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NZSO performs concert for Anzac Day and WWI centenary

18 March 2014

NZSO performs concert to remember Anzac Day and commemorate WWI centenary

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will commemorate Anzac Day in 2014 with a concert dedicated to the alliances, comradery, and memory of this nation-defining legacy.

This year, the NZSO is also proud to be part of commemorations for the First World War centenary. The programme features works by Kiwi, Australian, and Polish composers, bringing together the music of countries united by the events of this period of history.

Memory, like music, is a powerful thing. Each piece in this concert deals with the idea of ‘remembrance’ in a different way. Conducting the NZSO for both performances of this special concert, New Zealand conductor Hamish McKeich reflected on the programme:

“The music deals with past losses and memories, which fits with the theme of the concert,” he says. “It will certainly have a slightly retrospective element to it, rightly so.”

The highlight of this concert is Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs). The NZSO and Hamish McKeich will be joined on stage by Australian soprano Sara Macliver, whose beautiful voice will illuminate the poignant mood of this work.

Although commissioned to write music in response to the Holocaust in the 1960s, Polish Górecki did not complete any of it. This later work, according to the composer, is “not about war; it's not a Dies Irae; it's a normal Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”. It contains themes of motherhood and separation because of war, and recordings of this work have been some of the biggest selling contemporary classical music albums. It’s simple, mournful harmonies are haunting.

Prolific New Zealand composer Jack Body’s work Little Elegies opens the concert. Little Elegies responds to the trivialisation of human tragedy by popular media – hence the ‘littleness’ of Body’s elegies in contrast with his recognition of the depth, horror, and reach of suffering.

Peter Sculthorpe – “musical figurehead for the entire Pacific Basin” (Norman Lebrecht) – from Australia has been a prominent composer since the 1950s. Inspired by the brooding, mysterious monoliths and the history ofEaster Island, his work Memento Mori explores humanity’s light and dark. There is a measured Dies Iraeplainchant - an ancient reminder of mortality - but “[d]espite its sombre title it does not dwell on sorrows but seems rather to rise above them” (The Australian). Long, light phrases soar across the orchestra, creating a sense of lightness and optimism.

In the hands of talented musicians from New Zealand and Australia, this concert will shine with hope as we reflect on the Anzac spirit, the mateship, and the memories that this tribute evokes.

The Wellington concert is presented with support from the Wellington Regional Amenities Fund.

Hamish McKeich Conductor
Sara Macliver Soprano

BODY Little Elegies
GÓRECKI Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)

AUCKLAND / Town Hall / Friday 2 May / 7.00pm
WELLINGTON / Michael Fowler Centre / Saturday 3 May / 7.30 pm


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