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NZSO Brings A Carnival Of Great Music To Wellington And Auckland

NZSO Principal Conductor in Residence Hamish McKeich Photo: Stephen A’Court.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Te Tira Pūoro o Aotearoa brings a carnival atmosphere to Wellington and Auckland in March with a performance of dazzling music from Igor Stravinsky’s groundbreaking ballet Petrushka.

Carnival in Wellington on 26 March and Auckland on 27 March also features French composer Maurice Ravel’s waltz homage La Valse and his irrepressible Piano Concerto performed by acclaimed New Zealand pianist Stephen De Pledge.

The Orchestra, led by top New Zealand conductor Hamish McKeich, also performs Grammy Award-nominated English composer Anna Clyne’s Masquerade, commissioned for the popular Last Night of the Proms.

“With so much extraordinarily colourful and characterful music in this concert, bringing it all to life will be an exhilarating listening experience,” says Maestro McKeich.

“And of course, it will be an honour to perform again with the wonderful NZSO and Stephen De Pledge. “

Maestro McKeich, the NZSO’s Principal Conductor in Residence, replaces Israeli conductor Asher Fisch, who can no longer come to New Zealand due to scheduling issues impacted by Covid-19.

Throughout 2021 the NZSO is performing several key works by Stravinsky to mark the 50th anniversary of the great Russian composer’s death. Stravinsky conducted the NZSO in 1961.

Petrushka – inspired by the puppet character Punch from Punch and Judy – has been wowing audiences with its vibrant instrumentation, and driving, irresistible rhythms since its premiere in 1911, where legendary ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky performed the title role.

Ravel loved the rhythms of the 19th century waltz, especially the popular works of Johann Strauss, and wrote La Valse as a sweeping 20th century homage. Today it’s one of Ravel’s most loved works in its own right.

Ravel began writing his famous Piano Concerto after a triumphant tour of the United States in 1928 which had solidified his reputation as one of the world’s greatest composers. The Concerto was inspired by Ravel’s Basque heritage, as well as a nod to contemporary music, including jazz.

“The Ravel concerto is one of my favourite pieces to play, it is so infectious and exuberant, but with the most profoundly beautiful slow movement,” says De Pledge.

“It’s a chamber work, with everyone pushed to the limits, on their tiptoes, and will be such fun to play with the NZSO and Hamish.”

Anna Clyne’s prominence as a contemporary composer continues to rise as she seeks inspiration across the arts, including electro-acoustic music, film, ballet and visual art. Championed by the Baltimore Chicago symphony orchestras, the New York Times declared her “a composer of uncommon gifts”.

Tickets to Carnival are available from 4 March at

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