Hawke's Bay Orchestra
Directed by Jose Aparicio
Piano Soloist Jian Liu
Music by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms
Blyth Performing Arts Centre, Havelock North Saturday, July 2
Reviewed by Peter Williams

This demanding programme of both a major Romantic piano concerto and one of the most famous symphonies in the orchestral repertoire must have kept Hawke's Bay Orchestra players busy and made heavy demands on stamina and musical understanding in its placement between accompanying full choral performances by the Napier Civic Choir.

However there seemed no limit to the musical intuition, knowledge and energy of the Civic Choir's artistic director, Jose Aparicio, as he skilfully directed.

A Beethoven overture - Leonore Overture No3 in this concert - will always make a satisfying and arresting opening to any concert as it certainly was in this case - a clear portrayal in sound of the story of Beethoven's opera Fidelio for which Leonore No3 is one of four overtures Beethoven penned.


The dramatic impact of the music was clear from the start with vivid contrasts, beautifully shaped solo lines and an impressive presto climax at the end.

Wellington-based, internationally known concert pianist Jian Liu, head of piano studies at the NZ School of Music, is an impressive soloist who held the rapt attention of the large audience in a brilliant performance of the Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor.

He deftly interwove the sinuous melodic lines of the first movement with the elaborate orchestral score, while always sensitive to all the detailed expression required.

The brief, gentle flowing intermezzo was the perfect foil to the explosive finale.

This was brilliantly played with a strong rhythmic sense that captured every detail of the music, complemented by an orchestral accompaniment which seemed entirely at one with the soloist.

The Blyth Performing Arts Centre was a perfect venue acoustically and in its dimensions for this concert, especially for the complex Symphony No 1 in C minor by Brahms.

It is easy for an audience to lose interest in such a work, but Aparicio's choice of tempi were just right as he literally danced his way through all four movements.

There was always a sense of immediacy in the playing, careful attention was paid to every detail of the score as the performance held the full attention of the audience.

There were highlights in abundance - a plethora of finely shaped solo lines, the pizzicato playing, and the grandeur of the famous theme in the last movement for example.

A credit to all the players, but most particularly to the conductor for his skill and imagination in mounting such a programme.