Sydney Mozart Society’s concert in Chatswood by the Sydney Soloists, who recently morphed from the Verbrugghen Ensemble, come with great pedigree. All members of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, although Robert Johnson has recently announced his retirement.
A Divertimento in E flat for horn, violin and cello by Haydn was the first offering. An early piece which is one of many written for his sponsor, Prince Esterhazy. It is not known for which horn player it was written for, but it might have been written for Robert Johnson, as the horn part predominates throughout and features arpeggios and passages which demonstrates his virtuosity. The first movement is in the form of a theme and variations with a gradual increase in tempo while the finale is fast throughout and although the horn is more restrained, it has a cadenza before the finish. Andrew Haveron (violin) and Umberto Clerici (cello) provided a faultless accompaniment, maintaining the rhythms of the piece beautifully.
Mozart’s Clarinet Quartet is certainly less known than his quintet and is, in fact, an arrangement of his Sonata for violin and piano K 380. Published eight years after Mozart’s death, the author of this adaptation is unknown but it certainly wasn’t Wolfgang as he wouldn’t have placed such an emphasis on the clarinet, with the string players having a largely accompanying role. Despite this, the work is appealing and provided a foil for brilliant playing by Francesco Celata who revelled in his prominent role. The allegro first movement featured trills and recitative passages on the clarinet while the Andante has a simple melodic line which was developed by the clarinet and the violin and became more dramatic. The Rondo finale is as jaunty as it is brief, ending triumphantly and, for the clarinet, breathlessly.
Beethoven’s Septet in E flat was a “big hit” following its premiere in 1800 with it’s six movement structure and intricate instrumentation. Typically, Beethoven eschewed popularity and the work was not among his favourites. It remains popular to this day and rightly so. The first movement has a slow introduction followed by a familiar energetic theme developed in Sonata form. Next comes an Adagio featuring long interludes between the Violin and Clarinet. The theme from the Minuet is also used in one of his Sonatas. While the Trio is particularly captivating with a dancing like figure and interaction between the horn and clarinet. The fourth movement is perhaps the most familiar, consisting as it does of variations featuring solo passages by each instrument in turn reminiscent of jazz format.
Roger Benedict (viola) and Kees Boersma (double bass) at last came into their own while I was particularly impressed by Todd Gibson-Cornish, the youngest member of the group, on the bassoon. A Scherzo and Trio follow with a descending passage on the horn introducing the main theme and the cello prominent in the Trio. Like the first, the last movement has a slow introduction followed by a vigorous Rondo including a violin cadenza. Altogether a beautifully crafted piece of music to conclude an excellent program with a fine balance of familiar and not so familiar music performed by musicians of the highest quality.