guest soloist Lixsania Fernandez

This was a glorious concert in which the ABO under the enthusiastic, energetic and precise direction of Paul Dyer glowed and were in tremendous form.

The concert was terrifically staged with most effective lighting , opening with guest star Lixsania Fernandez appearing solo in the spotlight then as the music required quietly joined by the various members of the ABO who had been waiting behind red lit screens. Tall , charismatic and model thin, striking, rather feline Fernandez hails from Cuba with reddish/purple hair . She wore several different elegant outfits during the concert. There was obviously profound rapport between Fernandez and the ABO and great enjoyment .

First we heard Folia Pasticcio by Corelli, Scarlatti and Marais which sounded as fresh as if it had been written yesterday. The music eddied and swirled .Fernandez on her viola da Gamba had a luminous , passionate solo and at one point Dyer on harpsichord had a rippling, delicate solo.

The ‘labyrinth’ of the title was the fiendishly difficult Pietro Locatelli’s 12th Violin Concerto in 3 movements from his Opus 3 set: Il Laberinto Armonico or The Harmonic Labyrinth. The composer described it on the score as “easy to get into, difficult to get out of” and Brandenburg’s Concertmaster Shaun Lee-Chen dazzled, channelling his inner Paganini and giving an astonishing bravura performance in the almost impossibly demanding Capriccios.

The opening movement began with bright and sunny violins. Lee -Chen’s solo shimmered and pulsated breathlessly, showing cultivated double -stopping as he risked the required break neck speed and dealt with the tricky arpeggios.

The second movement was more sombre, flowing and lyrical but this also included very fast sections with use of pizzicato for the rest of the strings while Lee Chen dazzled with his virtuosity.

There were emphatic rhythms and use of ritornello in the melodies throughout.

To take us to interval we then heard Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 violins & viola da gamba, RV 578 .Lee -Chen was joined by Associate Concertmaster Matt Bruce and Fernandez. It had a rather spiky, ominous opening with scurries and flourishes on the violins. The second movement was more stately and refined with a forceful beat while the third movement was more vibrant, breathless and whirling with its circular melody. There was a dialogue between the two violins and Fernandez which was taken up and commented on by the Orchestra leading to the vigorous conclusion.

Returning for the second half of the concert we first heard Graun’s Concerto for Viola da Gamba in G Major featuring Fernandez. This is the Australian premiere of this work written in the early 18th century by a musician in the court of Frederick the Great. The first movement began brightly and briskly and was a sunny conversation between Fernandez and the Orchestra beautifully modulated and balanced. The second movement began with a melancholy lament then picked up in pulsating tempo. Fernandez’s solo for the cadenza was captivating and exquisite, heartfelt and flowing. The third movement had a vibrant opening and was mostly joyous and bubbling.

Next we heard Vivaldi’s‘s pensive Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro, RV 169 in a powerful , rather sombre performance.

Dramatically spotlit improvisations by Bruce and violinist Ben Dollman segued to contemporary composer Renato Antonio Duchiffre’s Tempo di Tango movement from his Concerto for Two Violas da Gamba, for which Fernandez was joined by the Brandenburg’s Anthea Cottee. The tango was dynamic, an animated circular discussion with the Orchestra with a swirling, swooping finish.

The encore was a powerful haunting Cuban lullaby sung by Fernandez to the plucking of her upright viola de gamba set on a chair and gracefully accompanied by Cottee.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra performs Lixsania and the Labyrinth at Sydney’s City Recital Hall 31 October – November 9 2018 and Melbourne Recital Centre November 10 – 11

Running time – roughly 2 hours 20 minutes including interval
LOCATELLI Violin Concerto in D ‘Il laberinto armonico’, Op. 3 No. 12
VIVALDI Concerto for 2 violins & viola da gamba, RV 578
GRAUN Concerto for Viola da Gamba in G Major
VIVALDI Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro, RV 169
DUCHIFFRE Tango from Concerto for 2 Violas da Gamba

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