Review: The Rite

Last updated 10:51 02/09/2013 DAVID SELL
On hearing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, one cannot ignore the events in Paris 100 years ago, described by many as a musical turning point with its cruel harmonies and irregular driving rhythms.
And The Rite lived up to its reputation for the capacity house at the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s fifth 2013 Lamb & Hayward Masterworks concert on Saturday night.

Conductor Tom Woods drove the CSO with relentless energy through a work that still tests skills and stamina of the large orchestra brought together for the occasion.

The Air Force Museum being a large resonant space, I half expected musical subtleties to defer to brute force. Both abound in The Rite, and both came across with full impact.
One feature I relished from my forward seat was the lateral sound that the spacious stage allowed, while the judicious placing of reflector panels effectively focussed the sound.

There was more to the concert than the title work, however. It started in a very different mood with Gareth Farr’s The Nor’west Arch.

Composed as a commemoration to the victims of the February 2011 earthquake, this couldn’t help but be a moving work to an audience, most of whom will always retain these memories. The short spoken fragments read by Peter Beck, Tiana Jang and Anna Kusata added an immediate humanity to the experience.

Following this, oboe soloist Diana Doherty, with a much smaller orchestra, gave a stunning account of the Strauss Oboe Concerto. It is not a great work, but I don’t know when I have heard such wonderful sounds from the oboe.
Strauss composed the Oboe Concerto late in his life, and it is an unusually classical-sounding work. As I revelled in Diana Doherty’s playing, I thought that it wouldn’t matter what music she played; it would sound exquisite.

CSO, The Rite. Air Force Museum, August 31.

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