Mozart and Beethoven on a Sunday afternoon is always going to be a pleasing programme and to add to the mix three different soloists performing with the orchestra in its 42nd season makes for variety as well. That the Melbourne Musicians are still going with the same conductor after 41 years is a testimony to this conductor and the spirit of independent musicians working apart from the main orchestras. Music in the suburbs is still very much alive although the audience of some 110 should have been greater for such a pleasant mix and also a little younger. Nevertheless there were still a few children there at this child friendly time. It is more the audience in their 20’s and 30’s that were sadly missing.
The orchestra numbered up to 25 musicians with all 25 needed only after the interval for the major work of the programme, the Beethoven piano concerto. At various stages in the first half of the concert, the flute, clarinets and bassoons left the stage to come back later, with the exception for the last item in the first half when the bassoons unaccountably did not appear. After some minutes of the aria the conductor had to stop the flow saying “We’re missing a bassoon who’s got some lovely bits”! When the bassoons were found, soprano Rosemary Ball after the first false start, to her credit did give a wonderful performance of the second aria in the programme.
The young violinist, Mi Yang, played the Romance with a clear warm tone in the lyrical sections of this piece. Much of this work is straightforward and we got just such a rendition with no surprises. The soloist played the entire work from memory as she did later in the programme with the Mozart violin concerto. Attacking the more motivic sections with determination there was no confidence lacking in her performance.
Following the Romance we had one aria and I was puzzled as to why the programme split up the two arias with the Mozart violin concerto. My personal preference would have been to give the violinist more of a break and keep the soprano warmed up for her second aria. Soprano Rosemary Ball delivered a very secure performance with just enough theatrical gestures to indicate the operatic but still keeping in touch with the nature of a concert performance. I felt she really came into her own with the second aria “Dove sono” with a very assured concept of the aria and a clear, rich and ringing sound that filled the auditorium easily.
The violinist, Mi Yang, returned after the first aria with a secure performance of the Mozart violin concerto. She excelled in the melodic and lyrical sections of this work, again delivering a warm and clear sound. I would have preferred her to stay on stage a little longer for a few more bows as her performance really warranted the generous applause.
After the short interval the diminutive Argentinian pianist, Marcela Fiorillo, entered with assurance and a stage presence that was a harbinger of the solid performance to follow. After shaking hands with both the conductor and the leader of the orchestra, curiously she took some time to take off three or four rings. I wondered if this was some sort of ritual for her. Certainly the fine performance had the depth a Beethoven work demands with the drama of this concerto finely balanced with the lyrical tension inherent particularly in the first movement. The cadenzas were executed with fine drama and gesture in the phrasing. I wasn’t sure which cadenza she was playing near the end of the first movement and wish this could have been announced in the programme as there have been many written by various famous pianists for this concerto.
After the bows she performed again and the encore piece Ginastera’s op2 no3 Danza del gaucho matrero really showed this pianists Argentinian heart where she played with precision and fire.
The orchestra played very well throughout and in particular the balance between horns, oboes and strings in the first half was delicately handled. The two oboes blended very well together as did the two clarinets. I would have liked just a little more bass say with one more cello and one more contrabass as there were only two celli and one contrabass. This would have been particularly nice in the Beethoven piano concerto where the fuller orchestra would have been more balanced in total sound. The strings played with good ensemble and some fine viola solos emerged from the texture at times.
Despite my little quibbles, I appreciated the programming and the variety in this concert and in a sense enjoyed the idiosyncrasies of a less formal setting where music making is still taken seriously despite being made with a smaller budget. Encouraging a variety of performers and giving a place to musicians who give more than pleasing performances, plays an important part in the overall musical climate of any musically vibrant city. This was a pleasant relaxing afternoon of music and the audience were treated to expert soloists complementing the fine orchestral playing. Wherever you are in whichever city, performances of this nature deserve your attention and support and you will be delighted and entertained.
Photo from Melbourne Musicians Facebook page.