The buzz in the Melbourne Recital Centre foyer for the half hour before any Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO) concert starts is always full of energy and enthusiasm in anticipation. Everyone is looking forward to what is to come, knowing the high standards of excellence Artistic Director Paul Dyer AO and his dedicated musicians adhere to, keeping the music always fresh, vital and alive.
On Saturday September 9, 2017 the musicians of the ABO led by Paul Dyer, together with the dazzling virtuoso of Jamie Hey on period cello alongside the brilliance of Bart Aerbeydt, a guest artist from Belgium on the natural horn, all paid tribute to Haydn, Mozart + Friends.
In the splendid acoustic of the Elisabeth Murdoch Recital Hall ‘Classic masters met Modern Maestros’ in a symphony of sound that was all about human emotion set to music and rendered by outstanding musicians with pleasurable restraint.
They performed with supreme confidence, delivering a simply elegant repast, a rare musical evening exhibiting a combination of grace, distinction and often exquisite refinement.
By the eighteenth century ideals of classicism being pursued sanctified a life, which when viewed from idealistic heights gave it permanence and it became identified with peace in Europe. It was a case of music becoming a ‘Parnassus for the Masses’ – myth and acoustical magic combined as in an ancient soundscape.
Paul Dyer carefully selected this fabulous feast of excellence and the first composition was a splendid appetiser. The full orchestra performed the Sinfonia in E-flat Major by German violinist and composer Christian Cannabich (1731-1798), Kapellmeister for the Mannheim Orchestra, which had an enviable reputation in his day.
At the beginning of modern symphonic style Cannabich created a work with bold forms and a rich complex technique, with a focus on freely flowing musical imagination. The combination of period instruments delivering sweet sounds with such passionate conviction for an excited gathering of friends was irresistible. Concertmaster Shaun Lee-Chen was in fine form, astonishing with his virtuosity and delighting with his dashing derring do
Composed when symphonic music was looking to rise to glorious heights, the Sinfonia in E-flat major embraced both storm and stress while exalting nature, making the audience understand they were celebrating the bounteous gifts of human individualism.
The first of three movements, the Allegro reminded me of the pleasures of the imagination on a perfect summer day… disporting perhaps in a classical temple designed as a point of beauty and refuge from the midday sun, where set in a golden landscape you could be as one with nature and be… rather than appear to be.
There followed the Andante, a period of profound poetic sensibility with everyone enjoying a sedate stroll in the freshness of the unpolluted air before a fabulous finale filled with ‘hey Presto excitement and elation’ eloquent and effective.
As the stage format was changed we were left quietly anticipating the next course to follow, marvellous music by the composers in this small stylish group Joseph Haydn (1732-1809).
He produced glorious music from his Summerhouse in the palace of Eszterháza (modelled on Versailles) on the south side of the Neusiedlersee where he believed he benefited because there ‘…was no one near to confuse me, so I was forced to become original’.
Haydn embraced a love of life, impeccable craftsmanship, purity of feeling and noble and profound sentiment, all expressed in the Cello Concerto in C major, H VIIb:1.
Onto the stage came the quietly unassuming and brilliant soloist Jamie Hey who nailed his performance on his stunning anonymously made mid – seventeenth century Italian four string Cello.
He passionately played at a pinnacle of perfection – rich, round mellow sounds emanated eloquently as he showcased his sheer delight for this stunning composition that only came to light in 1961, discovered in the National Museum of Prague.
Through Jamie Hey’s dexterous fingers we enjoyed fabulous flights of fantasy as in a moment of sheer compositional genius, the cello solo slowly emerges from the complex textures of the string players to become deeply embedded in everyone’s hearts.
It was a high note and we exited for interval anticipating the rest of the fabulous feast we were enjoying to come. What a delicious dessert course it would turn out to be!
After the break Paul Dyer talked with the audience about his arrangements for the program, a téte a téte conversation integral to ABO concerts, one everyone enjoys. He explained how he wanted to set the scene as it had been during the music’s contemporary times, when a group of ‘wind’ players often gathered together to perform in intimate settings for clients and friends.
Today this combination of musicians on stage together playing is a rare event. The plus for the audience is that they performed the exciting and exhilarating Harmoniemusik of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail – The Abduction from the Seraglio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
What a gem of his rare genius it turned out to be. The ‘abduction’ was composed near to the time Mozart married and in the same year he began his stimulating friendship with Joseph Haydn, who gave him a fresh outlook and taught him the ‘art of logic and continuity’.
The occasional music Mozart composed provided him with an opportunity to look into particular corners of life; in this case, a Turkish harem, which in reality was culturally and societally shocking at the time. The resultant work marked a new period in his adult creative life
Mozart’s music today enjoys a reputation for being a ‘model and symbol of gracious beauty and transparent harmoniousness’. Everything childlike and simple that attracted criticism from his contemporaries is in our time admired.
His works are both intense and complicated, his music admired for its logic of construction, wonderful harmonies and practical execution, which is simply astonishing when played in ‘wind’ mode.
Players in pairs performed passionately on period Oboes, Clarinets, Bassoons and Natural Horns with both verve and vitality, basically knocking our socks off!
They performed the ‘Overture’, and four other movements based on arias all originally sung by different characters’, stylishly with effervescence and enthusiasm.
Music in eighteenth century culture was transforming and when we hear works meant to sound as ‘an echo to the senses’ like this piece of marvellous music, we realise we have entered an ever-richer realm of experience.
The audience love this rare wondrous wind instrument combination and were very enthusiastic with their acclamation for a special performance. Those who were there will treasure the memory.
The Concerto No 4 for Horn in E-flat major, K495 was completed in the same year that Mozart, winning the populace to art, wrote his now popular opera The Marriage of Figaro.
Paul Dyer came back onto the stage to introduce the ABO’s guest natural horn player from Belgium, Bart Aerbeydt.
He immediately charmed everyone, demonstrating the colourful and expressive sounds the metal tube instrument without keys or valves is capable of producing at the hands of a consummate professional. The period natural horn is without doubt one of the most difficult of all instruments to play.
This work full of tonal colours, revealed the quite dazzling technical achievement of Bart Aerbeydt, as with warm full and wonderful tones he expressed his feeling for the beauty of the melody, playing with great dexterity, subtlety and charm.
ABO musicians superbly responded to support their colleague and once again we all benefited from the meticulous attention to detail.
Composers of Mozart’s time brought about a mini revolution and refinements of manners, ensuring those playing were not only courteous to each other but also considerate of each other’s needs and sensibilities.
You can see that happening on stage at an ABO concert before your very eyes. The camaraderie between the players and there guests is to be admired as it also compliments their leader Paul Dyer.
As an addition to this bounteous feast of sophisticated music at the end we were treated once more when the pair of natural horn players from the ABO Daryl Poulsen and Dorée Dixon joined Bart Aerbeydt to play an encore, Anton Reicha’s delightful Canon No. 3 from 24 Horn Trios – Op 82, truly the icing on this classic celebratory cake.
Highlights throughout the evening were many and varied. Wonderful to see Rob Nairn appointed in 2017 Associate Professor of Double Bass at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, playing on a very big string instrument the Viennese Violone, a forerunner to the double bass.
Music during the eighteenth century was integral to life. Composers produced music for the instruments of their time and having an orchestra like the ABO playing so brilliantly on authentic instruments in such an acoustically wondrous space as Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s fine legacy provides, is far more than a rich and resonate experience. It’s a symphony of the sublime.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Haydn Mozart + Friends
Jamie Hey on Period Cello
Bart Aerbeydt on Natural Horn
Period Violin 1
Shaun Lee-Chen, Perth Concertmaster
Matt Bruce, Sydney Associate Concertmaster*
Rafael Font, Sydney
Skye McIntosh, Sydney
Period Violin 2
Ben Dollman, Adelaide†*
Matthew Greco, Sydney
Catherine Shugg, Melbourne
Simone Slattery, Adelaide
Monique O’Dea, Sydney†
Marianne Yeomans, Sydney
Simón Gangotena, Quito
Anthea Cottee, Sydney†
Rosemary Quinn, Sydney
Rob Nairn, Adelaide†
Emma Black, Vienna†
Kirsten Barry, Melbourne*
Craig Hill, Sydney†
Marie Ross, Auckland
Jane Gower, Copenhagen†
Brock Imison, Melbourne
Darryl Poulsen, Perth†
Dorée Dixon, Perth
Paul Dyer, Sydney
*Mozart (letter of 9 July 1778)