We present examples of music inspired by art, and two gargantuan war symphonies that clearly speak of the very different societies in which they were composed. Attending our concerts and considering the repertoire will, we hope, reveal unexpected links as we tell the story of some of the greatest music ever written.
In this season, “epic” can be as ravishingly beautiful as Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night, as colourful as Ravel’s exquisite orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, as radical as the Berlioz Fantastic Symphony, as perfect as Mozart’s Jupiter, or as monumental as Bruckner’s Eight Symphony.
Sometimes a composer’s most epic music is found in their most personal compositions. This is certainly the case with Beethoven’s string quartets, and in particular his 14th quartet - the legendary Opus 131. Robert Schumann said that this quartet was “on the extreme boundary of all that has hitherto been attained by human art and imagination”. Since Mahler’s time, orchestral conductors have re-orchestrated this string quartet for performance in the symphonic concert hall as a way of coming to grips with the enormity of the musical language. Mahler’s arrangement has been lost, but I’m excited to perform the arrangement by the brilliant Greek conductor Dimiti Mitropoulos. Special mention should also be made of the cadenza for the Bach concerto that Diedre Irons will be performing. Written by Johannes Brahms, this addition completes what I think is a sophisticated and unusual homage to the “THREE Bs”…
Our choices this season also frame a particular story in the evolution of music. Upon hear Beethoven’s Opus 131, Franz Schubert said, “After this, what is there left to write?” Four years later, Hector Berlioz provided the answer with the quintessential Romantic symphony, my Exhibit #1 when pointing to the Romantic Era as music’s most influential period.
On every concert day, I’m almost as excited by the prospect of presenting the pre-concert talk as I am actually conducting the concert! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to enthuse about the upcoming performance to hundreds of interested people. This season we are adding the chance to hear the Beethoven Quartet twice in one night! Our dear friends, the illustrious NZ String Quartet, will present a performance of Opus 131 as a pre-concert concert! Absolutely free of charge, this will be a unique experience that I’m sure will create huge appreciation for this masterpiece, and Mitropoulos’s grand arrangement.
Even though our Epic theme is rather broad this season, we have found a way to feature a gorgeous cycle of works by a singular composer. Samuel Barber’s three concertos are among the most expressive of the 20th century, and I’m delighted to be collaborating with our dear friend Michael Houstoun in the piano concerto, our very own superstar, Amalia Hall in the virtuosic violin concerto, and the Naumberg Award - winning cellist Lev Sivkov. A particular feature of Orchestra Wellington’s programmes has been our in-depth exploration of individual composers, and I hope that you have been as inspired by these composer’s journeys as we have been.
As always, your orchestra is committed to the music of New Zealand today, We are proud of the fact that we have offered two composer in residence positions for much of the past decade, adding to the unique body of art music that is emanating from Aotearoa. In our Epic season, I am delighted to be premiering two works especially written for us by Rob Thorne and Alex Taylor - two very different voices in our rich cultural landscape.
Rob’s work is juxtaposed against Shostakovich’s mighty 8th symphony, while Alex’s work is included in a programme that is built around a composer’s response to visual art. We are extraordinarily excited by the fact that Alex will be collaborating with the noted artist Simon Ingrahm, whose work exists in the situations and painted outcomes of a collaboration between the artist, an apparatus, and our life world. During this concert, a autonomous painting machine will respond to Alex’s unique musical voice - live performance on multiple levels!
I hope that you can understand why we have called our season Epic, but in actuality, the most epic thing about Orchestra Wellington and our performances is you, our audience. We at Orchestra Wellington are overwhelmed and humbled by the support that you continue to show us! If that isn’t EPIC, then I don’t know what is! An Epic audience deserves an Epic season - I hope that you share our excitement for 2019 - #EPIC!
- Marc Taddei, Music Director
Full programme available HERE