In celebration of Steve Reich’s 80th birthday on 3 October, we open the concert with this popular minimalist composer’s 1986 work Three Movements. Lauded by The Guardian music critic Andrew Clements as one of "a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history", Steve Reich has described this work as sound palettes inspired “by the changing light as clouds move slowly across the sky.”
For [Reich], pulsation and tonality were not just cultural artefacts. They were the lifeblood of the musical experience, natural laws. It was his triumph to find a way to embrace these fundamental principles and still create a music that felt genuine and new. He didn’t reinvent the wheel so much as he showed us a new way to ride.
Composer John Adams
Next up, adventurous violinist Anne Akiko Meyers performs one of America’s newest and innovative violin works by American DJ and composer Mason Bates.
Bates is now the second-most performed contemporary composer in his home country after composer John Adams. His music explores the soundscapes of many subjects – from Antarctica to an opera about Steve Jobs, and he has an undeniably expressive musical style. His music often describes images or narratives and this featured work, Violin Concerto, is no exception. Uniquely, it was inspired by images of an ancient beast, a cross between dinosaur and bird known as the archaeopteryx. In order to fully showcase the violin, Bates has said that he “stepped back into the acoustic universe” with his “ears still humming with exotic sounds”.
The NZSO is excited to present this New Zealand debut of Bates’s energetic Violin Concerto with renowned virtuoso Anne Akiko Meyers, who co-commissioned the work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and premiered the work with them on 7 December 2012. Meyers says that Bates, who has been composer-in-residence with the Chicago and National Symphony Orchestras, is “one of the most dazzling composers today”. She had this to say about her upcoming performance in NZ:
The Violin Concerto is a super exciting work about a pre-historic dinosaur taking flight. Mason says that the orchestra is the world's biggest synth (synthesiser) and takes one on a colourful journey that has made this a fan favourite. I have recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra and performed it in Europe and throughout North America, and each time I perform it, it is a bit like watching me climb and tackle a big mountain as it takes a lot of energy, drive and passion.
Please come share this climb with me when I make my debut in one of the most beautiful places on earth, New Zealand. I look forward to exploring and sharing this beautiful and thrilling work together.
One of the world’s most celebrated violinists, Meyers is known for her passionate performances, deeply poetic interpretations and commitment to commissioning new works. Bates has described her as “incredibly fiery and virtuosic”. He says she “can float a melody, in the most natural musical way.”
Continuing the American theme is Antonín Dvořák Symphony No. 9, ‘From the New World’. One of the great Czech composers of the 19th century, it seems almost ironic that his most famous composition, ‘From the New World’, is commonly understood as a celebration of the United States of America. First performed on 19 December 1893 by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Anton Seidl, it was universally declared a great success, with one critic writing, it was “the greatest symphonic work ever composed in this country.”
Bringing this all American programme together is Chicago-born conductor Fawzi Haimor who performs his debut with the NZSO. Haimor was born in Chicago in 1983 and was raised in the Middle East and San Francisco Bay area. He recently completed his tenure as Resident Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, where he conducted a variety of concerts including classical, pops and outreach.
Enjoy listening to this brave celebration of new frontiers in Bold Worlds with your national orchestra, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.