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Shostakovich authority conducts Russian Fire with NZSO

Shostakovich authority conducts Russian Fire with NZSO

This May, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performs with star conductor from Russia Alexander Lazarev and acclaimed Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov.

This is an exceptional opportunity to hear New Zealand’s national orchestra perform gems of the repertoire: a Shostakovich symphony led by one of the world’s authorities on this music, Rachmaninov’squintessentially Russian Caprice Bohémien, and Schumann’s only and much-loved Piano Concerto.

In a career that has already spanned three decades, Lazarev has held many prestigious posts including Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Theatre, Russia’s premiere cultural institution. He was also Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Principal Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. A high point of Lazarev’s tenure with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was conducting the full cycle of Shostakovich symphonies.

Under his leadership, the NZSO’s performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15, the last the composer penned, will be spellbinding. Written from his hospital bed over a few short weeks in 1971, Shostakovich’s final symphony has evaded definitive interpretation ever since, intriguing audiences with its layered meanings and musical quotations. A talent confined within Soviet artistic restraints, Shostakovich begins the work showcasing childhood and a toy shop in the first movement. The symphony ends with intimations of the composer’s own unsolved thoughts about mortality in a very different mood. Searching out the limits of the orchestra, this work of ambiguous melancholy and optimism is one of the most profound symphonies of the last 50 years.

In 2010, Maestro Lazarev wowed audiences across New Zealand, again presenting programmes of predominantly Russian music:

“[He] demanded and got the utmost intensity from the orchestra ... His engagement with the audience was superb and infectious” (The Press).

Lazarev has a long relationship with the NZSO over many years, providing audiences with memorable performances. His returns are always greatly anticipated and his concerts always electric.

Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor was an important composition when it was completed in 1846. Rising up against the influence and mode of 19th century concertos, in his only piano concerto Schumann’s focus is not to let the soloist and orchestra take turns at sharing the spotlight. Rather, the piano interacts with the orchestra, unfolding and interweaving sounds and phrases with the whole ensemble, while still providing an opportunity for the pianist to satisfy listeners with virtuosic cadenzas and incredible technique. Described as “a collaborator of rare musical intelligence” (The Observer), guest artist Alexander Melnikov is the ideal pianist to bring audiences an authentic and brilliant performance of this work.

Melnikov is the 2013-14 Artist-in-Residence at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, and began his current season with a debut at the BBC Proms with the Warsaw Philharmonic. Like Lazarev, was also lauded when he toured our cities in 2009:

“Melnikov was an outstanding soloist, creating gentle climaxes, full sonorous chords and passages of incredible velocity…” (Otago Daily Times).

No Russian concert would be complete without the music of Rachmaninov – his Caprice Bohémien, one of his early works, is a symphonic poem for orchestra. From funeral march to vibrant gypsy rhythms, it builds with beautiful woodwind voices to an energetic and inspired close.

Don’t miss this opportunity to share in the passion and beauty of the NZSO with guest artists from Russia, Alexander Lazarev and Alexander Melnikov.


Alexander Lazarev Conductor
Alexander Melnikov Piano

RACHMANINOV Caprice Bohémien
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor

WELLINGTON / Michael Fowler Centre / Saturday 17 May / 7.30 pm
CHRISTCHURCH / CBS Canterbury Arena / Tuesday 20 May / 7.00pm
DUNEDIN / Town Hall / Wednesday 21 May / 7.00pm
NAPIER / Municipal Theatre / Friday 23 May / 7.00pm
AUCKLAND / Town Hall / Saturday 24 May / 7.30pm


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