Above: Dr Erin Helyard conducted from the harpsichord and was soloist in C.P.E Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in C major. Featured image: Skye MacIntosh, Artistic Director of Australian Haydn Ensemble.
This final concert from Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) in its 2017 season was a dramatic delight featuring fine works from the later eighteenth century orchestral repertoire.
Anthony Albrecht’s quality programme notes featured a quote from Haydn about his creative seclusion in the Esterhazy court where he ‘had to become original’.
All works from the composers in this programme were meaty examples of how musical masters pioneered the conveying of mood and feeling in musical environments. The relevant affectations shone in the hands of AHE in its full orchestral mode. Especially enjoyable were two works in the programme’s centre from the individual, radical and emotionally outspoken C.P.E Bach.
It is a welcome chance when we can hear C.P.E Bach live. It can feel like regular programmes are wanting for not including his colourful and moving outlook. In 2017’s final AHE concert we were treated to an orchestral work and keyboard concerto by this Bach, with early music exponent Dr Erin Helyard conducting from the harpsichord and dazzling us as a concerto soloist also.
Just before interval, Helyard and AHE presented C.P.E Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in C major Wq.20. The refinement and emotional honesty of this composer’s language was expertly captured as the music moved between soloist and orchestra. Helyard in particular offered great contrasts and satisfied the composer’s emotional agenda with an impressive display of the harpsichord’s potential.
The above was demonstrated during intimate solo moments, especially in the opening movement, and also via seemingly effortless passages of ornamentation and bravura scalic movement which rose over the solid orchestral support later in the work.
Following interval, AHE alone continued its presentation of the famous child Bach with the Sinfonia Wq 179 in E flat major. The audience were given insight in programme notes into an eighteenth century concert approach. A quote from C.P.E Bach advised that the performer ‘must feel all emotions that he hopes to arouse in his audience’.
This was successfully achieved in a dynamic and crisp performance by AHE and Erin Helyard. The well-managed orchestral effects and juxtaposition of expressive gesture in the outer movements contrasted keenly with the plaintive nature of the slow movement.
Precision and clarity were present in Mozart’s Symphony No.29 in A K.201 which began the concert. The familiar opening to this work featured a tempo choice enabling elegance, eloquence and excellent momentum. It was a good sign of the delights to come in the remainder of the evening.
The teenage Mozart here, in control of manipulating symphonic structure of the time, provided performers with a great arsenal of dramatic device and a unique, sensitive rendering of instrumental possibilities in his art form. This orchestra transferred such gifts to us in neat, clean, broad strokes of nuance and articulation.
To conclude the programme, Australian Haydn Ensemble mirrored the genius of Mozart with the uniqueness and innovative craft of their signature composer, Haydn. In this way, Haydn’s Symphony No 52 in C minor, midway in his innovative output, completed the evening of progressive structure and bold expression with a firm salute to the ‘storm and stress’ concerns of the time.
Once again, Dr Erin Helyard and Artistic Director Skye MacIntosh worked well together to skilfully harness the talents of this popular ensemble. Emotional turmoil, serenity and dance movements with a heavier sturm und drang difference were all to be savoured before the evening concluded with this work’s stunning Presto.
The concert was well received and ended 2017 in style. AHE’s 2018 season promises more landmark symphonies, intimate chamber music and collaboration with vocalists on much-loved repertoire. It will be a worthwhile addition to anyone’s concert calendar.
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