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Music
Review: The NZSO at the Auckland Town Hall
By Larry Jenkins
20th September 2008 - 06:40 pm

One of the best: Trombonist Christian Lindberg
Review: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Christian Lindberg, trombone

Hannu Lintu, conductor

Auckland Town Hall, Friday, 19 September

Christian Lindberg, the Swedish trombonist, conductor and composer, was named, along with Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, one of the best brass players of the 20th Century. It's said of him that he occupies the same position vis a vis the trombone as Paganini to the violin and Liszt to the piano.

His performance of the Leopold Mozart Trombone Concerto with the NZSO under the Finn Hannu Lintu, was a model of phrasing and articulation. Effortlessly navigating his way through the work's decidedly challenging passages, he displayed unbounded enthusiasm for this music and for communicating it to the audience, which had already been warmed up by a crisp and energetic reading of the Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture by the orchestra and the mesmerising Lintu, who resembles a stick insect waving his extraordinarily long arms with no clear plan, until one realises that all those wild gesticulations mask a technique and that he has managed to communicate his ideas to the orchestra so thoroughly that they are playing with real precision and concentration, yet with wild abandon.

Adding a bit of authenticity and fun to the proceedings, Lindberg then gave a leather jacket -clad Auckland premiere of A Motorbike Odyssey by his countryman Jan Sandström. It's a complicated, sardonic, virtuoso piece leaning heavily on the trombone's ability to sound like a revving motor and to produce an imitation of the passing of a speeding bike, complete with Doppler effect. The large orchestra, with four more trombones, create a hell of a row at times and Lindberg drove, pardon the pun, the piece hard and met head-on the double test of the extremely difficult solo part and the vocalisation called for while playing the instrument. Lintu showed his famous affinity with contemporary scores by a completely controlled show of support for the soloist along with drawing all the proscribed subtleties and sonorities from the NZSO. The audience was energised and excited and the performance was met with a huge appreciative response. A surprising solo improvisation on the popular song My Funny Valentine followed as an encore.

Dvořák's Eighth Symphony is the most Bohemian of all his works, evocative of the Czech landscape and the swinging folk traditions of the region. His penultimate exercise in the form, it begins with a marvellous cello theme supported by bassoons and the effect is ravishing, particularly in the hands of Lintu and the NZSO celli, noted for their beautiful sound. The third movement's lilting waltz theme, full of nostalgia, and familiar as a BBC signature tune, was, I felt, very movingly played. Hannu has a real feel for colour and the autumnal hues here leapt out of each section.

The Symphony's finale was taken at breakneck speed, the bite and incisive playing of this excellent orchestra, recently returned from highly successful performances in Beijing, so satisfying and appropriate.



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