There must be a tremendous amount of planning that goes into the programming of Sydney Mozart Society concerts.
At Chatswood Concourse on Friday, there was a programme that consisted largely of familiar works arranged for unusual combinations of instruments. These arrangements were worked by John Rotar, who, although few of us are aware, composed the recently introduced “warning” fanfare before performances at the Opera House. Playing for us on this occasion were the Brisbane based Southern Cross Soloists – Alan Smith (violin), Tania Fraser (oboe), Meta Weiss (cello), Emma Sholl (flute), Ysolt Clark (horn), Ashley Smith (clarinet) and Alex Raineri (piano).
First was a Mozart Serenade in E flat originally written for doubled wind instruments. Four opening notes, identical to those of the Sinfonia Concertante in the same key, introduce a lively allegro maestoso after which two minuet and trio movements are separated by an introspective adagio. A flighty allegro completes the work which certainly put the audience in a receptive mood.
The only change in two movements from Bruch’s Eight Pieces was that the cello substituted for the viola. Best known as a composer for the violin, Bruch wrote these pieces for his clarinettist son when he was 70. We heard the Rumanian melody, which had echoes of Bartok and the Allegro Agitato, also in a minor key, which featured trills on the clarinet, beautifully handled by Ashley Smith.
Mendelssohn’s Konzertstück in D minor op 114 was written for piano, clarinet and basset horn, a type of large clarinet with greater range. The latter part was taken here by Tania Frazer on oboe. It was written for his friends the Baermanns as a tribute to their skills as dumpling chefs – a type of food that the composer was partial to! A lively presto, in which the two wind instruments combine beautifully is followed by a tuneful andante while a cadenza for the winds ends the final Allegro.
Two more familiar works by Mendelssohn followed after the interval. All too short!
- His incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream shows the composer’s unmatched ability to convey a mood without resorting to onomatopoeia and it is the best known section, the scherzo, played between Acts One and Two, that we heard here played by the whole ensemble. Sprites and fairies abound and it’s even possible to imagine Bottom’s braying. I thought the piano added substance and clarity to this interpretation of the work.
- The Andante and Rondo Capriccioso op 14 is well known as a solo piano work and here was adapted for flute and piano with good effect. A lilting Andante is followed after a rising scale by the well known presto rondo in which the flute and piano intertwined superbly.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A K 488 is one of his most popular and was written late in life showing happiness combined with maturity. Here it was played with Alex Raineri taking the solo piano while the rest of the ensemble provided the accompaniment. A well-constructed Allegro features surprises in changes of mood, though is in classical Sonata form. A doleful adagio, scored in the film Amadeus to accompany Mozart’s funeral is followed by a Scherzo like allegro in which the repeated third theme is reminiscent of a peasant song and winds down to the coda. I have been privileged to hear this work performed on numerous occasions and I can honestly state that I have never enjoyed it more than in this setting. Raineri playing was empathetic and accurate and I felt that the smaller musical group emphasised the piano phrasing and contrasts.
The performance of the Southern Cross Soloists was faithful to the music and excellent throughout. The timing was perfect and the phrasing sensitive. All in all, a superbly constructed programme giving a wonderful evening of entertainment.