From Glass to McGlashan, a mix without borders

By William Dart

Contemporary and classical music sit comfortably together.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Auckland Chamber Orchestra always comes up with programming that takes little heed of barriers and borders.

So it was with its first Sunday concert for 2014, putting concertos by Bach and Philip Glass alongside the best of our songwriters.

Classical came first.

A small body of string players surrounded harpsichordist Indra Hughes for the third of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, in a performance that had the intimacy and friendliness of a house concert.

One appreciated seeing as well as hearing Bach's melodies moving around the players, from violins through to cellos, even if solos were sometimes thin-toned.

Energy and enthusiasm carried the day, with real poetry emerging in the central Adagio where Hughes extended Bach's original two chords into a shapely fantasia.

The big band took over the stage for Philip Glass's 1992 Concerto Grosso, which turned out to be a rather jolly affair.

What was lacking in sleek SoHo sheen was compensated for by the high spirits and rhythmic dash that conductor Peter Scholes drew from the musicians.

Hinewehi Mohi was the first of the evening's singers.

Mohi's fragile te reo ballads revealed their quiet strength, particularly in the beautiful Hawaiki. Later, in the uplifting Kotahitanga, she clearly enjoyed riding the lively brass riffs of Scholes' arrangement.

Don McGlashan brought a seasoned generosity to the evening with four favourite tunes, including the expected trip along Dominion Road.

If Queen's English lacked the propulsion of a rhythm section at times, Anchor Me had the advantage of McGlashan in a more vulnerable mode, with the ACO relishing an arrangement that benefited from the hand of Gareth Farr.

Maisey Rika was utterly captivating; it was a revelation that such powerful songs had come from this slender young woman.

The earthquakes of Ruaimoko chilled as they should and, at the end, she could not resist prefacing Tangaroa Whakamautai with a plea for the cessation of offshore drilling.

And what pleasure it was succumbing to the sheer cuteness of Rika's Musical Pillow, a buoyant celebration of the joys of family life, caught in a musical box of an arrangement by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper.

- NZ Herald

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