Bach, Mozart and Beethoven
from the Vector Wellington Orchestra,
reported by HOWARD SMITH
Though Friday night 15 August 2008 brought atrocious weather throughout New Zealand, a capacity audience filled Masterton Town Hall to hear Vector Wellington Orchestra in music by the three greatest ever Western composers -- Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
The Vector Wellington Orchestra
The VWO opened in the 'classical' era; represented by Mozart's 36th Symphony -- a somewhat routine performance though tempos were lively enough and conductor Marc Taddei displayed a firm controlling beat.
Marc Taddei. Photo © Nunes
After stage and seating rearrangement and arrival of the harpsichord, a baroque configuration reassembled for Bach's light-hearted Peasant Cantata BWV 212 (1742). It involves a courting couple, he wanting a quick roll in the hay, she disliking such vulgarity. At the same time they find plenty of time to honor and spoof their masters; and to drink alcoholic beverages. The text by Christian Friedrich Henrici (1700-1764) -- also known as Picander -- was written while Picander was serving as Assessment and Liquor Tax Collector, Wine Inspector and Vizier, hence the several reference to taxes -- paid and unpaid.
Other than some added visual entertainment, whether much was gained by the semi-staging with two excellent soloists (NBR New Zealand Opera interns -- Kate Lineham, soprano and Hadleigh Adams, bass baritone) in period costume plus a little orchestra involvement, appeared debatable. But the surtitles clearly demonstrated what fabulous music Bach could marry to so idiotic a libretto.
As is also true of the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn (E minor) violin concertos, Beethoven's glorious work is repeatedly chosen merely as a 'seat filler'. Fortunately its choice for this occasion was richly rewarding. Guest soloist Feng Ning gave a truly beautiful account of Beethoven's masterpiece, however guilty its inclusion is of elbowing aside fine neglected concertos. His performance revealed impeccable technical command and sovereign purity. A conspicuously assured musician, he never rushed passages as young performers often do. His searching hushed passages were breathtaking while the Fritz Kreisler cadenzas hinted at his concealed firepower.
Taddei and the VWO rose to the concerto's demands with an emphatic high-fibre contribution, setting the seal on a partnership of soloist and orchestra to match the very best.
Born in Chengdu, China, Ning began learning the violin at the age of four. In 1998, he was invited as a full scholarship student to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2003 he became the first student ever in the history of the Royal Academy to get a full mark for the Final Recital. He won first-prize in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, New Zealand (2005) and first at the famous Paganini Violin Competition in Geneva (2006).
Feng Ning. Photo © Bruno Murialdo
Ning has also performed with the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Hungarica, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, London Mozart Players, Belgium National Symphony Orchestra, Symphonia Vienna, NDR Radiophilharmonie, Hanover, I Musici de Montreal, the Auckland Philharmonia and Christchurch Symphony. He plays a Giovanni Guadagnini (1756) violin provided by the Deutscher Musikinstrumenten-Fonds in Hamburg.
Copyright © 20 August 2008
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand