Monday, September 28, 2015

Familiar landscape emotively evoked

These Lands Are Ours

Saturday 26 September
Knox Church

A healthy-sized audience at Knox Church attended a rousing and emotive programme of nationally-inspired music performed by Dunedin Youth Orchestra and City Choir Dunedin.

The first half of the concert, performed solely by the orchestra, began with Douglas Lilburn's Drysdale Overture. This conveyed an impressionistic soundscape of New Zealand's natural beauty, transporting the audience between impetuous cadenzas and broad, elegiac melodies.

The work was performed with gravitas and rhythmic tightness, yet lapsing occasionally in brightness of tuning during some prominent melodic lines.

Thereafter, the first movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor featured violinist Matthew Scadden, a performance student at the University of Otago. Whilst a hint of insecurity was evident at the beginning of the work, its performance grew boldly in stature, culminating in an impressive showcase of both soloist and orchestra.

A Run in Ross Creek, written by emerging composer Merlin Callister, evoked the dense greenery of its titular inspiration, conveying the melodic splendour of national-romanticism, whilst spiritedly colouring the musical language with warm, impressionistic vistas. In this, Callister's inspiring tone-poem was performed by the orchestra with abundant relish and panache.

The first half of the concert concluded with Alexander Mackenzie's fervent First Scottish Rhapsody. Through its imitative form and contrasting, nostalgic imagery of Scotland, it is a satisfying and emotive work, conveyed in particular through the compassionate tenderness expressed by the orchestra in the middle section.

Elgar's The Banner of St George provided the second half of the concert, sung with clear appetite by City Choir Dunedin, and accompanied by the orchestra.

David Burchell's direction, passionate and eloquent throughout the concert, piloted this late-Victorian drama of singularly English fashion. In this, the legend of St George and the dragon was conveyed with swashbuckling bravado.

A warm, well-blended choral tone, despite occasional lapses in clarity of diction, crafted a thoroughly inspiring performance; the work typified the excitement of Elgarian spectacle, showcasing the performers' fruitful combination of nimble, dexterous orchestral accompaniment and engaging, charismatic choral singing.

Reviewed by George Chittenden, Otago Daily Times 28 September 2015

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