It was certainly a pleasant surprise to find myself last night in Sydney’s impressive City Recital Hall to hear a program presented by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, flautist Melissa Farrow and guest soloist-conductor Kristian Bezuidenhout. Having never heard the ‘Brandies’ before (I confess, I don’t often listen to CDs) but heard a lot about them since I arrived in the city, my curiosity was aroused.
And an excellent concert it was too. In fact it was so good that my only complaint was not being told anything about the instrument in the concert’s title (‘Mozart’s fortepiano’) – unless, that is, I missed something in the booklet’s small print. A minor detail, I know, but it might have been worth mentioning this elegant piece of furniture, since – in one way or another – it formed the centrepiece for the whole evening.
Apart from being played beautifully, the program was also a substantial one, so no short-changing there either: two short Sinfonias by two of the Bach sons, Johann Christian and Wilhelm Friedemann, one of Mozart’s best-known piano concertos (K 466 in D minor), an adagio for flute and orchestra, and to conclude, one of Mozart’s longest symphonies (the ‘Linz’). Very similar, one might say, to the kind of program Mozart himself was used to laying on in 1780s Vienna, though doubtless Mozart would have also thrown in a couple of soprano arias to make sure nobody in the audience was slumbering: a precaution that was clearly unnecessary last night in the Recital Hall, where the thousand-odd listeners were hanging onto every note, and especially to the quieter ones!
The quieter notes. Yes… because the key moment of the evening was surely when that elegant piece of furniture – our unnamed fortepiano – really started to play under Bezuidenhout’s superb fingers in the Mozart concerto (up until then it had been tinkling away innocuously while the orchestra brilliantly shouldered the heavy work). Anyway, after some momentary bewilderment at the first piano entry (‘oh dear, I can hardly hear the damn instrument’, many were probably thinking), the audience soon realised it wasn’t in for the routine thumping that normally passes for a Mozart piano concerto, and the magic set in. You could hear a pin drop. And even the inter-movement coughing was much quieter than usual.