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NZSO celebrates Shakespeare’s 450th birthday

26 June 2014 - NZSO Media Release for immediate release

NZSO celebrates Shakespeare’s 450th birthday with an evening of music inspired by the great bard

Here will we sit and let the sounds of music / Creep in our ears. The Merchant of Venice

It is 450 years since William Shakespeare was born so the NZSO is bringing to life his fairies and kings, and lovers and plotters in an irresistible evening of music inspired by the great bard.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing Suite is a perfect demonstration of the lush melodies that made him such a popular film composer. The suite was originally written in 1918 as incidental music for the play, and Korngold’s ability to evoke plot and characters positively sparkle in this work. Later, Korngold would become one of Hollywood’s foremost film composers.

There’s delicacy in the incidental music from Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – known to be one of the composer’s favourite plays. Originally commissioned by King Frederick William IV of Prussia, Mendelssohn wrote this famous music for a production at Potsdam in 1842. This fantastical work conjures Shakespeare’s whimsical fairyland and contains one of the most familiar pieces of music ever written – the world-famous Wedding March.

Famous, too, is William Walton’s regal Henry V Suite, based on one of Shakespeare’s great histories. This Oscar nominated score was composed for the epic 1944 film starring Sir Laurence Olivier, who said the music had “more guts, more spunk, more attack and more venom than one would have thought was hidden in Walton’s personality”. Without the music, Olivier also said, the film would never have been such a major success.

Kings and witches, plotting and murder, Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies and Richard Strauss took a bold step with his brooding, malevolent tone poem based on this powerful play. Written between 1886 and 1888, Strauss’ Macbeth marks a completely new composition path for the leading German composer. Dark forces will boil in the concert hall when we celebrate Strauss’ 150th birthday with a stunning performance of this rarely-played piece, bringing the evening to a dramatic end.

Fittingly, Londoner Alexander Shelley is our guest conductor for this programme. Principal Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra and soon to become Music Director of the Canadian Arts Centre Orchestra, Alexander will be fresh from conducting the NZSO National Youth Orchestra through Strauss’ Don Juan and Also Sprach Zarathustra. We are delighted to welcome him back to New Zealand to conduct the NZSO through this lush and romantic programme.

... a musician of considerable gifts and extraordinarily impressive interpretative qualities... on Alexander Shelley

Shakespeare in Music is a tribute to the enduring power of England’s finest writer, seductively told in music. Join us at this musical celebration of some of the finest stories ever told, proudly brought to you by Associate Sponsor: Ryman Healthcare Ltd.


• Many of Shakespeare’s plays have been made into films and our first composer, Korngold, was well known for his film scores, winning an Academy Award for his score of the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood.

• Mendelssohn was only 17 when he wrote the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 16 years later he wrote the incidental music which features in this concert. The original Overture became the opener to this later full version.

• By the time Walton wrote the music for Laurence Olivier’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V, the two had already collaborated on nine other films. Directed by and starring Olivier himself, the cinematic stylisation of the original Globe Theatre production was released in 1944. Egged on by Winston Churchill and part funded by the British government, it was intended to be a morale booster for the British public as World War II wore on.

• Walton’s Henry V was composed between 1943 and 1944. The score consists of original material in his own style, red-blooded and majestic, or warm and tender when called for. He gave it dashes of historical flavour by including adaptations of authentic English music of the period.

• Walton wrote music for three Shakespearian films that starred Sir Laurence Olivier and found the subject matter very inspiring. Henry Vearned him an Oscar nomination when the film was released in the USA in 1946.

Macbeth is often referred to as the Scottish play due to superstitions surrounding it. Actors are often thought to be in danger of suffering physical or mental ailments while preparing or delivering their roles for it.



Associate Sponsor: Ryman Healthcare Ltd.

Alexander Shelley

KORNGOLD Much Ado About Nothing Suite

MENDELSSOHN Incidental music from

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

WALTON Henry V Suite


HAMILTON / Founders Theatre / Thursday 24 July / 7.30 pm

TICKETEK / 0800 842 538 / TICKETEK.CO.NZ

AUCKLAND / Town Hall / Friday 25 July / 7.00pm


CHRISTCHURCH / Air Force Museum / Wednesday 30 July / 7.00pm

TICKETEK / 0800 842 538 / TICKETEK.CO.NZ

DUNEDIN / Town Hall / Thursday 31 July / 7.00pm


WELLINGTON / Michael Fowler Centre / Saturday 2 August / 7.30pm

TICKETEK / 0800 842 538 / TICKETEK.CO.NZ

Concert duration: 2 hours (including interval)

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