At the end of this opening concert in this year's NZSO Hawke's Bay Subscription Series, the audience certainly knew they had experienced something uniquely special that would live long in the memory.

In advanced publicity there was a quote: "Until you've heard Martin Frost, you really haven't heard the clarinet".

That was certainly true for me. I've heard the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A Major K628 live numerous times but never a performance that matched that of soloist Frost. The elegance and style of his playing was all that could be desired in a Mozart performance, with an infinite range of dynamic contrast and every detail of phrasing in place.

The numerous cadenza-like passages, which permeate the first movement, were brilliantly played, the aria-like quality of the slow movement was exquisitely conveyed and the sense of climax achieved in the Rondo-Finale was the epitome of classical style, creating a brilliant end to the performance.


Yet, there was more to come - an encore of Giora Feidman's Klezmer Dance Let's Be Happy, had the audience agog and on their feet at the end in a prolonged standing ovation, having witnessed Frost's extraordinary virtuosity, demonstrating complete freedom in his control of every possibility of the instrument. Great playing also from the NZSO.

The soloist obviously appreciated the skill and versatility shown in the accompaniment of both items - the partnership was superb.

Edo de Vaart is a vastly experienced conductor. His musicianship and skill was always obvious throughout the concert but nowhere more than in the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony No. 6 in F major Op 68 which came across to the listener with a freshness that denied its familiarity.

The playing of each of the five movements showed a range of expressive detail that matched the description that Beethoven provided, coupled with a plethora of very fine solo contributions from throughout the orchestra.

The first item, Shaker Loops, by contemporary American composer John Adams, gave opportunity to appreciate the quality of the NZSO strings on their own. The title Shaker Loops originates from the American Shaker religious group and the tremolo string technique used throughout all four linked movements.

The control shown by the players was to be admired but some in the audience would have found the piece difficult to comprehend at first hearing and it made a subdued start to the programme.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in concert.
Directed by Edo de Waart, concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppanen.
Music by Adams, Mozart and Beethoven.
Napier Municipal Theatre
Saturday, April 1.