by Suzanne Yanko

You’d have to judge a concert a success when it ends with vigorous foot-stomping – even if it’s the musicians who are making the noise! Guest director from Italy, Alfredo Bernadini, exactly captured the mood with his choice of a rousing Telemann piece as an encore to conclude the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s performance at Hamer Hall, on the final night of its Australian tour. The baroque specialists could hardly fail to please with its program of Handel: two suites of The Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks, complete with a 21st century-style brief display of pyrotechnics on stage. Artistic director Paul Dyer cleverly (and fairly) headed off the only possible criticism – that the brass was occasionally out of tune – by explaining that the period instruments were imprecise by their nature, and that the performers did well to overcome the difficulties. The Sydney-based ABO is making a play for Melbourne (no pun intended), with several concerts planned at the new Recital Hall next year. Despite rivalries between the two cities, and a healthy baroque scene here, the Melbourne audience could not fail to warm to the visitors. Instruments, tempi, precision and a lightness of approach all lived up to expectations, and gave a freshness to these well-known and often played works. There was illumination too. As what is loosely termed The Water Music is so often heard in fragments or arrangements, many listeners were surprised to see two separate and complete suites listed – and to find that each comprised both familiar music and less often heard movements. Bernadini led from the oboe, with the few wind players beautifully balanced against the much stronger string presence. However, the cohesion of the players and shared joy in music-making was by far the over-riding impression, with the Australian Chamber Orchestra the closest comparison possible. The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra is sure of a welcome on its return visits. For more information about upcoming ABO concerts please check out www.brandenburg.com.au

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