Vector Wellington Orchestra Presents 1710 - Organ Symphony (13th November 2010)

The week is just filled with events – we’ve been going out too much! I’m not complaining as I’ve enjoyed all the events we’ve been to; it just so happened that they were all on the same week and it felt like we were out every night! Tonight’s event was yet another free event (for us), again, courtesy of The Dominion Post – I’ve won us a double pass to Vector Wellington Orchestra Presents 1710 - Organ Symphony :)

The Vector Wellington Orchestra presents a series of concerts in Wellington and as part of their 2010 Subscription Season, they have showcased great works connected with the years 1710, 1810, 1910 and 2010 with the one from 1710 being the last of the 4-part subscription. I’ve not seen this orchestra perform – I guess I never saw myself as a classical music fan (even though I spent years playing classical music on the piano) so never actively sought out such events. Great for me to score free tickets (normally $56 per person) as I get to sample new things and in the process, find out if I like such things/events or not. I’m definitely looking forward to see the Town Hall organ in action tonight, something I’ve never seen before!

Funnily enough, the last time we attended an event at the Wellington Town Hall, we were in a rush to get there on time and tonight, despite leaving home early for the 7.30pm concert, we STILL got there late (by a couple of minutes) but thankfully they have not yet close the doors when we arrived so we could get to our seats without missing the start of the performance. Phew! Plenty of others were like us, rushing to get in and I was impressed to see such a large crowd tonight, with the audience ranging from young children to senior folks. The concert opened with the overture from Le Temple de la Gloire by 18th-century composer Rameau, with the full orchestra led by music director Marc Taddei, and this was followed by harpsichord Concerto in D Major, F.41 from Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (JS Bach’s oldest son) performed by gifted harpsichordist-pianist-organist Donald Nicholson. This was the first time I’ve seen a harpsichord and it looked quite similar to a piano though smaller and somewhat fragile-looking. Widely used in Renaissance and Baroque music, this was the instrument that gave rise to the piano. According to Jono, the key difference between a harpsichord and a piano is that when a note is played, the string is plucked on the harpsichord instead of being hammered on (like the piano), and as a result, no matter how hard you played on the key, the loudness of the note would remain the same. How interesting…It was fun to watch Donald perform – he looked like he was having a ball playing the song, moving his whole body expressively to the music. We were sitting on the 8th row from the stage in the stall seats downstairs and despite a smaller orchestra (half of the orchestra left the stage for the harpsichord pieces), the sound from the harpsichord sounded rather soft; I wonder if the audience far back and upstairs were able to hear much. Poulenc’s Concerto "Concert Champêtre" was played next, this time on a modern harpsichord (apparently made in Auckland and only 13 of its kind ever made) though I couldn’t hear much difference between the two harpsichords, both still of a delicate tone. Ah but the modern harpsichord had 6 pedals, making it much more challenging an instrument to play! I kind of wished we sat upstairs so we could actually see what Donald was doing, his fingers playing with tremendous speed, especially when he was performing his encore, a continuous set of tremolos, showing off his agility and superb skill on the keyboard. Doesn’t his fingers and hand get tired doing that?!

Oh my god, guess who I saw walking out of the hall during the interval? Jack Body, the composer we shooed off our seats a couple of weeks back when we were here!

The concert resumed after about a 20-minute interval, this time with Saint-Saëns’s organ symphony, Symphony No 3 in C minor "Organ", with Douglas Mew on the organs. We giggled watching Douglas getting ready for the performance, checking his teeth and smile in the mirror above him (the mirror is there so that the organist can see the conductor’s hands while playing back facing the rest of the orchestra). I was expecting a sudden loud tremor from the organ (hands ready to cover my ears) but it started off rather mellow, eventually climaxing to a deep, earth-shattering vibration. Not only can you hear the vibrations from the gigantic pipes of the organ, you can actually feel it go through your body – it was a strange yet pleasurable sensation, as if your soul or insides were given a good shiver.

Ah-ha, I thought I heard the sound of a piano! I was looking around to see which instrument was producing a piano-like sound since we couldn’t see a piano on stage – were my ears playing tricks on me? Turned out the piano was at the far back, hidden behind the violinists. All I could see from our seats was a bit of the opened lid and you had to really look hard to find it. So I wasn’t imaging the piano sounds!

The audience, at awe with tonight’s performance, clapped, stomped and cheered for an encore but none was given – the musical director was plain evil, teasing us by re-entering the stage and making his orchestra bow but not play and after about the 4th or 5th time, the audience got the gist and stopped their applause.

We left for home around 10pm and I must say, I may have found new love for classical music :) I really enjoyed the concert and look forward to see more concerts by this orchestra next year!


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