Review: Big scores softened by breezy Mozart

By William Dart

Conductor Edo de Waart. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Conductor Edo de Waart. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The rarely-programmed Sinfonia Domestica of Richard Strauss offered 44 minutes of uber-romantic immersion in the second half of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's Mozart & Strauss concert.

Edo de Waart conducted with the affection and authority that this mammoth score demands and his 110-piece orchestra, with a quartet of saxophones and eight horns, redefined sonic luxuriance.

But ultimately the dizzying detail of this 1903 work is somewhat exhausting, making one realise why other composers at the time were forging new, shorter and sharper musical pathways.

This is Strauss at his most fulsome, showing us 24 hours of family life with the same gravitas accorded to Nietzsche's philosophy in the mere half-an-hour of Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Little wonder that the great Wagnerian conductor Hans Richter once pointed out the irony of the Gods of Valhalla barely making a quarter of the sound of Strauss' Bavarian baby being given a bath.

The concert had opened with another moderately massive opus, Musique pour l'esprit en deuil by the Dutch composer Rudolf Escher, a densely written 20 minutes which certainly caught the spiritual oppression it describes.

In between these two monoliths, Viennese suavity and grace saved the evening, in the form of Mozart's fourth horn concerto. A fine soloist Samuel Jacobs was the epitome of breezy bonhomie, beautifully echoed by the smaller orchestra around him.

What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall

- NZ Herald

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