I missed last week due to thesis pressure and the joys of arthritis. Both of these can make a man feel mighty low down. And since I’m still deep in the joys of NZ radio from 1900 until the mid 1920s, I have only the following to offer. These are the notes I made of a conert I went to last night and will be reviewing on Upbeat today at about 1ish. Oh, and I have a Composer of the Week happening on Conert at 9am Sunday and repeated at 7pm Monday. All about Girolamo Frescobaldi (Thanks Matthew – sow’s ears and silk purses etc). So I have been writing some stuff, just not enough of the thesis. Moan groan, chiz chiz.
Auckland Town Hall, 8pm, 14 may 2009
APO cond. Roy Goodman
Dimitri Atanassov – violin
Robert Ashworth – viola
Mozart – Symphony no. 1 in Eb K.16
Mozart – Sinfonia Concertante in Eb K.364
Haydn – Windsor Castle Overture (also in Eb)
Haydn – Symphony no. 99 in Eb
Encore: Mashup of overture to “Nozze di Figaro” and “If you knew Susie”. Probably in Eb too.
This was an evening in the key of Eb although there was little flat about the music other than the Concertante. Eb is a key that has been associated with heroic, majestic and serious music and there was a certain amount of that but also a lot of laughs. Hardly surprising with two pieces by Haydn on the programme and Roy Goodman conducting. He likes his little jokes.
The Symphony 1 (K.16) by Mozart got the evening off to a good start. A charming enough piece although it sounds like a scrapbook of the bits and pieces Mozart had heard in his travels. So we get Mannheim effects (crescendo passages) and overall it has C.P.E. Bach’s fingerprints all over it. Mozart was 8 when he composed it and I would assume Leopold had a lot to do with it – he was after all the showbiz parent from Hell and always looing for ways to show off Wolfgang. No better way than a symphony by the little wunderkind. A reduced band for this piece and the next – 2 French horns, 2 oboes, 2 double basses and quite small string sections. Without getting everyone on period instruments, this is always a good way to get near some kind of Historically Informed Practice (HIP) as they say in early Music circles. All sounding very good too – lots of interesting dynamics and well controlled by Goodman. He did his usual amusing introduction to the evening. I like to see a conductor who engages with both the band and the audience and Goodman is a past master of this. Very engaging guy who radiates enthusiasm for the music. As I listened to this I thought it would have been good to have a harpsichord in there somewhere but maybe that’s because I was hearing C.P.E. Bach echoing in my head.
The Concertante (K.364) is a kind of double concerto written 15 years after the 1st symphony. Atanassov and Ashworth were the soloists. It’s really great music – Mozart was setting out to show Salzburg what he could do with this piece so it’s full of exciting things including some great viola writing. Lyrical passages in the cadenzas and exciting passages all through it. The slow movement is particularly lovely. But this didn’t really come off last night. The soloists (esp. Ashworth) didn’t seem to be on top of the music and there were quite a few unpleasant passages. I was disappointed with the soloists performance to be honest. Not a lot of variation and a certain amount of uncertainty at some points. Dare I say it sounded like they hadn’t rehearsed it enough? A shame as it is a great piece. Some of it worked really well but overall I wasn’t too taken by this performance.
Back after the interval and into the Haydn section of the concert. The orchestra was expanded for this part of the evening and they made a pretty convincing sound. By that I mean that they sounded like people playing like an 18th century orchestra despite the modern instruments etc. Goodman knows this music backwards and how to get “modern’ bands playing in something that may be near to the style of the time. Ha, I’m also a big fan of Haydn so I was very pleased to hear these pieces in the 2nd half. Which reminds me, it’s the 200th anniversary of his death and we aren’t hearing that much of his music. This is a shame. We’re getting lots of the somewhat tedious Mendelssohn (200th birthday this year) but not enough Haydn. Ha, I guess this reflects the dominance of 19th century music in our concert halls and general conception of what “classical music” is. So it was great to have a concert that didn’t involve any 19th century composers. But I digress …
The opening overture (Windsor Castle Overture) was really good. Very dramatic and showy. The band sounding really good on this. Goodman all over them as well and obviously enjoying himself. Did I mention he did a little talk at the start of this half that proved that this overture had been played in London in 1791? Oh well, he does like to interact and he does it well) An excellent opening for the symphony to follow.
And what followed was the 99th symphony by Haydn. And what a great piece it is. Full of Haydn’s typical humour and irony. Lots of dynamic contrasts. Very springy rhythms (Springy? Hmm, for want of a better word) Really nice woodwind playing going on throughout this piece. The APO did a really nice job of this I thought. And once again our man Roy was looking after every second of it. He’s not one of those people who stands out the front and just waves a baton. Well, he doesn’t use a baton anyway, but he’s always engaged (I keep using that word) with the orchestra at every minute of the music. The enthusiasm works for both the band and the audience I think.
Lovely false ending near the close of the 4th movement that made a couple of people clap and Goodman half turned to the crowd while conducting and smiled impishly with a “Gotcha” look on his face. Nice. While I think of it, that 4th movement is like a crazed Opera Buffa full of alarums and excursions. You could just imagine cross dressed characters tumbling in and out of doors and bed chambers in some ‘servant bettering the master’ set up and all with a typically Haydnesque happy ending.
So that was all good. And then the encore. This was amusing. Goodman set it up by explaining how a musicologist friend of his from Cambridge had recently unearthed the original version of Mozart’s’ overture to “Nozze di Figaro” and we were lucky enough to be hearing its premier and he mentioned an alternative title that translated as “If you knew Susanna”. So it starts as per the overture and then turns into a mashup of “If you knew Susie” and the “Nozze di Figaro” Overture. Ha ha. Sounds weak on paper but worked very well live as bits of the overture kept poking through and the scoring was Mozartian. I’m not sure who wrote it. It made a very effective encore.
There was a pretty light show happening on the Town Hall exterior courtesy of Telecom as they launch their XT network. Quite effective and it was drawing the crowds. The rocket launch was very good indeed.
And it’s Friday, I like cats and I can’t help but think the 4th movement of Haydn’s 99th would make quite a good soundtrack to this little gem. Hmmm, it seems the owners of it have disabled embedding so I can only give you this link.