Date September 5, 2014 Peter McCallum
Reviewer rating: Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra City Recital Hall, September 3
Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299, so appealing in prospect for its promise of pristine sounds, sometimes disappoints in reality because of the difficulty of combining such fragile tones using modern instruments. Hearing the delicate interweaving of the replica 18th century harp, stylishly played by Marshall McGuire and the demure unassertive playing of Melissa Farrow on the classical flute, however, demonstrated the logic of Mozart’s textures.
Though soft, the instruments assert their own identity but through distinctiveness rather than projection. They share almost inaudible upper harmonics that endow the timbre with delicate sweetness, and both excel in music that calls for gracious shape rather than forceful accent. The first movement was initially unsettled in tempo but after the entry of both soloists the phrases found their natural gait. There was plenty of accent in the curtain-raiser, the overture which the 14-year-old Mozart precociously wrote for his opera Lucio Silla, with string playing of agile briskness led by Madeleine Easton and Paul Dyer seated at the fortepiano.
After interval, Dyer forsook the keyboard for the podium resulting in a performance of Mozart’s final symphony, the ‘Jupiter’, K. 551, that was somewhat overconducted, and in which unnecessary emphasis and punctuation interfered with the opening out of the music’s grand spans and noble architecture. In the first movement, the musical gestures came across as emphatic and somewhat obvious. It would be an interesting experiment to hear the orchestra play the work led from the keyboard, a performance mode used in Mozart’s day and one which tends to encourage closer listening and more intimate musical exchange.
The second movement was smoother and it would be rewarding to hear the balance of muted strings and wind on replica instruments with the intonation ironed out. In the third movement, Dyer and the orchestra puzzlingly placed accents at the start of every second bar (not indicated by the composer) which made the music romp somewhat like a waltz.
The orchestra should persevere with this great masterpiece to perfect the shape of phrases and rethink points of structural emphasis.