Violinist Karen Gomyo, who headlines two concerts with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra next week, has happy memories of playing Beethoven with the NZSO and Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen in 2015.

"I liked Pietari's full-on romantic approach, especially mixed with a lighter, fresh quality he found in Beethoven," she says.

It was a state of bliss that extended beyond the concert stage. Playing Beethoven at nights and travelling around our beautiful country by day was heaven for a young woman who believes music and nature are inseparable.

"That tour was an unforgettable experience; I usually just go from city to city, with memories of airports and hotels."


This month, Gomyo follows Alban Berg's 1935 Violin Concerto with the phenomenally popular G minor Concerto by Max Bruch. The Berg has been one of her special projects and she hopes audiences won't shy off hearing it because of the composer's connections with his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, of twelve-tone notoriety.

"If you are used to totally tonal music, then it might seem unusual, but this is a very sensuous work," she says. "Approached with a completely open mind and heart, I'm sure that something extraordinary will come your way."

Don't feel there's any need for massive background research. Gomyo recently went to Berg's opera Lulu in New York, without any prior study of its music or background.

"The impact was astounding," she says. "I came out with incredibly profound emotions that are still lingering."

Preparing for the concerto, written at the same time as Lulu, she found fascinating links between the two scores and feels the instrumental work has very strong theatrical elements.

"It may be dedicated to the memory of an angel, the 18-year-old daughter of architect Walter Gropius, but it's much more than that."

She talks of the composer's fondness for secret codes in his music and the fact that a folk song quoted by Berg in this concerto has rather racy words. There are no such mysteries in the solid romantic fare of Saturday night's Bruch but Gomyo has enjoyed returning to it and approaching it with a new pair of ears.

"It's important to treat any piece of music as if you're learning it for the first time" she says. "You may think something is so familiar, but what keeps us musicians going is the fact that there's always room for discovery."


Two years ago, Gomyo enthused to me about her 1703 Aurora Stradivarius, nicknamed for its ability to shoot out its sound like aurora rays. After 16 years of being "a partner" through her adult life, it has recently undergone minor surgery, updating replaceable parts, which has added new warmth in its lower register. This bodes well, particularly for Bruch's gorgeous slow movement, and Gomyo is pleased the most important aspect of the violin remains intact.

"Don't worry," she tells me, "the soul of the instrument has survived, being completely unbreakable."

What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Where & when: Auckland Town Hall, Friday, August 18 and Saturday, August 19 at 7.30pm.