Where: Holy Trinity Cathedral
Urbane concertmaster Robert Mealy set out the philosophy of Juilliard415 early in this captivating concert — to make the old as new as possible.
A goal effortlessly achieved, as they played old masters as if the ink were yet to dry on the score, in a zesty launch for Chamber Music New Zealand's 2020 season.
Well might these youthful musicians have smiled during Handel's Agrippina overture, as vigorous dotted rhythms erupted into a hurtling Allegro, momentarily paused to melt our hearts with a poignant oboe solo.
This musical voyage around 18th century Europe was outlined with scholarship in the programme booklet but delivered with all the fun of a pleasure cruise.
Vivaldi's dramatic La Notte concerto, with an expressive soloist in flautist Taya Konig-Tarasevich, effortlessly fulfilled Mealy's description of it as "a fantasia of things that go bump at night."
A Corelli concerto grosso focused on the dramatic juxtaposition of a small, energetic group of soloists with the larger band, impressing with generously sweeping phrases and a gorgeously ornamented Adagio.
Germany was not such a memorable stopover. A sonata by Georg Muffat, shaped and phrased to perfection, was hampered by stolid fugal writing. On the other hand, Frenchmen Marais and Rameau provided the expected Gallic wit and grace in toe-tapping dances, laced with jaunty percussion.
The highlight of the evening came with a side-trip to Aotearoa New Zealand for a new commission by Gillian Whitehead. Time steps out of line had Whitehead concocting some ravishing and sly subversions of Baroque sonorities and idioms, from rushing string scales to clustering woodwind dissonances.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Artfully sustained during almost 12 minutes, it unfolded from Georgeanne Banker's resonant bassoon solo into a wonderful blend of the old and new. The composer's signature birdsong seemed almost mystically mellow on ancient instruments and, taking advantage of the opportunity for a touch of improv, Joshua Stauffer came up with a flurry of flamenco fire on his theorbo.