Above : Period flautist Melissa Farrow. Featured image : Some of the AHE members for the 2018 season.

Australian Haydn Ensemble commenced its 2018 concert season by doing what it does best-giving its audience an intense snapshot of musical history in a varied programme. A quality arrangement of
a well known orchestral work for chamber music performance was also included. The works presented, all by Haydn, dated from consecutive years 1793, 1794 and 1795 and gave a fine
illustration of the composer building his reputation during working visits to London after 1791.

Such enlightenment for those assembled in the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room was interestingly spread across the contrasted genres of flute trio, string quartet and symphony in chamber music
arrangement. This programming allowed for a flexible and shifting instrumental line up.

The programme  combined the talents of early music performers Skye McIntosh (violin and Artistic Director), Simone Slattery (violin), James Eccles (viola), Anton Baba (cello), Melissa Farrow (flute) and Nathan Cox

Franz Joseph Haydn’s marketable versatility and unique style of musical gesturing was attractively displayed through the performance of all three works on the programme. The drama, delicacy and driving excitement of Haydn’s Symphony No 104 in D major ‘London’ (1793) was a powerhouse manipulation of a familiar favourite and its interpretation was a standout moment in the evening’s programme.

Not only did it emphasise the solo and ensemble skill of AHE’s players, but concert programmer Johann Salomon’s adept arrangement for chamber music forces was showcased. Whether during the emphatic declamations of the opening movement or the spirited folk song tune setting of the finale, this version was played with a clarity and blend which both celebrated the intimacy of small
ensemble performance and maintained the grandeur and excitement of the symphony written for larger forces.

The concert programme also began with a work nicknamed ‘London’, namely the sunny Trio in G major Hob IV:3 (1794). Originally scored for two flutes with cello, Skye McIntosh and Melissa Farrow
demonstrated how well a version substituting violin for one of the flutes works too. Anton Baba’s rich and secure cello part was fine grounding for the nicely wrought lines in the higher instruments.
This was a very suitable start to the concert and an introduction to Haydn’s eloquent chamber music language.

To end the first half of the concert, another nicknamed work took us to the genre of the string quartet, in which Haydn was a consummate and prolific master. String Quartet Op 74 No 3 in G
minor Hob.III:74 ‘The Rider’ was written between Haydn’s two visits to London. AHE’s performance ably illustrated the bold ingenuity of the composer’s maturing string quartet style, here in its
original form and sans substitution or arrangement.

This work is a chameleon-like treat, with great richness and a variety of utterances from all four instruments. This interpretation of ‘The Rider’ which was thrilling, carefully balanced and as arrestingly effective in this century as it must have been two and a quarter centuries ago in pursuit of Haydn’s new London fan base.

The performers led us towards interval at this subscription concert with a highly contrasted rendition of this work. From the forthright shifts of the first movement through the atmosphere of
the Largo assai, then to the clean structural delivery of the Menuetto and Trio and signature gallop of the finale, the music was recreated joyously and dramatically for us.

This was a well-supported mid week concert to start AHE’s Sydney season for 2018. Its location-specific study of Haydn’s chamber music repertoire and period concert practice was consistent with AHE’s typically successful style of musicological treat.

Future concerts in store for us this season from the Australian Haydn Ensemble [Facebook]  have a wide range of content. They feature guitar music, Schubert Lieder, symphonies by Beethoven and Haydn, a Mozart piano concerto and perhaps Haydn’s most famous nicknamed work, the ‘Farewell’ Symphony.