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Dazzling Virtuoso

by Suzanne Yanko

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s latest offering, Dazzling Virtuoso, marks the Australian debut of Gabriele Cassone, who performs on the keyed trumpet, an instrument of the classical period. Artistic Director Paul Dyer talked of the “amazingness” of this trumpet, a transition from the baroque or period form of the instrument to the valved form. Importantly, it opened up possibilities for composers – while giving trumpeters new expertise in the use of their lip muscles (and audience members new, shocking insight into the use of the ‘spit key’, the release of saliva being a feature of the French horn that is often hidden from view!). But to the music. First up the orchestra performed Haydn’s Symphony no.94 ‘Surprise’, with a full contingent including brass. Before long Dyer was swaying to the music as he conducted from the forte-piano, mostly using his head but with the occasional hand gesture. The ‘surprise’ – a sudden loud note at the end of a phrase – came as expected, and was unexpectedly mirrored by a drum near the end of the work. It was typical of the ABO to deliver something extra, but also to perform the work faithfully to the composer’s intentions. It was a good choice to lead into Concerto for trumpet in E flat major HobVlle:1, also by Haydn. At last there was the chance to hear the keyed trumpet in all its glory – and its imperfections. These included the difficulties of getting volume into lower notes and occasionally having to leap octaves. However, in Cassone’s hands the trumpet was shaped to deliver pure shining upper notes, echoing the ABO’s beautifully shaped phrasing in the second movement and variations in dynamics in the third. Yes, the challenges were evident, but the trills and long, clear notes had us won over. After all, a major attraction of Brandenburg concerts is hearing works played on period instruments. After interval, the orchestra delivered a dazzling curtain-raiser with music by Gluck from his Don Juan Suite Wq.52. The composer (born nearly 20 years before Haydn) was revealed as a man ahead of his time, with ‘program music’ that evoked furious devils and the fires of hell. In keeping with the theme of the evening, in both the Larghetto and the Allegro, the ABO’s trumpets had almost as good a workout as the frenetic strings. But the piece was brief, and interest returned to Cassone and how the keyed trumpet would stand up to Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto in E major S49 WoO 1. An early work of the composer, it was written for the same dazzling virtuoso who had been the inspiration for Haydn’s own brilliant trumpet concerto – and 200 years or so later, perhaps for the name of this concert. The concerto impressed as being steeped in Classical tradition. After a long orchestral introduction the trumpet easily blended with the main theme – although the instrument did present Cassone with some difficulties in this movement. Balance was restored in the Andante as he played an amazing series of repeated notes to the orchestra’s gentle accompaniment. Finally, a Rondo whose trumpet part suggested a hunting tune brought matters to an exciting climax, as Cassone showed just what the trumpet could do when played by a master of the instrument. But even better was to come. A beautiful, little-known encore by Verdi, written for classical orchestra and exquisitely delivered by Dyer, Cassone and all the ‘dazzling virtuosi’ in the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. 4 ½ stars out of 5 Dazzling Virtuoso Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Artistic Director: Paul Dyer Gabriele Cassone (Italy) keyed trumpet Haydn – Symphony No. 94 in G major ‘Surprise’ Haydn – Concerto for trumpet in E flat major Hob. Vlle:1 Gluck – Larghetto and Allegro ma non troppo from the ballet Don Juan Hummel – Trumpet Concerto in E major Melbourne Recital Centre July 29 ADDITIONAL DATES: Sydney City Recital Hall Angel Place Wed 1, Fri 3, Sat 4 Aug at 7pm Sat 4 Aug 2pm Matinee

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