Classically Classy

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2018-09-18 23:31

Classical Hits
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Hamish McKeich, Conductor
Andrew Joyce, Cello
Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, Sat Sept 15

Why couldn't Juliet have awoken from her drug-induced coma in time to stop Romeo, who thought she was dead, swallowing his own poisonous potion, thus obviating any grisly necessity to dispatch herself with his dagger to join him in death? Did not Shakespeare realise that three hundred years on Tchaikovsky would have melted as many hearts with a happy ending?

Actually, Tchaikovsky probably preferred it the way it was, haunted as he always was by a sense of Fate's inexorable, unfathomable sway. To this day his own death remains shrouded in mystery. Did he induce it himself by drinking unboiled water? If so, why? And if so, which glass of unboiled water infected him with cholera? The first, at a restaurant, or the second, the next day at his brother's apartment? Whichever glass it was, did he drink it because of a looming public scandal about his wooing of the handsome nephew of one of the Tsar's closest confidants? Was it not cholera at all, in fact, but cyanide poisoning whose symptoms mimic cholera? Had he been given cyanide to self-administer by a Court of Honour comprising erstwhile colleagues from the Imperial School of Jurisprudence intent on averting the aforementioned scandal? This last theory has its debunkers, but still many advocates, including family descendants and Tchaikovsky scholars.

In any event, one could only revel in the glories of Shakespeare and Tchaikovsky as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra delivered a ravishing rendering of the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture as part of its Classical Hits programme. Conductor/compere Hamish McKeich and The Band wove with heart-melting fervour the story of a sublime love undone by feral folly and pettiness. "For never was a story of more woe, Than this of Juliet and her Romeo." The fire and fury, the brawling and brimstone, the killing and chaos, the love and lust—they were all there, in a programme that also featured a rich, warm Debussy, Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and another Tchaikovsky piece, Variations on a Rococo Theme dashingly performed by The Band's in-house chief cellist Andrew Joyce. (Not there was Andrew's usual sidekick in the cello section, himself quite a Romeo, who might ordinarily have been the one to step up while Andrew did solo honours. It's always edifying to behold their rapport. Let us hope he will be back at his post expeditiously, so that all may be right again with the world.)

Classical Hits has yet to play in Christchurch (tonight, Wed 19 Sept), Oamaru (Thurs 20 Sept), Dunedin (Fri 21 Sept) and Invercargill (Sat 22 Sept). Be there, and confront some of life's—and music's—classic questions, even as your heart melts!