The Radical, a coupling of Beethoven’s last two symphonies, was a spectacular launch for Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s New Zealand Herald Premier series.
Two performances attracted over 2400 enthused music lovers to this much-anticipated finale of the APO’s cycle of Beethoven symphonies, cruelly cut short by Covid in 2021.
From the start, one sensed the immense joy of music director Giordano Bellincampi in carrying this project to completion, a conductor who has happily confessed that he would play Beethoven every day of his life if he could.
Throughout the evening, we could hear this deep love and respect, especially in the unsullied freshness and almost scampish humour that so livened the comparatively modest Eighth Symphony.
The orchestra was in sparkling form, nimbly alert to Bellincampi’s finessed tempi and textures.
In this work, we felt Beethoven was looking back, with affection and wit, at a classical tradition that, 12 years later, he would burst asunder with his final symphony.
Experiencing awe is not so easy in our contemporary world, but that state is inevitable when one submits to the visceral and cerebral power of this mammoth score.
Just how did the first Viennese audience in 1824 find the vast and inevitable march of its first movement, the dancing thunderbolts of its scherzo or the seemingly never-ending melodies of its slow movement?
On Friday night, Bellincampi and his musicians transported us back in time to experience all this as if for the first magical time.
Was Beethoven’s massive choral finale, giving out Schiller’s eternal hopes and truths, ever more relevant, on so many levels? The 80-plus singers from Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, The Graduate Choir, together with the New Zealand Youth Choir and Secondary Student’s Choir delivered it as if our very existence depended on it.
Kirstin Sharpin, Sally-Anne Russell, Manase Latu and Samuel Dundas were an impressive quartet of soloists, Dundas, in particular, bringing a real operatic vigour to his opening call for freedom.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall