Australian Haydn Ensemble’s symphonies in chamber form a real treat

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Ambassador thoughts, Chamber Groups

Australian Haydn Ensemble | Beethoven’s Fifth

 June 30 2024 | City Recital Hall, Sydney / Australian Digital Concert Hall

“What’s on the menu this arvo darl?”
“Bocconcini?”
“No, no, it’s Boccherini, he’s rococo don’t you know?”

So goes my imagined conversation between Cremornese matrons attending this afternoon’s concert. Judging by the number and volume of steel grey bobs and signature eyewear I might as well have a listening device in the hall but luckily the Australian Digital Concert Hall has this covered on my behalf.

Night Music of the Streets of Madrid is a musical evocation of a Ramon de la Cruz sainete farce or sketch comedy, rooted in the commedia dell’arte tradition of stock characters and increasingly convoluted situations. The playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín fulminated against such performances saying they were corrupting “the highest levels of society” with their indecent actions and foul language. Well, the Prince of Asturias and his Italian wife certainly appreciated the depiction of the blind beggars and street singers enough for Boccherini to write this quintet as their court amusement. The prince, (later King Carlos IV) also enjoyed these comedies so much that he commissioned Goya to design tapestries showing similar scenes for the royal palace. The camp theatricals were played with a great sense of humour and engagement between the performers and they were a sparkling amuse bouche before diving into the complexities of the Ries and Beethoven symphonies.

ahe

Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de; The Fight at the Cock Inn (Brawl at the Mesón del Gallo Inn) (1777). A preparatory sketch for the cartoon of The Fight at the New Inn tapestry. It differs from the final composition in some respects, most importantly the name of the inn, which is “The Cock Inn” in this case. A fight has broken out over a card game, with a variety of people of different origins and social classes taking part.
As a longtime baroque music lover, eschewing anything written after 1750 for many years, I am not familiar with the work of Ferdinand Ries. After educating myself more and more about the art of Partimento I find that I have a much better understanding of European music from the 18th century and am delighted to ‘rediscover’ it for myself.  (The Monuments of Partimenti website, presents the great collections of instructional music intended for the training of European court musicians, edited by Robert O. Gjerdigen)

ahe beethoven's fifth city recital hall 30 image oliver miller 3

Listening to symphonies in chamber form is a real treat, like a degustation menu where every flavour and possible subtlety is carefully balanced and adjusted. The energy, stamina and skill displayed by the performers was massively impressive. Intensity and focus of ensemble communication and the interplay of contrasting emotions took the whole audience along on the journey with them. All intricately complicated passages, often obscured beneath the sonic rumble of accumulated players in large halls were expertly unveiled as shimmering lines that fascinated the ear. The Rondo theme and variations in the Ries allowed Skye McIntosh and Matthew Greco to sparkle with virtuosity. Karina Schmitz and Nicole Divall on violas were able to shine in the Beethoven with bravura tenor melismas and driving force. Daniel Yeadon (cello) and Pippa MacMillan (double bass) made themselves sound like an entire orchestral section at times with a resounding bass and Jessica Lee’s sensitive flute part added just the right amount of extra colour to the strings.

ahe beethoven's fifth city recital hall 30 image oliver miller 1

I am looking forward to what AHE have programmed for the rest of the year and suggest you check out some more music by Ries and his contemporaries.

Photo Credit: Oliver Miller

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About The Author

Will Evans

William is a keen musician and medical researcher, he performs regularly with Corpus Medicorum in Melbourne.

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