Conductor loving work with DSO

Team leader . . . Melbourne-based conductor Richard Davis has returned to Dunedin to conduct the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra in this weekend's "Strings to their Bows" concerts. PHOTO: PIETER DU PLESSIS

Working with leading Dunedin string players Tessa Petersen (violin) and Heleen du Plessis (cello) is a delight for Melbourne-based conductor Richard Davis.

In Dunedin this week to prepare for the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra’s “Strings to their Bows” matinee series concerts this weekend, Davis is enjoying the rare experience of preparing for two concertos in one programme.

DSO concertmaster Petersen will perform Vaughan Williams’ Violin Concerto in D Minor – Concerto accademico, and du Plessis will perform Saint Saens’ Cello Concerto No.1.

Bearing some similarities to his much-loved work The Lark Ascending, the Vaughan Williams concerto would showcase the composer’s lyrical, often rule-breaking approach.

“Tessa is an amazing performer – she has great control, finesse and authority in her playing.

“I’m very much looking forward to performing this lovely work with her.”

This will be Davis’ first experience of working with Heleen du Plessis, and he has great confidence in her ability to tackle Saint Saens’ rhapsodic, yet complex and technically difficult cello concerto.

The work is considered by many to be the greatest cello concerto of all time.

“It’s very tuneful and it really flies – so even though it is only about 20 minutes long, it feels like a whole symphony,” he said.

Having the two players, both of whom lecture in strings, is part of the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra’s ongoing tribute to the University of Otago’s 150th anniversary year.

Bracketing the two concertos will be Bach’s Orchestra Suite No. 1, and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5

As a busy working conductor and lecturer at Melbourne University, Davis is thoroughly enjoying his third week-long visit to Dunedin to work with the DSO.

“The DSO are a great orchestra – I love coming back to work with them, and seeing the familiar faces.”