The Melbourne Chamber Orchestra knows that music of the 18th century is a drawcard even on a wintry day. Its recent program, Never Say Farewell, while not presenting too many surprises (except for those in the audience who had never been to a live performance of the Haydn “Farewell” Symphony!) nevertheless attracted a solid and enthusiastic crowd.
The MCO deserves nothing less, being an excellent ensemble in which younger musicians join established performers, notably director William Hennessy. Some already enjoy solo careers, but play in the MCO with the unity of purpose of the best chamber orchestras. This was evident throughout the program which comprised:
Brescianello Symphony in C Major Op.1 No.3
Telemann Concerto in D major for four solo violins
Mozart Bassoon concerto K191
Corelli Concerto Grosso in F Major, Op.6 No.2
Haydn Symphony No. 45 Farewell
The Brescianello symphony was remarkable for (apparently) not having a conductor, but from the first strong attack it held together beautifully. The harpsichord and bright violins served to emphasise its sharp, baroque sound, carried though into the stately dance-like Adagio and brilliant Allegro to finish.
Baroque style (in every sense) was the mark of Telemann’s Concerto in D major for four solo violins. Beginning with an Adagio, the concerto had a fuller sound than expected, thanks to the quality of the four violinists, and the perfect sync they achieved especially in the reprise of contrapuntal style in the second movement, Grave. This performance showed the piece to be a little gem.
Interest in the Mozart was particularly in the performance of soloist Jack Schiller (one of several musicians “on loan” from major symphony orchestras). Hennessy led an integrated performance by about 20 musicians, with Schiller well able to find the volume to assert his solo role. He sailed through the ornamentation that embellished the concerto and produced an entrancing sound in the unusually marked second movement, Andante ma Adagio. The final Rondo is well known and has a complexity that allowed the soloist a final demonstration of his accomplishment, well supported by the orchestra.
As for the MCO itself, it shone in the Corelli from the moment Hennessy’s spirited violin set the pattern. It was not all about speed, however, with slower passages notable for their sonority and hints of the Classical period to come well realised. Finally, dynamic contrasts in repeated passages as well as the management of brisker tempos made this concerto the perfect vehicle for the MCO.
The audience had to wait for the final item, Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 (“Farewell” as it is usually called) for an explanation of the title of the concert, Never Say Farewell. The music of Haydn is well suited to this orchestra, which often favours the Classical period, and this concert served to consolidate the MCO’s reputation for fine performance. As for the title: regular concertgoers were not surprised when, in turn, players quietly left the stage until only two violinists remained. Fortunately, all of them returned for an encore so the MCO players could enjoy the well-deserved applause for the full ensemble.
The picture is of bassoon soloist Jack Schiller.
Suzanne Yanko reviewed this performance by the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra at the Melbourne Recital Centre on July 27, 2014.