All posts by Michael Bures

Michael Bures is an architect of many years standing . He has a deep love for classical music and loves to share this with his readers.

AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE : BEETHOVEN’S EMPEROR

Performance 1

Overture to the Magic Flute (E flat Major)

In  this very fine arrangement we were rewarded with Mozart at his mature, very best. The Opera could have been his last work and in this condensation into a short overture is sensational. As always Mozart’s sensitivity with the use of melody which he considered the essence of music was palpable throughout the performance as was the warmth, tenderness and deep emotion. Being a Viennese classicist firmly between Haydn and Beethoven the work showed Mozart’s fertile imagination and ample power where appropriate.

The Ensemble exhibited lightness and delicacy from the slow, mysterious introduction, through a variety of delightful melodies, all so direct and clear in that small  hard space, was  thoroughly enjoyable experience, a rare treat for the Sydney audience.

Performance 2

Piano Concerto No 5, ‘The Emperor’ (E flat Major)

Well named (for other reasons), this work is The Emperor of piano concerto for all time.

A breathtaking performance of power, melody and relentless energy, yet very soft and playful, teasing the mind and senses with repeated delicious skin sensations. Famous Conductors and Orchestras have given us a variety of good versions of this majestic work but never before was it arranged as it was for this performance in the Utzon Room.

In this room with it’s hard surfaces, softened acoustically only by the audience, the arrangement and the energetic performance by the musicians was simply stunning ! I am not about to duplicate some of the in depth volumes written by others, nor can I add much assessing the work, but with the use of a beautiful ‘in period piano’ all participating members the ensemble deserve much credit for the execution of this work with so much energy and sensitivity and unquestionable skill.

A slight negative in this small space – at times, the dominance of the piano, although well interwoven with the strings and flute seemed excessive. The impression was that the strings, and in particular the double bass has to work hard and did to maintain a balance. But that’s only a personal observation.

The other observation at the time was that as the Beethoven Concerto No 5 being so dominant during this presentation, in this place, the Utzon Room, exhausted and satisfied on its conclusion it seemed and felt as the finale to the event, and was time to go home. Many may not share this view, although some of the musicians did and think that the program sequence as listed would have been better and made Mozart’s ‘Prague’  more relevant and enjoyable.

Performance 3

Symphony No 38 ‘Prague’ in D Major

We all know Mozart was a gifted child and in adulthood a musical genius.

Symphony No 38 in part of Mozarts famous Trilogy of 1788 and was written at a time of his most productive period. It is long, gentle, yet provides us with a powerful expression of conscious happiness which at other times has eluded him. This work with its emphasis on expression may be due to Mozart’s break with music solely for entertainment and a break with convention to express more of his personality and mature creativity for its own sake, and stretching it to the limit.

Again, a very fine arrangement and excellent execution by the ensemble members with a fine balance of interplay throughout the performance.

An interesting work requiring more than usual concentration for full appreciation.

Recommendation; Revisiting this work again for sheer listening pleasure – without a competing Beethoven masterpiece.

Michael Bures ASTC RAIA

 

OMEGA ENSEMBLE @ THE UTZON ROOM, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Concert Program

Neilsen : Wind Quintet, Op 43

Hindemith  Kleine Kammermusik for Wind Quintet, Op. 24, No. 2

Françaix Quartet for Winds

Beethoven Quintet in E flat major for Piano and Winds, Op. 16

Neilsen : Wind Quintet, Op.43
Impressions of this long and interesting work varied, like the performance itself, crisp with good harmonic density allowing the musicians to flourish with much individual expression and solo performance. Repeatedly the variation in mood evoked visual pictures of the natural albeit at times dense environment which challenged and contrasted with the reality of observing a pleasure craft sailing past the panoramic window of the room. Utzon would have been pleased!
Kleine Kammermusic for WIND quintet. Paul Hindermith Opus 24 1922

Something different, unexpected, well named and very playful indeed which contrasted with the mid afternoon haze and softness of the harbour view. This was a new experience for the audience and me, hearing it for the first time.

This piece was a forceful statement from the beginning, allowing full testing of virtuosity, personal expression and enjoyment by the musicians which frequently became clearly visible to all to enjoy. So we too enjoyed, absorbed the mood of the performers and interpreted  the work and journey accordingly.

My preference for experiencing this work more than once with its  constant  but very interesting interplay of the dissonant and deliciously warm melody variations would be in a dark room allowing a swirl of images to form and assault our imagination beyond one’s usual expectations.

The power, emotion and momentum produced at times seemed more than what could be expect from a quintet, and with the easily perceptible Stravinsky like harmonic and rhythmic punctuations made it exciting listening, some of which felt reminiscent of Petrushka.

Consequently, the frequent confrontation within the work with so much sudden dissonance  may be disturbing to some and invigorating to others, like life itself, unpredictable, but this work one can enjoy more than once.  

Quartet for Winds, Jean Francaix 1933

No horn! No wild images to blow your mind, just light, enthusiastic, joyful sound with traces of lively exuberance. Genius it seems manifests in infinite ways contriving some very complex multi instrument compositions like Wagner has and at the other end of the scale we, today experienced the opposite in a quartet with verve sparkle and wit with such ease.

Although composed recently. mid last century, the work defies the trend towards atonal and dissonant compositions allowing the simple combination of sound to be easily digested and identifying a clear positive statement with just four wind instruments, one could call elation without the extreme.

Such is genius, often overlooked, but here within the bare bones of the Utzon room Francaix’s work was a sheer delight,  made possible on this occasion only by the talent and sensitivity  of the four really fine artists involved.

Quintet in E-flat major for Piano and Winds. Op. 16, 1796. Ludwig Van Beethoven

Suddenly, like warm air flooding a cold room, from the very first phrase, that familiar Beethoven sound embraced the space filled predominantly with a white haired audience. Immediately, the reaction was palpable. Is this because since his death we made him so popular and as such his works are familiar or is there an enduring special quality about the way he tells the story – unlike any other composer?

In this early work, like in many of his later compositions, Beethoven touches the nerve quickly and directly – no ambiguous wavering and innuendo for him, boldly, with the minimum foreplay he is into one’s head in the simplest, most economic way creating themes and enormous variety emotions, frequently at an amazing rate. And it hangs together amazingly well producing delight which I called the ‘Beethoven sound’, already there, untapped at 27, that everybody now recognises.

This work, probably re-written for our benefit seems in parts as intended to enhance the role of the piano and as such have the wind quartet provide spatial continuity and a background.

Whatever the original intention for the Viennese audience, this performance in Sydney required extreme skill to provide a performance of considerable virtuosity and Omega’s lovely pianist Maria Raspopova did deliver and so did the 4 members of the wind group, splendidly.  

Repeat listening is recommended for deeper understanding of the work and its possible relationship to the later, more mature and intricate piano trio, also in E-flat major created 12 years later on with Beethoven’s return to composing chamber music.

Review by Michael Bures ASTC RAIA