14 December 2017

Sweating the detail

I met up with a fellow player from the NCO at the end-of-year gig of the Australian Haydn Ensemble at Albert Hall. It was his first AHE concert and he struck the big format, full string orchestra, sometimes appended with wind instruments (AHE often play in smaller formats, quintets or thereabouts). He was ecstatic, asking how they get to such detail, control, unanimity. I'd noticed just the same thing and it's just enhanced in this larger format. My experience with a very similar format, Musica da Camera, raises my awareness of the details, the informed and share understandings. I'd noticed one melodic snippet that had been strong then weak, played fp or perhaps sfz>. It was repeated neatly for one passage, then played without dynamics for another. It's just detail, but it's this detail played through a group that makes for the lush convergence of it all. This understanding is usually shared in rehearsal, when a leader details how to play whatever passage, the band busily annotating and coming to a common understanding. Of course you need the chops and communication and the rest on stage, too. AHE does it was panache, smiles passed around amidst the serious music making. I'd commented on the smiles but also the overt face of one player and AHE stalwart Simone agreed and commented that you have to get on well and AHE does. It's obvious. Skye led the strings, but mostly Erin conducted from the harpsichord, standing for the symphonic works but seated for the keyboard concerto. They played Mozart (symphony no.29 Amaj), two CPE Bach (Keyboard concerto Cmaj and Sinfonia Ebmaj) and Haydn (Symphony no.52 Cmin). All were lovely, but I took a particular pleasure in the two CPE Bachs, being courtly but lively and inventive. The Haydn was an early Sturm und Drang work so an attempt to perceive human experience in its variety, or rather its impassioned agitation. It's virtuosic and pre-romantic but seems untimely to my contemporary ears. The Mozart was just plain sweet all round. Just another highly capable and investigative concert from AHE, this time in bigger orchestral format in Albert Hall, rectangular, timbered and high ceilinged, a space that authentically matches the style. Loved it.

Australian Haydn Ensemble performed Mozart, CPE Bach and Haydn at Albert Hall. AHE featured Skye McIntosh (violin, artistic director) and Erin Helyard (guest director, harpsichord).

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