Sydney Arts Guide
10 May 2014
One does not usually think of the mandolin as a classical music concert solo instrument, but this magical concert will change your mind.
Israeli virtuoso Avi Avital takes the mandolin to new heights, playing both established Baroque repertoire and finding new material, some of which he has arranged himself for mandolin, all skilfully chosen to showcase the unique voice of this particular instrument. Here on his first visit to Australia, Avital has been universally acclaimed for his performances and recordings, both for his technical prowess and his passion and sensitivity with the instrument.
The concert, part of the Brandenburg’s 25th anniversary subscription program, in the first half established Baroque origins with a range of work from one of Vivaldi’s delightful lute concertos to a couple of pieces by Bach: a violin concerto, and one of his flute sonatas.
In the second half, Avital led us past Baroque with an exploration of the 20th century with music by Bartók and De Falla, where ‘classical’ blurs with ‘folk’ music. Avital has an aura of profound musicality and was easily able to enthral his audience in the Baroque repertoire of the first half, through his palpable enjoyment in the speedy sections and an inspiring emotional intensity in the beautifully phrased slower movements.
Avital’s playing was delicate yet fiery, crisply precise yet simultaneously heavily charged with emotion. Paul Dyer, conducting from the keyboard and a somewhat pared down Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO), accompanied with delicate sensitivity and an evident pleasure in watching Avital as soloist work his magic.
Violinists Matt Bruce, Ben Dollman,
Catherine Shugg and Eric Chen were sensational in Vivaldi’s concerto for four violins, featuring some lush, delicate playing with the cello having some ominous undertones at times contrasted with the scurrying violins.
Avital looking handsome in a black velvet suit and shiny black shoes joined Dyer, cellist Jamie Hey and Tommy Anderssen on theorbo for a bouncy, flowing yet brisk arrangement of Bach’s flute sonata in E minor. The middle second movement was slower, lyrical and exquisite. Avital on mandolin placed a perfectly timed almost singing parallel to Dyer on his harpsichord, whilst Jamie Hay and Tommie Andersson accompanied on baroque cello and therobo. The Pachelbel canon was given a robust, flowing rendition.
In Avital’s arrangements of Manuel de Falla’s ‘Danse Espagnole
‘ and Bela Bartok’s ‘Romanian Folk Dances’ as heard in the second half , we gain some idea of the breadth of his musical passion and vision , full of passion and ‘gypsy fire ‘. Powerful and hypnotic, Avital’s extraordinary control over his unassuming instrument ,displaying blistering , faultless fingering and smooth tremolo with the plectrum leaves no one in doubt that he is a major talent.
There were two encores, one a Bulgarian dance with a very fast quirky rhythm, Avital playing blisteringly fast, and a repeat of one of the Bartok pieces. The audience was hollering for more and would not let the performers leave. There was huge queue and Avital was mobbed with people buying his CDs after the performance .
The running time of the concert was 2 hours (approx) including one interval. The pieces performed in the program were:- Vivaldi Concerto for 4 violins in B Minor op 3/10 RV 580, Vivaldi Concerto i D Major RV 93, Pachelbel Canon, JS Bach Concerto in A Minor BWV 1041, JS Bach Sonata in E minor BWV 1034, Albinoni Sonata no2 a cinque Op 2no3 in C Major, Falla Danse espagnole, Bartok Romanian Folk Dances
Avi Avital with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra is in concert at the City Recital Hall Angel Place on various dates between the 7and the 16 May.