Concert Review: Mozart’s Jupiter/ Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

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Flautist Melissa Farrow

Mozart’s Jupiter

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra 

City Recital Hall, September 3rd, 2014. 

The Concerto for Flute and Harp was surely the highlight in this programme of music by Mozart performed by flautist Melissa Farrow and harpist Marshall McGuire with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra conducted from the fortepiano by Artistic Director Paul Dyer AO.

The evening comprised three works by the master, written at different stages of his brief life. From the precocious teenager there was the overture to Lucio Silla  K 135, premiering in 1772 when he was just 16; the Concerto for Flute and Harp K 299, was written in 1778 when he was 22; and the Symphony in C major ‘Jupiter’ K 551, the last and longest symphony he composed was completed in 1788 when he was 32, three years before his death.

Marshall McGuire
Marshall McGuire

In the hands (literally speaking) of experts such as these, the cleverness and delicacy of Mozart’s writing in the double concerto was evident. The arguably soft solo instruments were allowed to emerge through the sound of the ensemble as they played with and against each other. The haunting woody sound of Farrow’s brilliant performance on the period flute complementing and contrasting with the brightly rippling sounds of McGuire’s virtuosic playing on the single action harp, a replica of the instrument for which Mozart composed. Soloists and ensemble created a fragile filigree of sound. 

Period instruments are central to historically informed performances, recreating the music as it would have sounded on instruments of the day. Their use also makes us aware of the vicissitudes of tuning intrinsic to these highly crafted pieces. The need for regular tuning was not the only feature of those still developing instruments. The lesser sustaining and penetrating power was a characteristic of the fortepiano. Whilst its distinctive tinkling transports me back in time to its heyday, in this performance at least, I was struggling to hear it.

Preceding the double concerto was the overture to Lucio Silla, Mozart’s dramma per opera in 3 acts K 135. The overture is written in three movements rather than one, presaging the arrival of the longer symphonic form. It was indeed a performance of drama and eloquence from the musicians of the orchestra.

Finally, a sparkling performance of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony with its exhilarating contrapuntal finale. Tom Service in The Guardian (27/5/14) says of the ‘Jupiter’ ” it fuses the high-watermark of late 18th century practice in instrumental music with the most prestigious, and most compositionally involved, form of counterpoint in earlier music: the fugues of the Baroque, like those by Bach and Handel, that Mozart knew and loved.” 

A celebratory conclusion to the evening’s music and a fitting example of what the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra has come to represent over a quarter century of music making.

 Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra will reprise Mozart’s Jupiter on Wednesday 10th and Friday 12th September at 7 pm at the City Recital Hall, Sydney.

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