Prokofiev would have been pleased

04.06.09
Cho-Liang Lin
Dominion Post

The programme of the first New Zealand Symphony Orchestra afternoon concert I can recall was a mixture of the straightforward, colourful and extroverted, book ending the elegant pastiche of Prokofiev's 1935 Second Violin Concerto.

This melodic flashback to the Classical Symphony and the eloquent lyrical qualities of his Lieutenant Kije composed a couple of years previously, might been seen as a conscious effort to satisfy the Soviet demand for comprehensible people's music.

This is credible given that Prokofiev was planning his return to Russia, but the passing of time might suggest that he was merely following his most basic instincts.

Whatever, I'm sure the composer would have loved this performance.

Cho-Liang Lin is one of the most elegant and graceful violinists before us today, and his playing, and that of the orchestra, was a model of style, clarity and real affection.

Ravel's brilliant orchestration of Mussorgsky's piano work, Pictures at an Exhibition, is one of the great audience favourites, and it here received a performance of no-nonsense virtuosity.

There was not a lot of atmosphere, but some absolutely dazzling playing, particularly from the woodwind and the superb percussion section.

But wouldn't it be nice - just once in while - to hear one or other of the 20-plus alternate orchestrations of the work?

The concert opened with the suite John Psathas made from his music for the opening ceremony for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Olympiad XXVIII is fine ceremonial music, I suppose, but heard in the concert hall it just sounded like generic film music, suitable for any number of Hollywood big-budget movies.