A sublime afternoon was spent listening to the historically-informed music-making of Orchestra seventeen88 inside the Chapel of Knox Grammar School. This world-class orchestra brings outstanding international and local musicians together for performances and the eight experienced musicians today certainly gave a lovely performance. The concert showcased Beethoven, Rossini and introduced Lachner, a contemporary and friend of Schubert. It featured two Septets in E flat major on period instruments.
Two contrasting Septets
The first work, Septet in E flat major, was by lesser-known German composer Franz Lachner, composed in 1824 for flute, clarinet, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass.
Lachner’s Septet featured prominent winds and lower strings, while Beethoven’s well-known Septet in E flat major, op.20, composed in 1800 for clarinet, horn, bassoon and strings featured the latter in a more prominent role, particularly the upper strings.
The contrast between the two pieces was highlighted by the ensemble’s seating arrangement where the winds stood between the upper and lower strings for the Lachner, forming three sections, whereas the strings and winds formed two sections for the Beethoven. I believe their positioning also contributed to their beautifully balanced sound.
Replica period instruments
Nicole van Bruggen stole the show in the Lachner, where she had the opportunity to introduce many charming melodies on her clarinet, a replica of an 1810 instrument. The first of the five movements had a definite Viennese flavour, where it was composed. The second movement was a Menuetto and Trio with two Trios, the third commenced with the combination of clarinet and horn and featured an attractive interplay of the melody between violin and cello, the fourth a Scherzo and Trio, usually in 3/4 time but sounding very much like a 2/4 March, while the final movement featured the combination of flute and horn.
After interval, Nicole gave the audience some insight into the period instruments, including the difficulty associated with tuning them in ever-changing temperature and humidity, the trickiness of playing on gut strings, and the marvellous ability of their natural horn player, Darryl Poulsen, to use his mouth and right hand to produce sounds in the valveless instrument.
Legendary concertmaster Jakob Lehmann
Legendary concertmaster from Belgian ensemble Anima Eterna, Jakob Lehmann, displayed his virtuosic talents in the Beethoven Septet, particularly in the last of the six movements. This was a brilliant performance on his Klotz violin, dating from the 1800s.
The afternoon was further enhanced by a sumptuous afternoon tea during interval featuring delectable macarons and an invitation to meet the musicians over a complimentary glass of wine after the performance.
It was certainly a memorable concert, highlighted by the unity, authenticity and sonorous beauty produced by this group of talented musicians.