Sunday 19th May

CSO puts on show of world-class quality - Review (The Press)

Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd. First published on Press.co.nz on 19th May

Lamb & Hayward Masterworks: Triumph

Benjamin Northey Chief Conductor

Benjamin Morrison Violin

Douglas Lilburn Auditorium, Town Hall, May 18

There's nothing a Christchurch audience likes quite so much as hearing one of their own produce a performance of world-class quality. The concert couldn't have had been better named because Benjamin Morrison's account of Korngold's Violin Concerto in D Major was precisely that, a real triumph.

It was a memorable trip home for this young performer making his mark on the world stage as a violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera.

A mixture of orchestration that was both textbook traditional, early 20th century and Hollywood, with melodic ideas drawn from a similar spectrum, Korngold's concerto is immediately accessible and Morrison relished the overt lyricism of the predominantly high-altitude melodies.

His playing really sang and drove the work right from the outset, flawlessly melodious and warm in tone. He projected perfectly, cutting through the backdrop of the orchestra with an intense sound, never putting a foot wrong with the technical demands of the work.

I liked the dream-like quality in the central section of the slow movement, the solo lines mirrored by the woodwind seamlessly. In the final movement the energy never let up, Morrison again busy with finger-twisting scales and acrobatics that moved through subtle harmonic shifts, requiring a huge amount of stamina and skill given that the soloist is omnipresent.

As he always does, Benjamin Northey ensured absolute connectivity and communication between soloist and orchestra throughout.

While Morrison's performance was a definite highlight, the Mendelssohn and Beethoven were by no means programme fillers.

Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is a little gem of a work, not heard that much but equal to its more popular counterparts.

Balance was good, the surges imitating the sea swell were tastefully done and the brief flute cameo and dramatic timpani worthy of mention.

The orchestra's account of Beethoven's Symphony no. 7 was excellent, Northey bringing some fresh new perspectives to this much-loved work.

There was a real feeling of restrained energy in the opening of the first movement which, when it was released, was exhilarating.

I liked how the orchestra approached the shock chord motif and how that figure came back, often in very subtle ways, throughout the work. Northey ensured that the solemnity of the second movement was never laboured in a tempo that always moved forward, the strings achieving some very delicate dynamics.

I loved the wind band sound achieved by the woodwind in the third movement on the brief crescendos, a really nice effect, and the trumpets and timpani were spot on with entries where there was simply nowhere to hide.

In the final Allegro con brio Northey set an uncompromising tempo that followed through to the end, the horns adding a regal touch and flashes of colour.