Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Headine borrowed from the writing of that wonderful humorist, the late Alan Coren. The occasion was a concert given on the last evening of August in the Cadogan Hall by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Not so chamber either, there were thirty-eight of them giving a satisfying and rousing performance of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven.

Writing a programme-note on this work would have to include some reference to 'Fate knocking at the Door', some comments on the political situation in central Europe, the military state of Austria and Germany and, Beethoven's by now whose almost complete deafness and his efforts re combat that shattering disability.

But these considerations can disappear if the performance of the symphony is good enough; and this one was. The playing was very fine led by the director of the A.C.O., Richard Tognetti; the tension never let up; the drama and logic of the work was inexorably revealed, like the flight of an arrow towards the target. From 'fate knocking at the door' to the final clinching, to the series of at least twenty repetitions of the final chord of C Major - like fate slamming the door.

The stamina of the instrumentalists (who stand throughout) was as remarkable as their playing. Moments that stand out were the cellos and basses, their solo bit in the trio of the scherzo where it seemed that the players had remembered that Sir Henry Wood at this point would exhort his men "come on cellos, like a cavalry charge"). Fine, too, was the piccolo's jubilant cry in the finale.

After this stirring, almost exhausting rendition, Tognetti and his players encored with the finale of Mozart's Jupiter symphony, adding 'Match' to 'Game, set'. I think Beethoven would have approved the choice after a concert that pleased an appreciative and distinguished audience (that included Sir Michael Parkinson, Simon Callow, Barry Humphries, Melvyn Tan, and Steven Isserlis).

However I fancy Beethoven would not have approved the Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic's handling of his Piano Concerto No. 4 . He might have said "Why does he slow down for quiet passages and speed up again for the louder ones? and the cadanzas were were horrible, not my style at all, no way, too loud and too many modulations (I bet the pianist wrote them himself).

Lazic has won many plaudits but he only gets them from me for his fluency and his way of playing scale passages in a semi-staccato way, like pearls in a necklace. Needless to say, the audience mopped it up for his is a good example of the Lang Lang school of virtuosity at all costs and in all works.

The programme began with a work for solo violin and strings almost half-an-hour long Vox Amoris which Tognetti had commissioned and played most beautifully. The Latvian composer was Peteris Vasks (b.1946) whose music has been compared to that of Part and Gorecki. The Voice of Love begins quietly, slowly working up to a full climax (via two cadenzas). The material would not frighten the horses for it is quasi melodic but only quasi, meandering in a untuneful, unmemorable way.

This Australian Chamber Orchestra is welcome any time it visits, for it is world class.

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