Review: Opus Orchestra – Unfinished

What: Opus Orchestra

Where: Destiny Church, Rotorua

When: Saturday 30 November 2019

Once again the conductor and players showed that, despite Opus’s modest size, they had the capabilities needed to take on major symphonies with flair.

Conductor Peter Walls had clearly prepared the programme well, and the players had the tonal breadth, spirit, and skills vital for Mozart and Schubert symphonies.   In Mozart’s ‘Haffner Symphony’ only the first three movements were played as the opening piece, but the outcome nevertheless still had a balanced and satisfying structure. Peter and Kathryn Walls commissioned the prolific New Zealand composer Ross Harris to write ‘Three Orchestras Pieces’ for the NZSO’s 2010 European tour.  The orchestra was going to visit the Swiss city of Lucerne in which Wagner lived for a time, and this inspired the second of the set of Harris’s music. Opus’s performance reflected convincingly the richness of that picturesque lakeside city, rather than that found in the usual Wagnerian music.

Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’ is so-called because it has only two completed movements, and is noted for an extraordinary power that appeals to audiences. Besides having sweet melodies so typical of Schubert, a radical feature is the sudden jumps between serene and harsh music.  Opus caught these moods impressively when the string, woodwind, and brass sections wove these strands together to get sensuously quiet and theatrically dark passages.  Peter Walls effectively ‘finished’ the Unfinished Symphony by following it with the last movement of the Haffner Symphony, a Presto, in order to contrast the styles of Mozart and Schubert.

Hanno Fairburn

Rotorua Daily Post – 7/12/2019

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