Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

Soundscapes: NZSO with Percussionist Colin Currie and McMillan’s “Veni Veni”.

A distinctive programme of works written in the last century, thoughtfully put together and creatively directed by Alexander Shelley is a real cause for celebration.

Shelley opened the evening with Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes” taken from his opera “Peter Grimes”. Each section portrays the sea’s different moods, here brilliantly conveyed. Shrill sirens announce “Dawn”, deep swells radiate from the percussion and brass and catch the light on the strings; “Sunday Morning” is skittish and busy, light bounces elusively; “Moonlight” is grave, desperate and ominous; “Storm” is chill with menace. The work is discomforting with turmoil lurking just below its veneer.

McMillan’s “Veni, Veni Emanuel” tips between chaotic joy and awe. Currie’s assembly of tuned and untuned percussion instruments of metal, wood and skin spread across the front of the orchestra. For a while it looked as though we would see more of Currie walking than playing. But as sections became apparent and the wonderfully asymmetrical rhythms gathered momentum, so to did Currie’s wandering diminish. The work is a triumph of glorious and thrilling noise, at times confusing, disjointed but always dancing. It demands much of its performer. Bravo!

Ravel’s “Pavanne for a Dead Princess” was performed beautifully. A tender dance of loving melancholy performed with sweet gravity.

Strauss’ “Death and Transformation” is, as Shelley informed the audience, the depiction of a man on his deathbed. His breathing and heart beat provide a refrain between his recollections of his life and the confusions of his fever. Solo lines from flute and violin portray his boyhood; first loves are tempestuous and brief; his true love is declared in a magnificent full bodied sigh which becomes his life’s epiphany.

This extraordinarily wonderful concert was very well received and augurs well for more adventurous programming for Dunedin.