Wednesday 25th March

Sea to Sky Review by Geeny Moon

The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s performances are always something to look forward to and Saturday’s concert, Sea to Sky, did not fail to deliver. The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 season kicked off with an absolutely stunning concert led under the baton of new Chief Conductor, Benjamin Northey.

The concert took place at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, which is a rather unique venue to hold a concert; nonetheless, it provided what proved to be a great concert hall. This concert was broadcast live on Radio New Zealand for listeners at home to enjoy as well and added extra anticipation on the side for audience and players alike- the CSO were streamed live for the first time in around 30 years!

Before the concert, the CSO provided some keen audience members with a pre-concert talk, which was most interesting and valuable for the latter part of the evening. Led by the very knowledgeable Dr Chris Cree Brown, the simple talk gave us insight into the background of each of the pieces that were later played in the evening. After extensive practice of our clapping and cheering for live radio, Radio New Zealand Presenter Clarissa Dunn was satisfied and we were on air.

The adventure began with a much-loved favourite, Douglas Lilburn’s Aotearoa: Overture. This is a ‘safe’ piece of music; one that reminds you of home and is comforting to listeners, so it was cleverly selected for a concert built to give listeners a sense of belonging and home. Pictures of dynamic New Zealand landscapes were clearly painted in our minds and we were taken on a first class journey. The work was elegantly played by the entire orchestra and was a perfect way to begin the evening.

The middle work, Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s Antarctica: suite for guitar and orchestra was refreshing and vibrant for listeners, providing something different. Guitar soloist, Slava Grigoryan was virtuosic in his performance and captivated the audience with aplomb and skill. Although it was a work I am not familiar with, its freshness was something that I found myself enjoying and I believe others felt the same. This work was warmly received by the audience.

The final work of the evening was, Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, which was the clear highlight of the evening for many concertgoers. Full of rich and passionate color, the symphony was executed extraordinarily by the animated orchestra and equally energized conductor. A special mention goes to the mighty brass section whose excellence and cohesion added to the quality of the overall performance, especially the horns! The Sibelius symphony definitely showcased the orchestra’s finesse and musicianship.

Sea to Sky was definitely a concert to be remembered. The venue was packed full of satisfied audience members and the wild applause proved that it was indeed a very special night to spark the beginning of what will be a fantastic year. It was definitely not a hard choice to make between attending the CSO concert or the Rugby! Bravo to all involved, as someone behind me shouted out about ten times! The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra is not to be missed and I thoroughly look forward to attending most, if not all of their concerts this season.