11 March 2018

What makes a group

I sat in admiration listening to the Australian Haydn Ensemble this night. It's not the first time, but it surprises me each time. I'm playing music like this now so I can feel just how difficult and inspirational is this close interaction. They all play wonderfully, of course, but the stunning thing for me was the dynamics and the close interplay. This is a group thing, a matter of togetherness, shared understanding, often of friendship or at least musical closeness. Simone shows it openly, with frequent smiles and grins. The others smile and glace less obviously or frequently but they are all eyes and ears, too. You see it as they come to a pause, or the end of a phrase, how they look up to Skye or each other. Then the exact attack, the shared fortes or denouements, at the most detailed level, within and between phrases. This is close playing and it's a key to chamber music with its intimate scale and unprotected exposure. They just did it so well and so comfortably. Jacqueline was unavailable so this was played without bass, interestingly, as much of this early classical music was written. The program was all Haydn: London Trio (flute, violin and cello), a string quartet and the Symphony no.104 London. The trio was written for home playing. I could only sit aghast thinking of the demands placed on home musos. But there was no TV in those days, so plenty of time for practice for the comfortable classes. Some lines just flawed me: from Anton's cello, or Skye's lead or Simone's responses or just how the whole group stopped then seemed to float for a lengthy pause, twice, I think, in the final movement of the symphony. I've said much of this group as they are friends and I've seen them numerous times, but I am never unsurprised. Truly lovely stuff.

Australian Haydn Ensemble performed in the Great Hall at ANU University House. AHE were Skye McIntosh (violin 1), Simone Slattery (violin 2), James Eccles (viola), Anton Baba (cello), Melissa Farrow (flute) and Nathan Cox (fortepiano).

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