Australian Haydn Ensemble: Haydn’s Dream
Melbourne Digital Concert Hall 8th October 2020
Australian Haydn Ensemble’s livestream concert on Thursday night was the perfect way to relax and dream away the week. Broadcast through Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, the concert was part of their residency with Create NSW and the National Art School at the Old Darlinghurst Gaol. The Cell Block Theatre, with its high ceilings and wooden floors, was a fitting venue with acoustics that translated well as it was beamed from Sydney to my lounge room in Brisbane. The Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) quartet spaced themselves against the backdrop of sandstone.
AHE is one of Australia’s leading historically-informed groups, performing on period instruments with great attention to interpretation and style. The concert on Thursday featured artistic director and violinist Skye McIntosh, violinist Matthew Greco, violist Karina Schmitz and cellist Daniel Yeadon.
After a greeting from MCDH director Chris Howlett and an introduction from Skye McIntosh, the concert began with selections from Bach’s Goldberg Variations arr. String Quartet. According to the program notes, the Goldberg Variations were written to lift spirits and give rest. AHE shifted between the bright, lively and slower, reflective variations with ease, the melodies floating between the instruments.
Next, was Beethoven’s deeply moving String Quartet Op. 18 No. 1 Adagio Affettuoso ed Appassionato. This piece evokes the mood of the final scene of Romeo & Juliet, a dream of love ending in tragedy. The minor key and sorrowful, bleeding strings take the listener to a space of gravity and despair. AHE’s performance resonated through the old gaol, adding another layer to the story.
To close, AHE performed Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 50 No. 5 ‘The Dream’. The first movement, Allegro moderato, was sprightly, built on a simple melody with Skye’s violin part fluttering overtop. The second movement, Poco adagio, was peaceful, with a lyrical violin melody and rolling chordal accompaniment, carrying the listener away. The Tempo di Menuetto: Allegretto began with a simple motif, before growing. The Finale: Vivace was full of bright colour with a frantic, spirited melody dancing between the cello, viola and violins. AHE tackled the four movements with gusto, moving their bodies and communicating with each other as a tight-knit, polished quartet.
AHE bowed to the empty Cell Block Theatre. I applauded from home.
They then performed a surprise encore: Schumann’s Traumeri (or Dreaming). This piece was full of lush, sweeping strings with a rich, warm timbre. The gentle, lulling mood was a fitting way to end a concert on dreams.
In all, AHE presented a throughly enjoyable concert of string quartets for listeners to drift and dream away. Skye, Matthew, Karina and Daniel were a delight to watch and listen to and I can’t wait to see them in person in a concert hall very soon!