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Tour One: Tognetti’s Mozart

Australian Chamber Orchestra, ACO, present’s Tour One: Tognetti’s Mozart at the Angel Place Concert Hall.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra augmented by “period” instruments, oboe, bassoon and horn gave a refreshing concert of four composers. All the works bar the Mozart being “firsts” for the orchestra.

Schubert: Quartet Movement (Quartettsatz) in C minor,D703 ( 1820). Later Haydn: Symphony No. 46 in B major (1772).

The Schubert is the surviving sections, introduction and coda, of the unfinished Twelfth String Quartet. The work has ‘a clear autobiographical program’ of a love affair that was unable to be fulfilled because of economics and the loss to another, by the lady’s arranged marriage by her family. The music has a passionate energy contrasted with a lyrical, “feminine” melody, loss and sadness.

The Haydn Symphony No 46 in B major written in 1776, “is the only substantial surviving work by Haydn in that key – B major was unusual for the time, and is one of the many hallmarks stamped onto the symphony that underlines its ‘Sturm and Drang’ (storm and stress) nature….. Haydn’s aim is to present dramatic music that is by turns tempestuous, quirky, and humorous.” Hearing the work for the first time was an adventure of surprise and necessary alertness, engaged in the twists and of the unpredictability of the composition – musical ideas.

The first special pleasure, for me, at this concert, however was firstly the ‘juvenile’ quirkiness of the Violin Concerto No 4 in D major, K218 by Mozart. It was written when the composer was just 19, one of four written “between June and December 1775” and it has the freshness and palpable cheekiness of youth. Written as a violin concerto for himself – “I played as if I was the finest fiddler in Europe.”- it has the sound of a young man teasing his betters with brilliance. Richard Tognetti in his playing of the score had all the aural and even, visual joy of a young man finding his ‘stride’ as a composer – sometimes sounding “capricious”, “eccentric” and maybe even “wilful”. Certainly both the playing and the performance by Mr Tognetti caused smiles and even laughter at its insouciant humour and joy. Why is it when I hear Mozart’s music that one’s nature is nearly always persuaded to a light-weighted sense of freedom and possibility? All is coloured with the breath of optimism on hearing it.

The ultimate pleasure of the night however was the arrangement by Richard Tognetti of Edvard Greig’s String Quartet in G minor, Op.27 ( Composed 1877-8), for the Australian Chamber Orchestra. “Greig lived in an important time in his country’s (Norway) history. Norway’s four-hundred-year union with Denmark had ceased in 1814, just thirty years before Greig was born.” After his schooling in Germany, on returning to Bergen, his home town, Greig became curious about the Norwegian culture through an acquaintance with Ole Bull: “He played for me the trollish Norwegian melodies that so strongly fascinated me, and awakened the desire to have them as the basis for my own melodies. He opened my eyes to the beauty and originality in Norwegian music. Through him I became acquainted with many forgotten folk songs, and above all, with my own nature.”

This score was written after the music he wrote for Ibsen’s epic play PEER GYNT (1874), and I could not help but respond to the echoes of the Troll King’s Hall Of the Mountain KIng in this work. Having had many connections to the Peer Gynt score since childhood, the sounds of this arrangement recalled all the thrills and memories of Greig and Ibsen’s worlds, in dramatic literature. It is true that the String Quartet “startles the listener with its Nordic boldness – ‘trollish’ cavorting.” The impassioned playing of the orchestra was infectiousness and engrossing. Greig said that it “strives towards breadth, soaring flight and, above all, resonance for the instruments.” And so it did, gloriously.

Just a note for the usually impeccable orchestra. There were absences from the usual personnel for the orchestra and some many new faces. I was a little surprised at the dress and general physical presentation of the orchestra, in Angel Place which was a little ‘tawdry’ in contrast to its usual fresh appearance. I pondered if we were in a European or New York, American Concert Hall, tonight, 16th February, 2010, just how much care about the look of the orchestra would have been attended too? Quite considerable I reckon. It was a distraction. Always distressing to see excellence slide(!!), don’t you think?

NB quotes in this blog from the free, yes FREE, program notes of the concert. (Thank you, ACO and presumably Vanguard Investments.)

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