Tucked away in a tiny space in the opera house, in a corner just beneath one of its plunging sails is an intimate space with a postcard view of the harbour. The Utzon Room. It is a concrete rectangular box with “hear the pin drop” acoustics.
We heard the Australian Haydn Ensemble performing here today- Sunday 20th December, 2015- taking the guise of the Haydn Esterhazy Orchestra as it might have played in the Schloss Esterhazy, Vienna 1761.
The Orchestra performs with a dry, clear sound and the individual instruments seem more clearly articulated than their modern counterparts. This makes for hearing Haydn in a new light with a sound less sumptuous but clearer than what we are used to.
The Ensemble has a virtuosic provenance and its members are drawn from other distinguished orchestras and ensembles around the world. The Co Director and concertmaster, Marc Destraube, has himself played under some of the worlds’ great conductors, no lesser luminaries than Sir Simon Rattle and Christopher Hogwood.
The concert featured some exquisite moments:-
The beginning of Haydn’s Matin (Morning) Symphony where we hear the dawn breaking and the day beginning to unfold…The rain and the storm in the final movement of the Soir Symphony…The dancing interplay between soloists, darting around each other,the orchestral tutti intervening.
The harpsichord in the D Major Concerto was beautifully played by Co- Director Erin Halyard. It did not clatter and rattle but tinkled with crystal clarity as it wove in and out of the Ensemble.
This was a purely Haydn Program. His music is measured, rigorous and intellectual although occasionally there a breaths of humanity. By and large Haydn lived in a certain world driven and governed by strict rules. One’s place in it was clearly and irrevocably defined. Within barely a few years the music world would change dramatically.
Nine years later, in 1770, Beethoven was born and his music heralded a new era. Beethoven’s music pronounced man as an individual sentient being. His compositions would glow with passion and lyricism and joy. All men were brothers, part of God’s Creation and imbued with His Glory. Man had no earthly master; on the contrary he was master of his own destiny.
On the way home I listened to American pianist Murray Perahia playing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, stunned at how different it was to the music I had just heard. Yet another reminder of how quickly the musical landscape can change.
The final concert in the Australian Haydn Ensemble’s current program is tonight- Monday 21 December- at 7pm. Bookings 92507777 or www.sydneyoperahouse.com.