Hakan Hardenberger
October 12 | Reviewed by Arjun Harindranath

RAVEL AND DEBUSSY are often paired in symphony programmes. Having spearheaded the Romantic era, both composers demand a careful balancing of gentle and extravagant themes; a demand well satisfied by the NZSO on Friday night. Following the delicate Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune’, the NZSO treated an unusually small crowd to Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole. The latter builds up to the vivacious toe-tapping movement Feria. Both pieces were separated by Turnage’s From the Wreckage, a single movement trumpet concerto written specifically for acclaimed performer Håkan Hardenberger, who made use of the standard trumpet, a piccolo trumpet and the jazzy mellow flugelhorn. As the title would suggest, Wreckage maintains a frenetic pace full of discordant melodies before an elevating piccolo trumpet chimes along with a tolling of bells.

With directions like ‘tumultuous’ and ‘sardonic’, Hardenberger provided a marked contrast with the serpentine melody of Debussy’s Prelude and Ravel’s colourful Spanish turn in his Rhapsodie. Appreciative of the avant garde nature of the piece, Hardenberger followed four curtain calls with a solo effort that brought out the true melodic ability and control that one would not expect from a trumpet; his commanding yet elegant presence was a highlight of the evening. Another treat was Roman Festival by lesser known Italian composer Ottorini Respighi, a four movement tour de force involving everything from an organ, a mandolin and a piano part requiring four hands! By invoking the carnival and frenzied atmosphere of ancient Rome, the NZSO no doubt inspired many a’ youngin to maintain that exuberance further into a gentle Wellington Friday night.