Paul Dyer and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra are nearing the end of their silver anniversary season and they kept their most interesting concert of the year — a musical journey from France to Turkey — for the finishing straight.
It was a delight for the eyes and ears and started with a tattoo on a side drum opening Lully’s Marche pour la ceremonie des Turcs and ended two hours later with a spellbinding display by whirling dervishes and Sufi musicians.
The first half traced the Ottoman Empire’s influence on European music in the 17th and 18th centuries. The main impact was from the enormous janissary bands who accompanied the Turks into battle and to whom we owe the introduction of triangles and kettle drums to our orchestras.
All things Turkish became the rage in the time of Mozart, hence his rondo alla turca which is about as Turkish as Viennese schnitzel, but the influence was there even earlier as Dyer and his band demonstrated.
For the Lully piece piccolos and drum gave us a whiff of Constantinople and Dyer asked young Sydney composer Alicia Chance to re-score Marin Marais’ Sonnerie, with its sound of Parisian church bells, for strings flutes and oboe.
Georg Philipp Telemann relied on the rhythm of the bass and some unconventional harmonies to convey the Levant in his suite Les Nations, and there was little or no Turkish element in the other two first half pieces. Allegri’s Miserere needs no excuse to be included in any concert and the Brandy choristers with soprano Lauren Stephenson handling the famous high Cs well.
Boccherini’s Fandango from the Quintet for guitar and had more to do with the Moors than the Ottomans but it was a chance to showcase the talents of the ABO’s resident lutenist/guitarist Tommie Andersson. However some skilfully wielded castanets and passionate flamenco dancing from Yioda Wilson only served to emphasise the Italian-born composer’s anaemic attempts at the Hispanic genre.
After interval we left western Europe for the east and the traditional dance hasapiko, which was invented by the Greek butchers’ guild in Constantinople and featured famously in movie Zorba the Greek.
Six dancers, the men all in dark shirts and trousers with red sashes and those Greek sailor hats beloved by John Lennon and Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s, displayed some intricate footwork, all perfectly in sequence, with plenty of shoe slapping.
This led smoothly into the final section, the Sufi music and dervishes of the Mevlevi order that was established in Konya in the 13th century.
Five musicians, playing traditional flutes, drums and string instruments, perched in the gallery above the stage while the bearded and distinguished sheik took centre stage surrounded by four semazan revolving hypnotically in their distinctive felt hats and white skirt-like robes.
Narrator and travel guide, musicologist Alan Maddox, seated in a faux Louis Quinze chair surrounded by suitcases, smoothed over the scene changes throughout the program with some readings of contemporary accounts.
The audience was asked to hold its applause at the end of the evening while the dervishes quietly left the stage.
The concert is repeated at City Recital Hall Angel Place at 7pm on Friday, October 24; Saturday, October 25; Wednesday, October 29, and Friday, October 31, and at 2pm on Saturday, October 25.
The ABO will finish the year as always with their popular Noel! Noel! Christmas extravaganza.