'Pathétique' Magnifique

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2017-05-23 01:21

While Beauden Barrett was enchanting rugby audiences with his flawless goal-kicking at Wellington's Stadium on Saturday night, young Singaporean Darrell Ang was turning in an equally athletic and magical performance on the conductor's podium at the Michael Fowler Centre. No less a work than Tchaikovsky's matchless Pathétique Symphony was heading the programme, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra directed by this preposterously precocious youngster more than rose to the occasion. "Rising" is the operative concept: nimble Darrell was on the tips of his toes so often one would imagine his calf muscles to be the equal of Beaudie's!

Everything was right: the swoon-making main theme (much-appropriated by Hollywood), of the first movement, replete with tempestuous interruption; the jaunty quirkiness of the second movement in captivating 5/4 time ... these were excellently performed, but nothing could quite have prepared us for the electrifying rendering of the wittily invincible third movement, the Allegro Molto Vivace. So dazzling was its conclusion that the unwary in the audience forgot (or didn't know) there was another movement to come, and began applauding. Ang, in a touch of sheer brilliance (premeditated, no doubt, and nothing to do with applause) plunged without pause into the Adagio Lamentoso, creating a paroxysm of excruciating contrast. Onward and downward the movement proceeded, fading inexorably into its last, gasping morendo. Conductor and orchestra remained motionless, heads bowed, seemingly for ever, as the enormity of this work and this performance sank in.

Much has been written—none of it conclusive—as to whether Tchaikovsky knew or sensed the Pathétique would be his last work; whether his death shortly after completing it was really a suicide designed to avoid a scandal over his homosexuality. Whatever the truth, the triumphs and tragedies of human life in general and Tchaikovsky's life in particular are eloquently reflected in this epic composition.

Earlier in the programme we were treated to Dvorak's celebrated Cello Concerto in B minor. Cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, another handsome athlete, displayed an innate affinity for this music, performing with such zeal that his bow started shedding hairs at an alarming rate (to no discernible ill effect, fortunately). An eminently satisfying entree ahead of the main course.

This concert has yet to play in Napier (Thursday May 25), Tauranga (Friday May 26) and Auckland (Saturday May 27). If you live in or near those places—go, and experience thrills even greater than those triggered by Beaudie's punts!

The Masterpiece

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Thank you lady and gent for the comments!

Here is the Pathétique, for the uninitiated—not the performance I reviewed, of course:

A review worthy of the work

Ed Hudgins's picture

A review worthy of the work, Linz! This is the place to display your passion for the beautiful!

Tchaikovsky's 6th is indeed a marvelous work. It evokes such a powerful mood in the opening especially. I use to listen to it when I lived in Germany, watching the snow fall on the lawn and trees out the large balcony window of my Munich apartment, drinking coffee, contemplating. Tchaikovsky was indeed a master!


Olivia's picture

I do love the way you often manage to combine the excellence of the Romantic performances with our Rugby heroes. Of course, nobody in the world would or could do that but you! It all sounds magnificent, as Tchaik & Dvorak deserve to be remembered, for they were...and are.

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