Nelson summer high

by Rod Biss / 29 December, 2007
So much to choose from.

There's a combination that's almost unbeatable; chamber music, devoted performers, intriguing programmes of new, old and local music, intimate venues, a beautiful setting in summertime. Yes, I'm describing the Adam Chamber Music Festival in Nelson where in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere the playing was at such a high level that each concert seemed unsurpassable.

If pushed, I might almost choose one that stood out: the New Zealand String Quartet together with Canadian clarinettist James Campbell in performances of both Brahms and Mozart's Clarinet Quintets in the School of Music Hall. I'm not sure, though; I could just as easily decide that it was the New Zealand Trio playing Gillian Whitehead's Piano Trio in the tiny hall at Motueka.

Later in the year there was more Whitehead when Tuhonohono played a concert of her music in the Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber to celebrate Matariki (the Maori New Year).

Whitehead's music is genuinely of Aotearoa, blending together taonga puoro with conventional instruments in an innovative way. The sound is new and beautiful: Nau mai e tea o marama, a duet for voice and taonga puoro played by Richard Nunns and sung with power and eloquence by Ramonda Te Maiharoa-Taleni is a piece I long to hear again.

More traditional yet still memorable, from CMNZ's subscription series, was the Kungsbacka Trio playing a well-known work, Schubert's Trio in E flat D929, with thrilling freshness that made old music sound as though one were hearing it for the first time.

In a different world was the NZSO's sold-out performance of Mahler's colossal Symphony No 2, The Resurrection, for AK07. Orchestra, choir and soloists all worked like mad, but Mahler's vision remained disappointingly earthbound.

Much more thrilling was the festival's closing concert, fire-wind-water, from the APO under Giancarlo Guerrero, which had as its centrepiece Toru Takemitsu's From Me Flows What You Call Time for five percussion players and orchestra - the most delicately beautiful and brilliantly imagined piece in the whole festival.

There's no doubt about the NZSO's fantastic playing, but their subscription programmes were ultra-bland, unmemorable affairs. The concerts that should tour never left Wellington: Made in New Zealand with Nathan Haines, composer-focused concerts for Tchaikovsky and Wagner and, most infuriatingly of all, an intriguing all-Bernstein concert conducted by the miniature but magnificent Xian Zhang.

By contrast, all the APO's programmes had shape, conviction and interest. Best of all were concerts that presented Gareth Farr, Prokofiev and Charles Ives conducted by Marc Taddei; a more popular event, Rome, the Eternal City; and their final subscription concert of Britten, Prokofiev and Holst conducted by Mischa Santora.

I had misgivings about NZ Opera presenting Turandot yet again, but Christopher Alden's perceptive production brought it chillingly alive. Singing, particularly by the chorus, was outstanding - in fact it was all so good that I just had to see it a second time.

I'm also a fan of the Opera Factory, who constantly scour through the catalogues to find works we thought we'd never see on stage here. Mid-year they presented a triple bill that culminated in Linda Kitchen's jazzy, heart-warming production of Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges.

But what is classical? I'd include Herbie Hancock, who in one Aotea Centre event played his "Watermelon Man" and much else, and then put the spotlight on guitarist Lionel Loueke, whose playing was a revelation of melody and rhythms, a 10-man band housed in one body.

Helen Medlyn sings classics, too, but they're not always opera or oratorio. Hell Man, her show with Penny Dodd, took us to the nostalgic, cynical, tuneful world of Broadway and Hollywood, with a sublime encore of "The Nearness of You".

Viva Voce's homage to Monteverdi, The Full Monte, took us back four centuries for the magnificent opening of the Vespers, and a number of madrigals, all of them tender and anguished.

But the most significant and marvellous five minutes of music in both 1607 and 2007 can only be the attention-grabbing toccata that opens Orfeo, followed by the opera's prologue in which La Musica, personified to perfection by Emma Roxburgh, sang of music's wide-ranging powers.


Teddy's in Ponsonby serves a lacklustre experience
Best of Wellington: Where to shop in the capital
98640 2018-11-13 00:00:00Z Travel

Best of Wellington: Where to shop in the capital

by Metro

Here are the best places to find ethical fashion, streetwear, vintage fashion, second-hand books and more.

Read more
Morningside's new food precinct, tiki bars, and more new Auckland openings
99007 2018-11-12 16:26:04Z Auckland Eats

Morningside's new food precinct, tiki bars, and mo…

by Alex Blackwood

Here's what's happening in Auckland food news for November.

Read more
Wally Haumaha appointment process was 'adequate and fit for purpose'
98982 2018-11-12 12:20:20Z Politics

Wally Haumaha appointment process was 'adequate an…

by Jo Moir

An inquiry into the government's appointment of the deputy police commissioner has found the process was "adequate and fit for purpose''.

Read more
Yellow is Forbidden: A Kiwi director's fashion doco stands apart from the rest
98978 2018-11-12 00:00:00Z Movies

Yellow is Forbidden: A Kiwi director's fashion doc…

by James Robins

China’s foremost fashionista is the subject of Pietra Brettkelly's strikingly beautiful new documentary.

Read more
Philip Temple on his relationship with the great NZ writer Maurice Shadbolt
98324 2018-11-12 00:00:00Z Books

Philip Temple on his relationship with the great N…

by Philip Temple

From his new Maurice Shadbolt biography, Temple writes about why he took on the task of recounting the life of this colourful & controversial figure.

Read more
Why you should raise your child as an intuitive eater
98505 2018-11-12 00:00:00Z Health

Why you should raise your child as an intuitive ea…

by Jennifer Bowden

There’s a balance between schoolkids eating enough for their energy needs and learning to recognise hunger through intuitive eating.

Read more
How Cuba Street became the heart of Wellington's bohemia
98657 2018-11-12 00:00:00Z Travel

How Cuba Street became the heart of Wellington's b…

by Redmer Yska

A once-seedy precinct has become an eclectic mix of cafes and hip retailing, its history celebrated in a new book.

Read more