Matthias A Marvel!

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2018-02-06 23:41

NZSO National Youth Orchestra
Music by Beethoven, Elgar and Dvorak.
Conducted by Guy Noble, with Matthias Balzat (cello).
Michael Fowler Centre, February 3.

Preposterously precocious and horrendously handsome cellist Matthias Balzat comprehensively stole the show the other night at the Michael Fowler Centre. The occasion was an evening in the National Youth Orchestra's Summer Concert Series featuring Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor and Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in G major.

The Elgar is often cited alongside Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor as the greatest of its species. Its mere mention conjures up such legendary names as Jacqueline du Pré and Yo Yo Ma. It is a minefield, awash in recitatives, cadenzas, key changes, challenging tempi, etc. Undaunted, this 18-year-old prodigy—who evidently has been earning prizes, scholarships and degrees since he was six days old—produced a perfect performance ... from memory! No score!

After deafening applause from the audience and his fellow-musicians, Matthias, aided and abetted by Matthew Harris from the bass section, obliged with an encore, a mischievous ditty by jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli. That too brought the house down.

As if that weren't enough for one evening, Matthias then unassumingly took his place amidst the other cellists to help out with the Dvorak symphony!

That relentlessly cheerful symphony was a treat, undeniably, as was the triumphant Beethoven that kicked the evening off, and the NYO turned in a performance more than worthy of their seniors in the NZSO—but to Matthias must go the supreme honours. What a star!

Versatile and accomplished conductor Guy Noble—fresh from his CD triumph with tenor Mark Vincent, A Tribute to Mario Lanza—doubled as MC for the evening, in the process proving himself to be a member of an almost-extinct species: Well-Spoken Australian. Someone should have advised him against that rumpled grey business suit, though, just as someone should have straightened the hilariously lop-sided bow-ties of the young men! (Yes, I know GQ says they should be a little crooked—that doesn't mean perpendicular!)

On a serious note, attention ought to be focused on the too-high number of empty seats for this magnificent event, and the fact that most of the young people present were on the stage! The Arts Minister (currently the Prime Minister) should be requiring taxpayer-funded teachers and bureaucrats in the state education system to replace their blinkers with brains and educate their charges (and themselves!) about the glories of Western Music, instead of waging war against the "Dead White Males" who composed it.