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Young musicians celebrate Strauss’ 150th birthday

Young musicians celebrate Richard Strauss’ 150th birthday on a grand scale

The NZSO National Youth Orchestra celebrates Richard Strauss’ 150th birthday (b. 11 June 1864) on a grand scale, with a large Romantic-sized orchestra performing two iconic works by the great German composer.

Ninety-six talented young musicians will perform Strauss’ famous Also Sprach Zarathustra, which immediately evokes Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Strauss’ tone poem Don Juan. In Also Sprach Zarathustra the Orchestra explodes with a shattering intensity which makes it easy to hear why the film director was so entranced. Strauss’ tone poem Don Juan takes the audience on another journey, this time into the passionate love affairs of our scandalous hero. Composed when Strauss was only 24, the work is filled with youthful optimism.

British conductor Alexander Shelley, who also conducts the NZSO Shakespeare in Music tour in July/August, will lead the young musicians through this memorable programme. Shelley first gained widespread attention when he was unanimously awarded top prize at the 2005 Leeds Conductors Competition and was described in the press as:

…the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award. His conducting technique is immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality.

Since then, he has been in demand from orchestras around the world. He was appointed Music Director-designate of Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra in October 2013 and will take up the position in September 2015. He has been the Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra for more than four years and at only 34 years of age, Shelley has transformed the orchestra’s playing, education work, and touring activities which have included tours to Italy, Belgium, China and an invitation to return to the prestigious Musikverein in Vienna.

It is a privilege for the NZSO National Youth Orchestra to work with a conductor of this calibre and the young musicians are keen to learn as much as they can from him. Also, delighted to be part of this course is promising young Kiwi conductor Gemma New who was handpicked by NZSO Music Director Pietari Inkinen to assist conductor Alexander Shelley for this tour.

Currently based in the US, Wellington-born Gemma has a bright future ahead of her. At 27, she is already the Associate Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Director of the Lunar Ensemble. A graduate of the Peabody Institute inBaltimore, New started conducting when she was only 15. Recently hailed by US radio station WQXR, as one of the “Top Five Women Conductors on the Rise” she makes her conducting debut with the NZSO National Youth Orchestra this July.

“I was a violinist in the NZSO National Youth Orchestra for five years, and my experiences from these tours definitely shaped me as a musician,” says New.
“Being surrounded by so many talented young musicians, performing some of the great repertoire that the large forces of the Orchestra make possible, and having inspiring guest conductors who led a strong vision for the group were what excited me about the NZSO National Youth Orchestra. I'm sure this will happen again this year and I'm excited to be a part of it.”

NZSO National Youth Orchestra Composer-in-Residence Sarah Ballard is also eager to learn a thing or two from Shelley. The world premiere of her commission Synergos, a 12-minute work about the synthesis of colour, will follow concert opener Don Juan. Composed earlier this year, the two-part work took four months to complete.

“I’m looking forward to getting any advice which Alexander Shelley may have to offer, especially in terms of functionality of the piece for the Youth Orchestra,” says Ballard.

“The conductor is the window through to the orchestra, and Shelley will be able to outline all points of interest and concern which will help me build on my practical knowledge. Then, I can apply that knowledge to the next piece that I write.”

Come and support our young musicians and hear some iconic works by the great composer Richard Strauss this July in both Wellington (Michael Fowler Centre, Friday 18 July, 6.30pm) and Auckland (ASB Theatre, Saturday 19 July, 7.30pm). Please note that this year’s concert in Auckland will take place at the ASB Theatre and all tickets are $10.

The July 2014 NZSO National Youth Orchestra was announced last week. A total of 189 musicians from all around New Zealand applied for a position in the Orchestra, which celebrates its 55th year in 2014.

Who’s in the July 2014 NZSO National Youth Orchestra >

The NZSO National Youth Orchestra is grateful for support from the Adam Foundation and Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts.


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