The Salon inside the Melbourne Recital Centre, a finely crafted, flexible acoustically wonderful space showcased to a high degree of excellence for the ‘sold out’ crowd, a splendid program for the newly-formed Brandenburg Quartet on their Home Town Tour, 2018.
The players on gut-stringed period instruments, violinists Shaun Lee-Chen and Ben Dollman with Monica O’Dea on viola and Jamie Hey on cello, provided the audience with a rich resonating experience, as close to the original as possible.
All full time members of the multi ARIA Award-winning Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the Brandenburg Quartet sublimely revealed the composer’s intent to produce amazing melodies that deeply affected their audience judging by the enthusiasm of the applause.
They showcased their virtuosic skills, and in this particular venue, the correlation between music of the Early, Baroque and the Classical age, and architecture.
The first work by Italian composer Francesco Durante (1684 -1755), the Concerto for Strings in G Minor, provided an insight into intricate compositions produced by a man known best as a church music composer, who taught many of the opera and opera buffa composers of the time.
This concerto illustrated so well, through its balanced harmonic progressions the pictorial character of musical Baroque art, which led to the foundation of the modern orchestra.
It also showcased the notable variety of tones Durante developed. This little-known work is favoured by period instrument musicians because I suspect they enjoy its ‘harmonic intricacy’ as well as respect Durante’s historic contribution to the development of music down the centuries.
The second movement revealed the luscious mellow rounded tone produced by Jamie Hey’s period cello, underpinning the other strings performance so brilliantly.
Only about a 100 years old and trustingly purchased ‘online’ from Sweden, this cello sang sweetly in its master’s hands, bringing forth a sound that was nothing short of beguiling.
Admitting to bias towards the cello in my love of musical excellence, in this Salon it reminded me why; in the hands of Jamie Hey it shimmered, shone and captured everyone’s attention and admiration.
What I love about listening to music in this very special space is that while you can hear the instruments harmoniously rendering the work they are playing, if you apply yourself you can also hear them all individually; a real treat.
It is indeed what seduced me originally back in the late 70’s when hearing my first ‘chamber’ music concert in a period panelled salon in Salzburg Austria, showcasing the joys of Mozart’s music. Perfect music in a perfect place to suit my age at the time.
In fact listening to the glories of early music in an acoustically wondrous salon is my idea of luxury. I found myself affectionately remembering the wonderful woman philanthropist whose funding allowed this asset for the city of Melbourne to be brought to fruition, dear Dame Elizabeth Murdoch (1909-2012).
A String Quartet in F Major by German Composer Andreas Romberg (1767-1821) followed, revealing how as a composer he was already exhibiting his leaning towards orchestral delights. It had a lively first movement followed by a slow but seductive second movement, which wonderfully allowed each of the musicians to shine.
An unexpected treat next; an unadvertised work by perhaps the most gifted of all the composers in the history of music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), who was a teenager when he completed his String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 1782 -1785.
He dedicated it to the man he admired most, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), considered one of the leading, and most revered composers of his age whose works were often completed in the seclusion of the delightful summerhouse of his patron Prince Paul Esterházy, where the atmosphere was happy and relaxing.
The music by our splendid quartet of musicians, was delivered with conviction. Rich, round mellow sounds flew around the salon as the players performed at a pinnacle of perfection the complex textures of music that became embedded in everyone’s heart.
German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) once described genius as being ‘the talent which gives art its rules’. Franz Joseph Haydn was one.
He infused his music with personal experience, making it endlessly appealing to every man and every woman by giving it complete freedom of expression, making it playful and full of the love of life. Whether you were a court official, another composer or a peasant in the field, Haydn’s music burgeoned with wit, joy, humour and sorrow and became well-beloved.
The final work on the program String Quartet in D Minor, Op. 76/2 by Franz Joseph Haydn brought these four musicians sublimely together as they passed the magic of the music from one to the other seamlessly and with rare conviction. It was beautiful to behold and wonderfully warming to the heart.
Brandenburg Quartet musicians on a late lazy Sunday afternoon, offered their grateful audience a sublime experience; exquisite violins, ingenious viola and a cello triumphant for their first Home Town Tour in the Salon at Melbourne Recital Centre.
Hearing the program played in such a marvellous location meant the performance became upfront and personal for every single person there. It was bold, passionate and should ensure a newly found audience will be coming back for more.
“Wasn’t it breath-taking” said one lady in the foyer afterwards as she lined up to collect her coat“. She confirmed “… they would definitely be back if the Brandenburg Quartet keep playing at this extraordinary level of perfection”.
Indeed. Won’t we all!
Government House Perth, 18th April
Ukaria Cultural Centre, Adelaide, 22nd April, 2018
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018