NZSO and Orchestra Wellington players, with a Slovenian pianist deliver fine performances of Mendelssohn and Mozart

Members of Enzemble NZ

Gregory Squire and Charmian Keay (violins), Sam Burstin (viola), Ken Ichinose (cello), Ana Šinkovec Burstin (piano)

Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 2 in D Major
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Listening to a concert of happy, delightful music is a lovely way of whiling away a lunch hour. This week members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington presented a programme of charming music by Mendelssohn and Mozart.

Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 2
The prodigious talent of Mendelssohn is hard to comprehend. He grew up in a home that was a gathering place for writers, musicians and artists. He took music lessons from the composer Karl Friedrich Zelter, who impressed on him the importance of studying Baroque and Early Classical music, and Bach in particular. Music just flowed out of the young Mendelssohn. Between the ages of 12 and 14, 1821 to 1823, he wrote 12 String Symphonies, which were performed by the musicians at his home.

No. 2 is an exuberant piece, joyful, sparkling, but a challenge for the musicians. It requires precise, clear fast articulation and phrasing. Playing the piece as a string quartet without the rich sound of a string orchestra puts even greater pressure on the players. The four members of Enzemble NZ, the thorough professionals that they are, were undaunted. They tossed the piece off lightly. The first movement, full of energy, has the touch of J. C. Bach and his contemporaries, the second movement is darker, infused with a rich melody, the final movement is fugal in which the young Mendelssohn shows his mastery of the Baroque style. Although not often heard here, these Symphonies have had a number of recordings and obviously enjoy popularity. It was good to hear live such a fine performance.

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12
This is one of the set of three concertos that Mozart wrote in 1782 . Although scored for an orchestra with strings, oboes, bassoons and horns, Mozart himself arranged it for a String Quartet. Played by a quartet, it has a different quality, a clearer sound of the dialogue of individuals which brought out the operatic features of the work. Mozart had left Salzburg and moved to Vienna. He had completed the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, and this concerto has operatic touches, particularly in this string quartet arrangement. The quartet was playing the ensemble part with the interplay of the strings and the piano solo coming in with the arias. It is a charming modest concerto and opens with a light hearted theme on which the keyboard elaborates. The second movement is notable for the quotation of a theme by Johann Christian Bach. Bach had just died and the Andante was a musical epitaph of the younger composer to the older master who had greatly influenced him. The final movement is full of sparkling singable melodies. It is a happy, sunny work, played here recently with the NZSO by Steven Osborne.

The Slovenian Ana Šinkovec Burstin played with great sensitivity and effortless simplicity. She has had a successful career in Europe and America, and its is wonderful to have her here in Wellington. She will be a great asset to the New Zealand musical scene. We hope that we will hear her many times more. Her next performance will be with the Wellington Chamber Orchestra, playing the Grieg Piano Concerto on 8 December 2019.


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