Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

Gautier Capucon with the NZSO, 21 June 2007

Gautier Capucon with the NZSO under conductor Arvo Volmer played the Walton Cello Concerto superbly on this Wednesday's early evening concert of music of twentieth-century Romanticism. Though the hall was disappointingly half filled, Capucon was given a deservedly warm reception. The Walton Cello Concerto is a charming work. The first and last movements, "Moderato" and "Lento", both have lush and vaguely melancholic melodies. However, the middle movement "Allegro appassionato", which Capucon lent some stunning virtuosity, seemed too presto and thin to be passionate, with the result that it descended into being merely busy. "Lento" has a section written in between the two cadenzas which most appropriately belong to Walton's heroic film music and might have been best left there. Capucon's playing was never short of brilliant.

The second highlight of the evening was Eve de Castro Robinson's "These Arms to Hold You", a setting of Bill Manhire's poetry for children's voices and orchestra commissioned to celebrate the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society's 100th birthday. It succeeded in its intensions to recreate urgency and expectations of new parents and a boisterous display of health and humour. Skilful use of orchestral textures, fused with little snippets of nursery rhymes, folk song from the old country and allusions to old favourites accompanied an excellently rehearsed and presented choir from Kelburn Primary. Bravo.

Dvorak's well known and loved Symphony No 9 "From the New World" ended the evening with grand style, poignancy and bravado. While the "Largo", "Molto Vivace" and "Allegro con fuoco" deserve their place in the concert repertoire and refer neatly to each other, the first movement "Adagio-Allegro molto" stands alone. As it vacillates between thick grandious and thin pathetic textures and dynamics, it seems without much consequence. It makes an imperialist statement of pomp and circumstance, sound and fury which does however say something about the "New World" now, if not in 1893, when it was written.

Volmer gifted a most appreciative audience with an encore from Dvorak's Slovanic Dances. Clashing cymbals, thunderous drums and tinkling chimes brought the evening of polished orchestral works to a very happy end.