“A wonderful journey into musical France in the late 18th Century”
A delightful concert was performed by the Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) titled ‘FRENCH TWIST’ on the 4th June 2019 at the intimate Utzon Room at Sydney’s Opera House. This was the second concert in AHE’s 2019 season and the program included works by Mozart and Haydn which were primarily written for a French audience in the latter part of the18th century as well as two quartets by lesser known French classical composers, Hacinthe Jadin and Francois Devienne.
The program began with Mozart’s ‘Flute Quartet in A major K298’ which was the last of Mozart’s four flute quartets, written later for a group of his friends. It is light and airy with vivid contrasts beautifully played by flautist Melissa Farrow (on loan from the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra where she is principal flautist). Lovely balance between the flute and strings and nice transition of the main variations on a theme by Hoffmeister between Viola, Flute and accompanying strings. The ‘Menuetto’ was well paced whilst all players handled the varying tempo markings in the final movement which Mozart wrote to amuse, allowing each player greater contrasted musical expression.
The second work was Jadin’s ‘String Quartet in C major Op. 3 No. 1’, a style of quartet heavily influenced by Hayden who he idealised.
Next followed Rameau ‘Cinquieme Concert from Pieces de clavecin en concerts in D minor arr. Anon’ and Devienne’s ‘Flute quartet in B minor Op. 16 No. 3’. The latter piece opened with dark melancholy delivered by the otherworldly tones of Melissa’s baroque flute playing. The melodies in this piece sang of heart broken aria, sadness and anger highlighted by challenging flute passages supported well by strings.
The second half of the program followed with Haydn’s ‘Symphony No. 87 in A major arr. Lim’. This symphony is the last of the 6 Paris symphonies composed by Hayden and commissioned by Count D’Ogney in 1785. At that time this Symphony was played by a very large orchestra and AHE’s piece was arranged by Vi-King Lim for a flute quintet in the style of 18th century arrangements.
Haydn’s ‘Symphony No. 87’ opened with a breezy animated ‘Vivace’ first movement and greater musical expression from all players than in the first half of the program. Its themes transform from the more assertive to the lyrical. The strings open the second movement ‘Adagio’ with a glorious pianissimo , a much slower movement then onto a brighter opening in the third movement ‘Menuet e trio’ which resumes the mood of the first movement more brightly. The fourth movement finale ‘Vivace’ is very upbeat and ends the symphony as it began in A major. The AHE did extremely well in building tension and excitement with prominent violins carrying the main melody.
Overall the AHE were in excellent form for this concert and all players delivered a wonderful symphonic performance with only 5 players.