AFTER capturing Constantinople in 1453, the presence of the Ottoman Empire loomed large over Europe for more than 450 years. Following their defeat outside Vienna in 1683, the Ottoman Empire’s military threat receded.
Europeans then became intrigued by Ottoman culture. Ottoman music was all the rage in 18th-century Europe.
Mozart and Beethoven, among others, composed music alla turca (in the Turkish style) and Turkish percussion instruments were incorporated into European orchestras and ensembles.
Other cross-cultural musical collaborations such as Jordi Savall’s Jerusalem Projectand Concerto Koln and Sarband’s Dream of the Orient have interwoven music from different cultures. In their Ottoman Baroque program, Paul Dyer and narrator Alan Maddox took a different tack by creating a journey through these contemporaneous traditions yet keeping them largely musically separate.
In the first half, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra played two sparkling, bright-toned examples of alla turca music: Lully’s Marche pour la ceremonie des Turcs and Telemann’s Les Turcs.
There were no discernible Ottoman influences in Marais’s Sonnerie de Sainte Genevieve du Mont-de Paris. Instead, the ABO’s always reliable continuo section laid down a powerfully insistent bass line to underpin the violins’ intricate flights of fancy.
Several of Maddox’s narrative links outlined the itinerant lifestyle of many 18th-century travelling composers. One such was Italian composer Luigi Boccherini, who was based in Spain for many years. Dancer and castanet player Yioda Wilson and the ABO realised an elegant, rhythmically alert performance of his Fandango from the Guitar Quintet G448.
Hearing Allegri’s Miserere at the Sistine Chapel was an indispensable experience on the 18th-century European Grand Tour.
Although sustaining a well-blended, unadorned sound, the Brandenburg Choir’s account remained earthbound rather than soaring ethereally, as it should. The concert’s second half focused on the music of the Ottoman Empire. Greece was part of the empire for more than 300 years and Constantinople had a sizeable Greek population.
The hasapiko dance was created by the city’s Greek butchers’ guild. Backed by an ensemble of traditional Greek instruments, the six dancers’ vigorous, flowing movements matched the musicians’ lively, rhythmically infectious accompaniments.
The concert’s Turkish component presented a portion of the Sufi ceremony featuring the famous Whirling Dervishes and mystic musicians.
Four semazen (worshippers) maintained their gentle whirling patterns at a steady pace in contrast to the changing speeds, dynamics, rhythms, textures and sounds of the sophisticated, highly ornamented music. The effect was hypnotic and graceful.
It was an extremely beautiful way to bring this stimulating, rewarding concert to a close.
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Brandenburg Choir. City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney, October 24.
Concert repeated Wednesday and Friday, Sydney. Tickets: $68-$160. Bookings: (02) 9328 7581.