The Utzon Room after dark has a particular appeal particularly at “Vivid” time. This concert in the Haydn Ensemble series was titled “Vienna Salon” and featured works by contemporaries of Mozart and by the Master himself as might have made up one of the popular events at that style of venue.
The Director and first violinist Skye McIntosh introduced the programme which began with the Flute Quartet in C minor by Hoffmeister who was Mozart’s major publisher. In an unusual key for the flute, this work began with a strutting Allegro which became more lyrical. An introspective Andante in the home major was followed by a Rondo with variations which alternated between minor and major before ending in the latter. As was customary, the flute was dominant in this short work and was accurately and sensitively handled by Melissa Farrow.
Next came Albrechtsberger’s Quartet in D minor which is one of over 100 works he wrote in the format of Adagio and Fugue. He was a well know organist and music theorist but is best remembered as one of Beethoven’s tutors. As expected, the piece was structural in nature with a short Adagio proceeding without break to a sad, contrapuntal fugue which impressed with its intricacy.
The least known of these three composers is Wanhal, who, in his time, was thought to be eccentric and who shied away from sponsorship and the public eye. His Flute Quintet in B flat was really, as explained by Skye, a concertino as the flautist took charge after an introduction and each movement had a short cadenza. A catchy first movement featured Pianissimo runs on the flute, so much more difficult to master. A largo was followed by a Rondo with a slow interlude as sometimes employed by Mozart himself.
After the interval, it was Mozart himself in the form of his quartet in D major dedicated to the aforesaid Hoffmeister probably to settle a debt. This work is unusual and is rarely performed. There appears to be an emphasis on counterpoint and Bach-like theory. A first movement on the optimistic side is followed surprisingly by a Minuet which is sad in nature. A much lighter Trio returns in a masterfully crafted way to the main theme. The Adagio features closely interwoven themes and ends with a crescendo trill unusual in a slow movement. The Finale is on the humorous side with Haydenesque gaps before the coda.
Three works from lesser composers in the first half used up a lot of the concentration of the audience. A well known piece was required for the second half, not a quartet which was structural in nature and less accessible. Members of the audience that I spoke to agreed with this viewpoint.
This is in no way to detract from the performers who distinguished themselves throughout. Melissa Farrow was superb in her quasi-solo role while I felt that the cellist, Anton Baba, stood out in cementing the intricacy of the string playing. All members employed old style instruments which maintain their tuning less readily and it was impressive to hear the trouble taken between movements to maintain the excellent sound quality.