For its June concert the MCO made an excursion to the Iwaki Auditorium in the ABC Southbank Centre. It turned out to be an ideal venue for the program, with the group able to play in a salon-like arrangement which, with the room’s lively acoustics, suited the relatively restrained nature of the program.
The featured soloist was the incomparable Diana Doherty, principal oboe in the Sydney Symphony. Doherty is always a welcome visitor to Melbourne, and audiences can always expect a confident and dazzling performance. Tonight’s concert was no exception, with the oboist starring in half the works in the predominantly baroque program.
The concert began with two of the three concerti grossi presented in this concert. The first was the C minor (No 3) from Corelli’s 12 Opus 6 concertos, which were in fact his last completed works. It is a charming piece in a very elegant style. The performance was subtle and refined, with the interplay between the concertino and ripieno roles working to near perfection. The second was a rare outing for one of Charles Avison’s late works, the Opus 9 No 7 concerto grosso in E flat from 1766. This short work, surely one of the last of the baroque period, was performed with appropriate elegance.
The first half ended with what was probably the high point of the program; Joe Chindamo’s Sanctuary for oboe, cor anglais and orchestra. Diana Doherty and her husband and co-SSO member Alexandre Oguey were the soloists in this lyrical, intense and extremely approachable work. In the program notes Chindamo describes how he “drew on the essence of the music (he) heard as a child” from his Italian emigre parents, with the five movements (Requiem, Flight, Saying Goodbye, Postcard, Hope) “depicting different aspects of a story about turmoil, separation, longing, reconciliation and refuge.” The performance was superb. I want to hear this work again.
The second half of the program featured two concertos with Doherty as soloist. The first was Vivaldi’s B flat concerto RV548 for oboe, violin and strings, where she was joined by MCO director William Hennessy. While not a work of great consequence, it was deftly handled by the soloists and orchestra. For me, the highlight was the central movement, where the oboe plays an extended (and so typical Vivaldi) siciliano accompanied by an insistent arpeggio from the violin. The concert ended with Albinoni’s G minor concerto, Op 9 No 8. Here we were on slightly more familiar territory, with a work that enabled Doherty to display both her virtuosity and complete musicality. Again the middle adagio movement stood out, with music that was wistful and subtle.
In the centre of this half of the program was Handel’s C minor concerto grosso Op 6 no 8. This work, really a suite of six dances, was the most substantial of the baroque items in the program. Like Bach, Handel was never afraid to use distant modulations and sudden rhythmic variations to great effect. Although somewhat sombre, the work provided the concertino players with the opportunity to shine.
Overall this was a most satisfying concert. The MCO is indeed one of Melbourne’s musical treasures.