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'NZSO to perform spectacular music with star conductor and pianist'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Internationally renowned conductor Gemma New will lead the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for its highly anticipated Spectacular concerts in Wellington and Auckland in November.

New, hailed in the United States as "one of the brightest rising stars in the conducting firmament", will be joined by fellow New Zealander, acclaimed pianist Stephen De Pledge, for the performances on 20 and 21 November.

New made her online NZSO debut in August, conducting the Orchestra in Wellington under Covid-19 restrictions. The concert Passion was live-streamed to the nation. New also conducted the NZSO Shed Series concert Cadence, which was streamed in three parts.

Critic Peter Mechen hailed New’s NZSO debut as a "stirring achievement".

New is Resident Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Canada.

"To be able to share music performed live... is a special gift that gives us a bit of joy at this difficult time," said New on her NZSO debut.

Spectacular features English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Finnish giant Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 and New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

De Pledge, who earlier this year toured with the NZSO for performances of JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations, will join the Orchestra for Ritchie’s sunny and life-affirming Piano Concerto. Critics praised De Pledge’s performances with the NZSO in March, with The Dominion Post hailing his playing as "richly rewarding".

Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony, which premiered on the composer’s 50th birthday in 1915, is one of the lushest and moving symphonies of the 20th century. Inspired by him seeing a flock of swans flying overhead, the three-movement symphony has become one of the composer’s most popular works. Sibelius even detailed the moment of inspiration in his diary: "Today at ten to eleven, I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, that beauty. They circled over me for a long time. Disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming, silver ribbon."

Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which premiered in 1910, is considered one of the crowning glories of English orchestral music. Vaughan Williams’ inspiration was the music of 16th century fellow Englishman Thomas Tallis. Scottish conductor Donald Runncles loves the work. "There’s sound coming from somewhere but you’re not quite sure where it is. This is a tribute to one of the greatest composers of that age, Thomas Tallis. Therefore, you have two great English composers coming together, and straddling 400 years, almost."

Tickets for Spectacular are available from The Wellington Spectacular concert will also be live-streamed at

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