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Marian Poole : Southern Sinfonia Review Oct 2010

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Symphony No3 at the Town Hall Sat 9 October 2010

What an enthralling experience firstly to walk down John Ritchie’s quirky tongue-in-cheek, lovingly honest “Papanui Road”. We hear the Austin horn and the tram bell, the flurry of pedestrians, the reflective moment in which all brassy commerce evaporates, and observe Shostie the cat nose her way through the butcher’s door. Those of us lucky enough to remember the pre-malls shopping centres of suburban New Zealand had the delightful cacophony of an environment free of air-conditioned muzak, retold eloquently and uncluttered by nostalgia. Secondly we walk through Anthony Ritchie’s internal world of duality; equally compelling, rhythmically dynamic and unashamedly honest: brilliant instrumentation and excellent dramatic weighting allotted to percussion, brass, wood and string; the climax of tension snapping like high tensile wire into silence was absolutely thrilling. “Up” was, we are told, a display of boisterous action and bright upbeat emotions. What was heard was dangerous manic activity, the inability to actually be “up” in the battle against depression’s demons. “Down”, purportedly melancholic and depressively dragged, sounded more restful, the battle lost. However, the omnipresent throb inhibiting clarity, raging frustrations and weighted spirits were all brilliantly realized. The Coda, where psychic balance is rediscovered was comparatively and revealingly short, leaving the sense that demons are never far from the door. Its lyrically layered and ethereal lines harkened with clarity. Overall there was no sense in No3 of Anthony’s influences. He no longer doffs his cap at Adams, Reich, Shostie [Shostakovich] or even Bartók. The hand of a master composer is proudly acknowledged when a full house gives thunderous applause. Though equally brilliantly composed and performed, Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto” with violinist Bella Hristova, sadly gets less space here. Exquisitely thrown lines; no reliance on rubato or melodrama; emphasis on classic purity and cut-crystal precision; something of a woman’s light touch on grumpy moods; powerful gritty cadenzas and finally brilliant portrayal of the fragility of peace. This was an absolutely exquisite evening, thanks to the excellent beneficence of Simon Over, Southern Sinfonia, J & A Ritchie and Hristova. This true opening to Otago's Festival presents a line of thinking about the way in which we celebrate our cultural locality and healthy parochialism that won wholehearted support. Marian Poole

-- Marian Poole 134 Aramoana Rd, Deborah Bay RD Port Chalmers 9082

Secretary/Treasurer NZ Musicological Society

Music Critic and Registered Music Teacher