Classical Music New Zealand (and COVID-19)

One of the advantages of writing our blogs, is that from time to time I can "indulge" myself with the blog content. This entry is one such example. I've chosen to feature the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, not only because it's a fine orchestra, but also because I have a personal family connection with two of the orchestra players. We also explain what the orchestra is doing during COVID-19.


The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - The NZSO - was founded in 1946 and is the country’s leading professional orchestra. It performs over 100 concerts annually and tours New Zealand and internationally.


Pietari Inkinen and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, 2012.

Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen was appointed the NZSO’s Music Director in 2008, succeeding James Judd who had held the position from 1999 to 2007 and is now Music Director Emeritus. 

Other conductors who have worked with the NZSO include Xian Zhang, Alexander Lazarev, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, David Atherton, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Edo de Waart. Soloists who have appeared with the Orchestra recently include Lang Lang, Sa Chen, Lynn Harrell, Cho Liang Lin, Hilary Hahn, Vadim Repin, Yefim Bronfman, Simon O’Neill, Steven Isserlis, Jonathan Lemalu and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Maestro Edo de Waart was as its next music director, from March 2016 to November 2019 and in 2020 he became NZSO Conductor Laureate.

In January 2020, popular NZSO Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich was appointed NZSO Principal Conductor in Residence.



The Royal Albert Hall London, UK, venue for the annual "Proms" concert series.

In 2005 the NZSO undertook a highly successful international tour that included performances at the BBC Proms in London, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Snape Maltings in England and the World Expo at Aichi in Japan. 

The London Evening Standard headlined the Proms concert as a “Triumph for Kiwis” while The Times wrote of “the feel-good energy of this Orchestra: its brightly focused strings, its characterful woodwind and its noble brass”.


The Concertgebouw Hall, Amsterdam.

In 2010 the NZSO embarked on another international tour, this time with a schedule that included performances in renowned European concert halls, including a return to Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. 


The NZSO, Musikverein, Vienna, 2010.

In Vienna, they performed in one of the world's most famous concert halls, the historic Grosser Saal of the Musikverein. Under the baton of Pietari Inkinen, works by New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and the Sibelius Violin Concerto with leading international violinist Hilary Hahn as guest soloist, were rewarded with a standing ovation from a discerning Viennese audience.

The sold-out concerts and standing ovations continued across Europe and garnered an admiring critical reception. The Swiss newspaper Neue Luzerner Zeitung reported “The orchestra from New Zealand was a sensation” and its performance in Lucerne had “astonished the audience”.

What's missing now of course is a USA tour, but there have been whispers, so time will tell!

2020 and COVID-19.

As we all know, everything changed in 2020 and the NZSO, unable to perform together as an orchestra, quickly responded to the new challenges this presented.

For the past few weeks they have presented a series of acclaimed online performances with players joining together via video from their home "bubble"

Today, for example, Guest Assistant Concertmaster, Jessica Oddie, introduced NZSO viola player Nicholas Hancox, in the third of a six part series called "Bach's Sei Solo". In these series, they perform their favourite movements from one of JS Bach’s solo Partitas, Sonatas, or Suites and share their thoughts about what the pieces mean to them. 

There's some nice scenery to admire, interesting insights from the players and of course, some great musicianship. You can watch HERE. It might take a little while for it to start, so just wait and don't do what I normally do in these circumstances and start clicking on every button in view :)

We can help classical music fans to obtain tickets and to include a performance of the NZSO while they are in New Zealand, subject to the orchestra performing during your stay.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Apr 27, 2020