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Mozart Serenade

by Suzanne Yanko

Mozart, the Melbourne Recital Centre and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – what better to tempt an audience out on a chilly night? Well, for a start, the MSO’s series of concerts to celebrate the orchestra’s return home, to Hamer Hall – starting just one week after this performance – are already heavily subscribed. I’d have thought Markus Stenz would have the MSO tied up with rehearsals for Mahler, Beethoven and Wagner – but it was another conductor, Reinhard Goebel, who has stolen the musicians away for three performances of this popular program of Mozart. It was a reduced contingent, however, particularly in the brass section – although those who were performing last night played an important role in each of the three items. This was decidedly so in the opening work: Serenade No.9 Posthorn that gave the concert its title. Not only did the MSO’s Shane Hooton swap his trumpet for the rarely heard posthorn, the MSO’s two horns were a strong presence from the outset. David Garrett’s program notes draw attention to the ‘symphonic’ nature of the piece and certainly its length (and scoring) suggests a much greater scope than serenades like the most famous, the Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik, which was composed several years later. Although this was not the full MSO contingent, by the end of the first movement the work sounded decidedly symphonic – and very satisfying for it. While the minuetto seemed a little heavier than others Mozart composed, the concertante was indeed an ‘andante grazioso’ as promised, with the winds playing an important part in lightening the style. (Again, Garrett’s notes suggest that the cadenza can sound like individual instruments ‘chattering’ and trying to interrupt each other… but it didn’t play out that way on this occasion!). The serenade continued to impress as both Mozartian and large in scope, but it was not until the sixth movement, minuetto, that we heard the posthorn, Hooton doing a great job with a rather fiendish instrument. The finale sounded slower because of a series of long notes for the brass, but the strings were evidently playing at speed. It rounded off what had felt like a small symphony for a large chamber orchestra. After interval came the central work. Orchestra leader Wilma Smith joined with Matthew Tomkins as soloists in the Concertone in C for two violins, K.190. The work should really have been named ‘for two violins and oboe’ as Jeffrey Crellin had at least as much work to do as the violinists! In fact, his work stood out more, as the entire violin section mirrored what Smith and Tomkins played. It was all very lovely, especially the (quite loud) graciozo of the second movement with its charming cadenza for the three main players. The work finished with a quickened minuet punctuated by four brass instruments. Altogether a fine rendition to the last – but I would like to hear Wilma Smith in something more challenging when the MSO settles into Hamer Hall. As for the last item, ballet music from Idomeneo it was hard to take the music seriously. It purported to be a chaconne and pas seul – but the usually graceful, slow chaconne moved from an almost Handelian beginning to a furious romp. And there was no hint of what might be the music for the pas ‘seul’, unless it was perhaps a graceful winds-led subject in contrast to the rest of the work. All in all, the MSO reminded us that they play beautifully, whether it’s Mozart or Mahler. But I did get the sense that this program was like a light entrée or perhaps a glass of champagne, before we settle into the rich feast of the music that will be served at Hamer Hall. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Mozart Serendade Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Reinhard Goebel – conductor Wilma Smith – violin Matthew Tomkins – violin Mozart – Serenade No.9 Posthorn Mozart – Concertone for Two Violins Mozart – Idomeneo: Passacaglia/Chaconne Melbourne Recital Centre August 2 ADDITIONAL DATES: Robert Blackwood Hall, Clayton August 3 Melbourne Recital Centre August 4

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