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Greatness

by Lindsay Shelton
I’ve been thinking about greatness this week. Because of two Wellington experiences.

The first was on Monday afternoon at the Paramount, where we remembered greatness. It was a tribute to the life and work of Richard Campion, who died in July. With his wife Edith, he created New Zealand’s first professional theatre company – the New Zealand Players toured from 1952 till 1960, presenting 30 plays, employing 100 actors, and playing in theatres and halls throughout the country.

His theatrical achievements continued to expand and his influence continued to grow after the demise of the Players. His 1965 production (for the new Downstage) of Oh What A Lovely War ran for four weeks at the Paramount and is remembered for its brilliance and bravura. His 1969 production of Carmen for the NZ Opera Company gave the young Kiri te Kanawa a starring role. He created and directed a spectacular entertainment – with a cast of 250 – for New Zealand Day at the World Expo in Osaka in 1970. He was responsible for a unique re-creation of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, based on William Colenso’s diaries, which was presented to great acclaim during Wellington’s first arts festival in 1986.

In the words of actor Ray Henwood: “He was the first man of New Zealand professional theatre as we know it today.” In the words of his daughter Jane: “My father was passionate about theatre, about performance, about creativity, about people having a go.”

A truly great man.

On Friday night at the Michael Fowler Centre, we experienced greatness in the person of pianist Michael Houstoun playing four Beethoven sonatas. This was the third to last of his marathon series of forty concerts, in which he is playing a total of 32 sonatas. (Fourteen hours of music. Such stamina.) Starting in April in Wellington. Touring to ten centres. And ending this weekend, again in Wellington.

As Chamber Music NZ (which is organising the tour) reminds us, Houstoun is one of the great Beethoven pianists of our age. And his Beethoven reCycle series is an extraordinary achievement. At the first concert back in April, John Button praised Houstoun’s “dazzling playing,” his “sublime pianism.”

You’ve got two more chances to experience his greatness. Tonight at 5. Tomorrow at 7.30.

1 comment:

  1. Pauline, 10. November 2013, 21:01

    Tonight was another superb performance by Michael Houston, what an incredibly modest man he is. A standing ovation expressed what all we Wellingtonians think of him.

    There cannot be many pianists who celebrated their 60th birthday with this cycle of all 32 Beethoven sonatas.