Last Saturday evening in the City Recital Hall, a small group of very talented musicians from the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra presented a delightful programme of eighteenth century chamber music. The programme included works by Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, Francesco Durante, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Luigi Boccherini and the musicians played with such commitment and passion that this solely chamber music recital - a first for the ‘Brandies’ - is sure to be repeated.
The concert opened with a duet for flute and violin in E minor, composed by C.P.E. Bach in 1748. Mainly concerned with engaging and moving his listeners, Bach said that ‘a musician cannot move others unless he too is moved’. This performance certainly engaged its listeners and flautist Melissa Farrow and violinist Lucinda Moon played with a beautiful light tone and each voice of the musical dialogue could be clearly heard. Occasionally the violin slightly dominated the flute but this was due to the extremely light tone quality of the Baroque flute rather than any fault of the musicians.
The title of the Concerto per Quartetto No 2 in G minor by Durante was somewhat misleading as the composition required five musicians and not four as you would expect. This arrangement included two violins (Lucinda Moon and Ben Dollman), viola (Shelley Soerensen), cello (Jamie Hey) and violone (the baroque double bass with six strings played by Kirsty McCahon) and the musicians convincingly captured the passionate mood of the piece with its restless short phrases and unexpected chromatic inflexions in the melody and harmony. Lucinda Moon was once again stunning on the first violin with its fast semiquaver passages and two octave leaps and the balance between the parts was impressive. The second movement showed a stylish use of dynamics and the cello and violone provided a good steady bass line in the third.
Mozart said several times during his short lifetime that he couldn’t stand the flute, although his Quartet No 3 for flute and strings in C major K285b gives no indication of that. The piece was delicately and charmingly played and flautist Melissa Farrow showed no concern for the technically demanding music; at no stage did her flute go out of tune and this is quite an achievement on an eighteenth century flute. In the first movement the other players provided a gentle accompaniment to the wind instrument, and in the second, the distribution of melody among the parts was much more equal. All of the playing was perfectly in tune and well balanced and these consummate musicians performed with great ease.
After the interval, the programme recommenced with a divertimento for flute, violin and cello in G major, Hob IV: 7 by Joseph Haydn. Having composed sixty-eight string quartets in his lifetime, Haydn should perhaps have been called the father of the string quartet rather than the father of the symphony and this particular piece intended for amateur musicians as background music is a truly delightful creation. As with all of the playing up until this point the instruments were perfectly balanced and there was not a note even slightly out of tune. The second movement in particular was a highlight of the evening with thoughtful, understated playing which made effective use of the rests and pauses and the group played the obviously difficult music that followed with much grace. The audience particularly enjoyed this piece and demonstrated their appreciation with generous applause.
Following the Haydn, Durante made a second appearance in the programme with another Concerto per Quartetto, this time No1 in F minor. His use of leaps and lively figures was reminiscent of Vivaldi and the polyphonic style associated with sacred music. In this concerto, there was a constant interchange of material amongst the voices and no one instrument dominated the others. The bass instruments made a very full-bodied sound and the significant communication between the players helped them to capture the sadness and understated nature of the music.
The concert concluded with the string sextet in D major Op 23 No 5 G458 by Luigi Boccherini and this time the players worked together to create a more luxurious and less transparent sound. Boccherini was prolific and wrote over three hundred pieces of chamber music and he wrote this sextet for two violins (Lucinda Moon and Ben Dollman), two violas (Marina Phillips and Shelley Soerensen) and two cellos (Jamie Hey and Kirsty McCahon) in 1776. The piece started with slow paced violas and cellos and the violins soon joined. The first violin had the melody and played with pleasingly little vibrato whilst the other instruments accompanied her to create a hushed and dignified sound. Lucinda Moon played quasi-cadential passages with great ease and her virtuosity was a joy to see. The musicians performed in absolute synchronicity with one another, with perfect balance and intonation and there was a great deal of contact between them which clearly facilitated the cohesion of the music; this was not only satisfying to hear but also to watch.
This concert was musicianship at its finest and a concert for lovers of chamber music. The musicians played superbly and with commitment to the music and clearly enjoyed performing the eighteenth century repertoire. The only thing that may have enhanced the performance would have been the addition of another instrument with a different tonal colour - a voice perhaps? - and hopefully next time a packed auditorium.
Intimate chamber music concerts turn the spotlight onto our own stars
THE MUSIC PARTY
Featuring eight soloists from the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Venue: City Recital Hall, Angel Place Sydney
Dates/Times: Saturday 5 April @ 7pm; Sunday 6 April @ 3pm
Tickets: $65.00 to $35.00 Booking fees apply.
Bookings: City Recital Hall Box Office 02 8256 2222 or www.cityrecitalhall.com.au
Brandenburg Box Office 02 9328 7581