Though numerically his symphonic output is small, with only nine composed, for many musicians Beethoven is the greatest symphonic composer.
His Symphony No 7 in A with its dancing rhythms, glorious expressive quality, driving momentum and wonderful orchestration, is one of the finest in the whole repertoire. Combine all this with the superlative playing drawn from the NZSO under Pietari Inkinen's inspired direction, and the large audience surely had one of its finest music experiences.
They were spellbound from the first notes from the woodwind in the slow introduction to the first movement. The playing in each movement was special - the spontaneous exuberance projected in the opening allegro, the sustained character maintained perfectly in the slow movement, the rhythmic impetus in the Scherzo, the blazing intensity of the Finale, all highlighted by solo playing of virtuoso quality from throughout the orchestra - just some outstanding aspects of this glittering performance.
The first half of the programme was restrained by comparison, but just as impressive.
The opening Symphony No 29 in A by Mozart, scored only for strings and a pair each of oboes and horns, was played with all the elegance and poise that this finely crafted music requires.
It was eminently stylish, charming, almost understated, but a delight to hear. Wind players certainly shone in the Beethoven Symphony and there were some fine moments here also, but this performance was a reminder of how good the NZSO string sections are.
Every expressive nuance was in place, melodic and rhythmic detail finely balanced and an impressive climax achieved in the Allegro con spirito Finale.
As well as being a gifted conductor, Pietari Inkinen is a fine solo violinist, clearly demonstrated in his performance with Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppanen in the superb Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor by J S Bach, a unique and very welcome opportunity to hear these two talented violinists together. With a chamber-sized orchestra of 20 strings, the performance was intimate and compact.
The essential contrast between the soloists - concertino - and the other strings - ripieno - was beautifully balanced throughout all three movements.
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Beethoven 7
Directed by Pietari Inkinen.
Music by Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.
Napier Municipal Theatre, Wednesday, November 14.