Just before Christmas, orchestra seventeen88 gave their debut concert at Sydney Grammar School to a full house of enthusiastic supporters. This new orchestra focuses on music of the Classical and Romantic era, performing this repertoire in an historically informed way, using period instruments and being guided by the aesthetics of this period of history. Historical performance practice is not entirely new in Australia — we have many period instrument ensembles and orchestra Seventeen88 is a niche addition. Most period-instrument orchestras focus on music from a slightly earlier era — renaissance, baroque and early classical repertoire.
They played a ‘taster’ concert that gave a glimpse of the orchestra’s artistic future. Even though it was a ‘sampler’, it was beautifully programed and the music flowed well from one work to another.
The orchestra’s performance was incredibly artistic — phrase shapes and desired timbres had been carefully pondered and rehearsed. The result was a performance full of clarity and strong musical intentions that made the music come to life. The highlight for me was Mendelssohn’s String Symphony, directed by concert master, Rachael Beesley. Beesley sculpted beautiful phrases from Mendelssohn’s writing and brought out an incredible amount of depth and emotion in the music.
The orchestra was joined by soprano Jacqui Dark who performed two Mozart arias. Her face held so much of the drama of the music, giving these arias life and meaning outside of the story of their operas. Dark’s sound was clear and brilliant above a sensitive orchestral accompaniment.
Orchestra seventeen88 is the vision of four Australian musicians: educator Richard Gill, violinist Rachael Beesley, clarinettist Nicole van Bruggen and conductor Benjamin Bayl. Together these musicians have created an orchestra with a focus on education and artistic excellence. The artistic excellence was certainly displayed in this concert and I’m looking forward to hearing about their future endeavours!
Schubert ‘verture in Bb major, D470
Mozart “Ah! Chi mi dice mai” from Don Giovanni, K527 and “Voi che sapete” from Le Nozze di Figaro, K492
Mendelssohn String Symphony No.10 in B minor
Mozart Symphony No.39 in Eb major, K543
Concert photo (c) Tim Matthies, used with permission.