Manawatu Sinfonia
 
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12th August 2018 - Hannah Fang

12th August, 2.30pm.

Speirs Centre, Palmerston North Boys High School, opposite Megamitre 10 on Featherston Street.

Concert features Hannah Fang playing Max Bruch's violin concerto in G minor. Conductor is Peter van Drimmelen.

Programme:

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN, Egmont Overture, Op. 84
FRANZ SCHUBERT, Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D.759 (Unfinished)
RICHARD STRAUSS, Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, Op. 7
MAX BRUCH, Violin Concerto 1 in G minor, Op. 26

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827), Egmont Overture, Op. 84
In 1809 Beethoven was commissioned by the Burgtheater of Vienna to compose incidental music for a performance of ‘Egmont’, a play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The play narrates Count Egmont’s struggle for Dutch liberty against the imperial rule of Spain in the late sixteenth century. Stirred by witnessing Vienna’s sufferings under Napoleonic occupation, Beethoven gladly contributed to Goethe’s celebration of human liberty and defiance in the face of oppression. His brief overture summarizes the plot of the play. The wind part is said to represent Egmont’s wife beseeching the Spanish judges for mercy, the brass proclaims the guilty verdict, and the fall of a fourth in first and second violins signals the descent of the executioner’s sword. The joyous music concluding the piece presages the triumphant Dutch independence that will arise from Egmont’s self-sacrifice.

FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828), Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D.759 (Unfinished)
1. Allegro moderato
2. Andante con moto
Schubert’s famous “unfinished” symphony has a very odd history. For unknown reasons, Schubert gifted the score of the two completed movements to a musical colleague in 1822. It was then completely lost sight of. Only some forty years later in 1860, long after Schubert's death, did the then owner rediscover the score. He approached the conductor Johann von Herbeck with assurances of a “treasure” on a par “with any of Beethoven’s”. Even so, it took another five years before Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony had its premiere in 1865.
As Brian Newbould, a specialist on the Schubert symphonies, has put it, this work is not so much an unfinished symphony as a "finished half-symphony". In it the composer explores new possibilities for the symphonic form. Instead of the firm statement that classical and early romantic symphonies so often start with, this symphony opens with a pianissimo murmuring in cellos and basses. While the first movement is based on the song-like statements typical of Schubert, it soon breaks this pattern when the second theme is suddenly interrupted. The second movement, in E major, contrasts a peaceful, ethereal melody with a second, more majestic theme featuring trumpets, trombones, and timpani. These sharp contrasts persist through the movement.

RICHARD STRAUSS (1864-1949), Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, Op. 7
Written between 1881 and 1882, around the time the 18-year-old Strauss entered the University of Munich, the Serenade had its first performance on 27 November 1882 in Dresden. This short piece charms the listener with its jaunty themes, confident handling of the instrumental resources, and a relaxed, almost improvisatory, version of sonata form. While Strauss later dismissed his composition as little more than the ‘respectable work of a music student’, it has gone on to enjoy a firmly-established place in the repertoire.

MAX BRUCH (1838-1920), Violin Concerto 1 in G minor, Op. 26
Max Bruch was widely known in his day as a composer, conductor, and teacher and wrote a vast array of works. But it was his first Violin Concerto, in G minor, that has brought him his most enduring fame. He began sketching ideas for it in 1857, as a 19-year-old completing his studies, but it went through many re-thinkings and revisions. The first performance of the final and definitive version had to wait until 1868. The soloist was Bruch’s adviser, the great violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim. Bruch’s work was rapidly established as, and remains, one of the most popular nineteenth-century concertos in the repertoire.
Although he cast the work in the traditional fast-slow-fast sequence, Bruch generated each movement in sonata form, connecting them all without pause. The soloist is involved virtually from the outset. The first movement, which Bruch called a Vorspiel, or "Prelude," is in the nature of an extended introduction. It opens in an air of quiet, brooding melancholy before breaking out into a full-blown and impassioned allegro.  The heartfelt central adagio movement follows without pause. Beginning in prayer-like fashion and then gradually gaining in activity and expressiveness, it features some of the most beautiful lyrical writing in the entire literature for violin. The third and concluding movement features a lively gypsy-style melody, initially played in double stops and rising to a brilliant coda, complemented by a slightly more solemn second subject.

 

HENG FANG (Hannah Fang), violin soloist

Heng Fang began her musical journey when she was three years old, studying violin first with her father and uncle and from age ten under renowned violin professor Zhang Shixiang (Peter Zhang) at the Shang Hai Conservatory of Music. She placed first in her Bachelor’s degree with the Orchestral Department in 2006 and took her Master’s degree in the Performing and Teaching Department at Xing Hai Conservatory of Music on a full scholarship in 2011. She also had the privilege of studying under Professor Wang Zhenshan from the Central Conservatory of Music. In 2009 she received a full scholarship to study with violist Berent Korfker in the Summer String School at the Sydney Conservatory of Music, where she also had the opportunity to learn the Dalcroze music method from Sandra.

Competitions in which she has enjoyed success include the 5th Youth Violin Competition in Guang Dong province, the 4th Chinese Music Golden Bell award, and the Hong Kong International Violin Competition in 2011.

She has also toured internationally. In 2006 she joined the Asia Outstanding Youth Symphony Orchestra. She participated in the Murcia International Youth Art Festival in Spain, in a concert on the centenary of Xian Xinghai’s birth. She was a solo violinist in the 2nd Asia Orchestral Music Festival in Thailand and the 5th Yang Cheng Music Festival, where she had the opportunity to perform the famous “Butterfly Lovers” to the royal family in Thailand and Belgium. She performed alongside world renowned pianist Lang Lang and violinist Xue Wei in the 2008 CCTV Piano and Violin Competition News Conference and was a guest performer for the Korea Tourism Board.

Hannah, as an award-winning teacher, has taught a total of 120 students at her own Heng Fang Violin Studio. Many of them have gone on to study at the Conservatory of Music in China and achieved success in competitions. She has also served as a teacher in the Education Department of Guang Zhou Xing Hai Conservatory of music and a guest teacher at the Hong Kong Zhang Shixiang International Violin School. Her work as an adjudicator includes the 14th Violin Competition in Guang Dong Province in 2013, the 5th Hong Kong International Violin Competition, and the 9th Hong Kong International Youth Art Festival. She was an examiner for the Social Music Grading Test of Xing Hai Conservatory of Music and is a member of the Violin Institute and Higher Education Institute of China.

Hannah moved to Palmerston North in 2015, where she obtained her Music Teachers’ Registration in New Zealand (IRMTNZ). Her teaching career has continued to flourish. Her local solo debut in March 2016 at the Globe Theatre was met with much enthusiasm. She is currently involved in writing her own music and in April 2018 debuted her album “Not All Me”, recorded here in Palmerston North. She has played at a number of local events, including “Christmas in the Square” and “New Year’s Eve in the Square” in 2017, and opened for the Festival of Cultures this year.

Hannah has an upcoming concert on October 27th at the Regent on Broadway, where she will collaborate with both classical and contemporary music groups to showcase a wide range of different music genres, from classical to hip-hop to metal rock.

PETER VAN DRIMMELEN, Conductor

Born in Holland, Peter studied violin at the Rotterdam Conservatory and viola at the Utrecht Conservatory. He was Sub-Principal viola in a choir-accompanying orchestra in Delft and then a member of the Auckland Philharmonia from 1983 to 1987, with two years as violist in the Auckland String Quartet. He conducted three ASQ Summer School orchestra projects during that time. While in the NZSO, which he joined in 1987, he conducted the Wellington Chamber Orchestra numerous times and also the St Matthews Chamber Orchestra (Auckland), the Nelson Symphony Orchestra, and the Manawatu Sinfonia on an near-annual basis since 2003. He also adjudicated for local ensembles, and since 2014 has done this on an annual basis for the KBB Festival in Auckland. In 1996 Peter set up the Michael Monaghan Young Musicians Foundation, to encourage young musicians to audition for an opportunity to play a concerto movement with a professional orchestra made up of volunteers from the NZSO and Wellington Orchestra. Over 100 teenagers availed themselves of this opportunity in the 14 years that Peter ran the Foundation. Peter has made numerous recordings for Radio NZ. He retired from the NZSO in May 2014 but has numerous continuing musical activities and has authored a book of memoirs entitled 'Driving for Music'.

 

Reviews

Manawatu Sinfonia - Conductor: Peter van Drimmelen, Soloist: Hannah Fang (violin). Speirs Centre - Sunday, 12th August. Reviewed by Stephen Fisher.

The Manawatu Sinfonia obviously enjoyed Sunday afternoon’s matinee concert under the masterful baton of Peter van Drimmelen, the players obviously well prepared for a programme which included several concert hall favourites, including Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, and, the centrepiece of the afternoon, Max Bruch’s much loved Violin Concerto featuring Hannah Fang, the local violinist who is making an extraordinary impact on the music scene in our community.

From the opening notes of the Egmont Overture the Sinfonia was obviously very comfortable with their music, performing with a confident ease which characterised the afternoon, while demonstrating a notable depth of engagement with each work in turn. Although he was obviously relaxed on the conductor’s podium, he had quiet control of the music throughout the afternoon, fully exploring the expressive opportunities inherent in each piece.

The second half opened with Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, a charming work which was the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the, sometimes, hidden talents in this section.
With pleasing blend, balance and tone the wind section provided an unexpected but very welcome interlude.

However, there could be no doubt, that these works had only heightened our anticipation, as the orchestra took their places for the Violin Sonata which concluded the afternoon. The work itself is full of glorious melody while imbibed with the richness of the Romantic era all beautifully revealed by Hannah Fang and the Sinfonia. Fang, herself, is an enchanting performer, always very much sympathetic to her music, leading to an emotion charged performance which so sensitively responded to the enormous musical demands of this popular concerto, ensuring a satisfying performance for all and a perfect conclusion to a most enjoyable afternoon. 

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