BY BEN NIELSEN
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra featuring Avi Avital
Works by Vivaldi, Bach, Pachelbel, Albinoni, with arrangements of Falla and Bartok by Avital.
City Recital Hall, Angel Place, May 7 2014
Avi Avital is like a rock god of classical music.
He saunters upon the City Recital Hall stage, velvet jacket shimmering in the spotlight, and sits at the podium to play. It’s a slightly bizarre scene: a grown man with this petite mandolin nestled between thigh and elbow.
His head lolls to the pulsing rhythm, the mane of jet-black hair rippling and flopping. Avital is immersed in the program, which features some of the most iconic early music composers. For this night only, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra exists as the guitar, bass and drums behind its front man.
Avital engages the audience like the Mick Jaggers or the Jimi Hendrixes of the world, but his is a far more delicate musical proposition. Soothing, entrancing, transcendental.
For much of the time, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra gleams quietly from the background. But, in small isolated moments, the orchestra steals the limelight. Vivaldi’sConcerto for 4 Violins in B minor Op.3/10, RV 580 may not have the most extroverted opening, but it is technically demanding and executed with finesse. There is something beautiful about
an ensemble moving, breathing and playing as one. Pachelbel’s Canon becomes a rocket, but the surprising pace helps make a hackneyed work more bearable. Sonata 2 a cinque Op.2, No.3 in C major by Albinoni washes across the audience, light and ethereal.
While it is usually scorned upon, some audience members cannot resist the urge to applaud between movements. Really, though, what does it matter? The entire audience is clearly enjoying themselves and, without fail, a collective murmur of agreement simmers after each piece.
At the conclusion of the performance, the audience’s roar rushes to the ceiling of the Recital Hall like lava in a volcano. Avital is brought to the stage for one encore, and then a second. Those audience members who rudely bustle from the auditorium to catch taxis and trains miss his last generous musical offerings.
These final works, paying homage to the mandolin’s folk roots, receive the biggest response. Most of the audience sit enthralled, wondering why they have never heard or seen a mandolin performed live. Why is it that the instrument has largely disappeared from our concert halls? Perhaps with Avi Avital’s popularity, this question will no longer apply.
For further concert dates go to http://archive.brandenburg.com.au/2014/portfolio/avi-avital-mandolin/