Warkworth Town Hall

4.00 pm



'Here plays the future'

Rebecca Lee           Soloist

Antun Poljanich     Conductor


Beethoven   Egmont Overture

Wells              Organ Concerto No.2  (Premiere)

Berlioz          Symphonie Fantastique





Founded in 1948, Auckland Youth Orchestra is the premier regional youth orchestra in New Zealand. Its vision is to inspire young people to excellence through their love of musical performance and to provide them with a wide range of cultural experiences, thus shaping the leaders of tomorrow. Auckland Youth Orchestra draws its members from throughout the wider Auckland region, the majority of which are University or high school students. Many past members of the orchestra have gone on to become professional musicians. Over the orchestra’s 68-year history, more than 2,600 young adults from diverse cultural and social backgrounds have passed through its ranks, having received expert training in orchestral playing.

Born in South Korea, Rebecca Soojung Lee started learning the piano when she was 7 years old and two years after her family immigrated to New Zealand in 2007 she began to learn the violin. She obtained her ATCL Diploma in piano from Trinity College London and Grade 8 violin in 2013, however towards the end of 2014  Rebecca became captivated by the sound of the organ. 



She currently studies organ at the University of Auckland and has also been learning under Dr John Wells, whose Organ Concerto No.2 she will play.  Rebecca has also been actively engaged with musical activities at church, serving as an organist at the Korean Methodist Church of Auckland and as a pianist at the Korean Church of Auckland.

Born in Croatia, Antun Poljanich studied piano and theory at Dubrovnik School for Musical Education then conducting at the University of Ljubljana. Following post-graduate studies in Austria, he won a scholarship which took him to Leningrad for a three-year Master Course in Conducting at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. He has since worked with the Leningrad State Symphony Orchestra, the Veneto Philharmonia, the Slovene and Croatian National Orchestras and other prominent orchestras in Russia and Europe. Antun has been the Music Director of Auckland Youth Orchestra since 1999 and the ensemble has seen great success in New Zealand and beyond. Also Head of the Music Faculty at St. Peter’s College in Newmarket, Auckland, Antun was awarded the St. Peter’s College Scholarship for his contribution to musical education in New Zealand.

Ludwig von Beethoven (1770 - 1827) - Egmont Overture
Beethoven was fascinated with the concept of individual freedom.  His life was spent struggling to compose what he wanted, when he wanted, despite the dictates of demanding patrons.  When a commission to provide a music score for Goethe’s Egmont was offered in 1809 for the first Viennese performance of the play, Beethoven eagerly snatched up the opportunity.   An admirer of Goethe’s writings, he was particularly drawn by Egmont’s subject: the struggle for freedom.  Goethe’s play depicts the Spanish persecution of the people of the Netherlands during the inquisition of 1567-68.  Count Egmont, a Catholic who is loyal to the Spanish, nevertheless sees the injustice of their actions and pleads for tolerance from the Spanish King.  Greatly displeased, the King sends the cruel Duke of Alva to command the Spanish forces in the Netherlands to do the King’s will.  Egmont is arrested and sentenced to death.  Yet he knows that rebellion is in progress, and firmly believes that soon the people will be free.  A performance of Beethoven’s complete incidental music for Egmont would take approximately 40-45 minutes. It is seldom heard today in its entirety; but the Overture is a staple in the concert hall repertoire because of its strength, nobility and triumphal character.  The Overture begins in a somber and serious mood.  Marked Sostenuto ma non troppo, or sustained, without hurry, the dark music of the opening conveys profound oppression of the spirit, and the opening motive clearly represents the ominous tyrant of the play.  Soon the tempo picks up, speeding into a vigorous Allegro featuring the cellos; and we hear the hero’s confidence and heroic defiance as he descends into the depths of battle.  The tyrant’s motive from the introduction evolves throughout the overture, becoming increasingly rhythmic and dark until at last Egmont’s execution can be heard.  Immediately the mood of the work turns triumphant and celebratory, featuring the strings in the highest register and the shimmering sound of the piccolo.  The music embodies Egmont’s conviction that death is not an end when hope thrives and ideals remain intact.

John Wells (1948 - ) - Organ Concerto No.2 (Premiere)
As the first New Zealand musician to live primarily as a free-lance professional organist, John Wells has won over audiences throughout the country and abroad with the skill of his playing, the variety of his programmes and the engaging way he relates to his audiences.  John Wells' recent commissions include the Orlando Singers' suite of four NZ love poems Wild Daisies for their 40th anniversary concert.   The works were well received and have appeared on subsequent programmes performed by the Singers.   A new mass is under way, dedicated to the memory of David Dunningham, and a second Organ Concerto.  The first concerto was premiered in 1996 and has since been heard throughout NZ (eight performances) and in Melbourne with the Orchestra Victoria


Louis-Hector Berlioz  (1803-1869) - Symphony Fantastique 
i: Reveries - Passions          ii:Un bal         iii: Scene au champs        
iv: Marche aux supplice                 v: Songe d'une nuit du sabbat 

Symphonie fantastique is an important piece of the early Romantic period. The first performance was at the Paris Conservatoire in December 1830. Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature, and because history suggests Berlioz composed at least a portion of it under the influence of opium. According  to Bernstein, "Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral”.   The piece begins by introducing the listener to the vulnerable side of the protagonist, the Artist. The object of the Artist's love is represented by an elusive theme called the "idée fixe" – the object of fixation. Violins and flute float flirtatiously through the charming melody. The noise of the rest of the orchestra represents the Artist's frustration and despair. Frightening outbursts alternate with moments of the greatest tenderness. It all leads to a moment of complete frenzy and collapse.








I started sketching ideas several years ago but it never progressed very far until I happened to be examining in Malaysia. A group of candidates didn’t show and we got word that their bus driver had got lost; and that none of the group would be able to make it in time for their exams. With over two hours to fill, I pulled out my sketchbook and worked on the first movement up to letter D in the score. And there it rested for a few more years.

Antun Poljanich approached me last year about the orchestra doing an organ concerto.  Could I suggest one and could I suggest a student? He didn’t want Poulenc or Saint-Saëns (which isn’t a concerto, anyway), and Handel’s charming works used too-small an orchestra.  I mentioned that I’d already written one, but he didn’t really prick his ears up until I said that I had started another.   The rest, as they say, is history.   Finding a performer was easy: Rebecca Lee learnt from me in 2016 and is now at Auckland University with James Tibbles.  There was no question in my mind that she was the right choice.


I count myself very fortunate that Antun made that decision, that Rebecca was available, that the most excellent AYO will be the band and that the Donny Charitable Trust took the concerto under its wing with a minimum of fuss.   So now, here it is.


I am a conservative – I like keys and melodies you can hum.   What is it about?  Let me paraphrase Beethoven (with respect): it is about itself.   The ‘geography’ can be quickly scanned: 17 minutes or thereabouts, three movements, with a percussion link between the second and third.  Use of the major seventh as a leitmotif and a fair bit for the percussion to do.   Harp and bass clarinet parts have been grafted in on request; the work is better for their presence.


John Wells, September 2017