Sydney Mozart Society | Frank Celata and Friends!
22 August, 2023, The Concourse, Chatswood
What a Program header – Frank Celata and Friends!
Frank is well known to Sydney Mozart Society followers as an amiable and brilliant clarinettist and it was no surprise to find similarity in his acquaintances.
Ola Rudner is also familiar to Chatswoodians, he has made Australia his home after a brilliant career in Europe first as a violinist and, more recently as a conductor. He has been awarded the Silver Medal of Merit for his achievements in Europe and the Centenary Medal similarly in Australia. For this occasion, he was joined by Anna Anna Skálová who has been a member of the first violin section of the SSO having previously played as concertmaster with several major North American orchestras. Roger Benedict is principal violist of the SSO -nhe has played with several of the major English orchestras and also in Japan and Catherine Hewgill is also a very familiar face as principal cellist of the SSO for many years as well as appearances as soloist.
The first half of the concert, however, belonged to Robert Johnson who was principal horn for the SSO for no less than 31 years before his recent retirement – he has performed with several chamber groups as well as soloist (and is probably less well-known for his brilliant rendition of Flanders and Swan’s infamous “Lost Horn “ditty”). Mozart’s quintet for horn and strings is more like a concerto for horn with chamber accompaniment and it suited Robert’s technical brilliance to a T. There is no more ardent devotee Of Mozart than myself but I have to say that this work shows none of his flair spontaneity or inspiration. Perhaps his on-off relationship with the prominent horn player Joseph Leutgeb was at a low phase when he composed it!
Quite a contrast in the second half when we heard Schubert’s well known Octet. The musicians were joined, of course, by Frank Celata who has been Principal clarinettist of the SSO for 30 years while he is also well known as a soloist, particularly for his interpretation of Mozart’s Concerto. Matthew Wilkie plays his bassoon mostly in Europe under renowned conductors such as Haitink and Maazel but is also a regular visitor to the Townsville Festival of Chamber Music. Alex Henery is principal Double Bass with the SSO – he has also played with the London Symphony Orchestra and has played as soloist though his repertoire there is somewhat limited!
The Octet is a magnificent composition written on a commission. Works for small groups were very popular in those times as opportunities for amateur musicians were very limited – indeed it was Beethoven’s Septet, better known then than now, which was a model for Schubert’s work. It is in six movements – all the instruments have episodes of prominence but it is the clarinet that transcends. The Adagio is sublimely beautiful while the energetic vibrato before the Finale gave the cellist’s wrist a real workout. Although it has sad moments, an overall feeling of happiness pervades and this was transmitted to the appreciative audience. A Great Night.