Four Seasons in one night a rare treat

Hawke’s Bay Orchestra
Leader Stephanie Buzzard, Directed by Jose Aparicio, The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, Violin Soloist Amalia Hall,

St Paul’s Church, Napier . Saturday, December 12.
Reviewed by Peter Williams.

The strings of the Hawke’s Bay Orchestra were certainly kept busy over this weekend with this concert presented between accompanying the two Napier Civic Messiah performances. Probably the most famous, most often performed and best loved by audiences world-wide, Vivaldi’s iconic The Four Seasons is a sure winner with audiences as evidenced by the near capacity audience at this concert.

Based on four poems, the music of each of the seasons is wonderfully expressive and evocative, superbly crafted, and easily communicated to the audience through each of the four concertos. The soloist’s part is dominant, contrasted with, and supported by the rest of the orchestra.

Visiting internationally acclaimed New Zealand violin soloist Amalia Hall’s playing was all that could have been wished for, holding the audience spellbound from start to finish. She projected the essential character of each of the 12 movements with exceptional clarity, vivid contrasts of expression, exquisite phrasing and an impeccable sense of Baroque style. No wonder the audience was instantly on its feet at the end. The playing of the Bach Gavotte en Rondeau in E as an encore was an added delight.

Expertly directed by Jose Aparicio, whose dedicated commitment to the music shone through, the 21-piece orchestra, which included a harpsichord played by Gary Bowler and a theorbo, a type of lute, matched the soloist well, obviously inspired by the playing of such an accomplished soloist.

Choosing the remainder of the programme – three Baroque period works by Italian Baroque composers Torelli and Manfredini, and finishing with the better known Concerto in G minor, Op 6, No 8 by Corelli, all concerto grossi with a Christmas association – must have been a difficult task.

While greater variety in programme would have added more interest, there were some fine moments in the playing of each concerto. The character of each movement was clearly shown, and the balance and contrast effectively maintained between the concertino of violinists Stephanie Buzzard and Gretchen Anderson and cellist Paula Sugden and the rest of the orchestra.

However, the quality of the playing overall did not always match that of the Vivaldi, needing a more homogeneous sound which could have come as only through longer hours of rehearsal than were available to this ensemble