Tempestuous Skies (Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra)
Exploring Mozart’s multi-faceted genius takes a lifetime, but this concert conducted by Rachael Beesley and featuring the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra with emerging performers from the Young Mannheim Symphonists gave as fine a glimpse of it as any that the other. Curiously titled stormy skies, a better title would have been The bold, the beautiful and the demonic. The most audacious being the “Jupiter” Symphony, the magnificent Piano Concerto in A and the demonic Don Giovanni Opening. The Serenata Notturna (I never realized the title is actually tautological – by definition a serenade is a work performed or inspired by the night) contains plenty of humor, some subtle, some broad.
The work is scored for strings and timpani with two orchestras and solo quartet, with double bass instead of cello, bringing an almost ironic element to the quartet passages. It alternates between the conscious “splendor and circumstance” of Salzburg’s social A-list and more popular “airs”. The orchestra reached delectable sonorities and behaviors throughout, although I could have done with less physical humor.
The arrival of the concerto brought a ray of benevolence in A major. Neal Peres Da Costa played the pianoforte and the effect (of the G row at least) was a sound somewhere between a piano and a harpsichord. I liked the moderate tempos throughout. The soloist brought out the sensibilities underlying the civilized urban exterior. Exceptionally, the Sicily the slow movement is in F sharp minor, not a popular 18th-century key, especially with Mozart, but here there was a lapping interlude in six-eight beats, which sounded melancholy and tender. The finale radiated a dancing exuberance.
After the intermission, we moved on to drama with the ominous full chords signaling the fate of music’s greatest libertine, Don Giovanni. The orchestra made this overture more like the opening movement of a symphony, or even a symphonic poem before the letter. The chromatic lines and syncopations revealed an immaculate whole, and the elegant transition to brilliant allegro in D major imparted a dangerous, almost somber glamour.
Like so many nicknames, Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony was never known by that nickname during his lifetime, but whoever coined it was certainly “on the money.” His divine presence in all the symphonies of the eighteenth century is such that even the genius of Haydn London The symphonies of the following decade did not eclipse it.
There’s no whiff of goodbye to that: Mozart clearly had no intention of “taking it easy into that good night” anyway. For someone from a generation raised on the Mozart of Klemperer, Böhm and Beecham, the practice of modern performance, now virtually universal, initially presented challenges: the smooth, almost streamlined tempos and emphasis on contrasts dynamic rather than regal splendour, etc. the performance featured visceral excitement – never at the expense of gravity.
From the peremptory opening chords and sweet “reaction” to the final notes, this was a masterful performance. What impressed me most were the interior details, enhanced by the excellent acoustics of the City Recital Hall at Angel Place. In the slow movement, the mood was one of suave serenity and elegant sophistication, and the minuet (by this point the minuets had all but deserted the ballroom) is more athletic than courtly. The finale is universally recognized as the crowning achievement of Mozart’s symphonic glory. At a relatively subdued and convincing tempo, the orchestra picked up the dazzling contrapuntal swirl and bubbling woodwinds was a delight (is it odious to make out the magnificent flute?).
All in all, a wonderful experience!