Review / Bright, clear, flashy burst of Mozart

Music / Melvyn Tan and the Australian Haydn Ensemble. At the Albert Hall, Thursday, June 29. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

Melvyn Tan last night… playing with precision, dexterity and clarity. Photo by Peter Hislop

“SYMPHONY No. 2 in D major”, by Chevalier de Saint-Georges, opened this concert with a lively and bouncy start.

Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who is best remembered as a composer, was a man of many talents, which included being a champion fencer.

The quality of the playing of the Australian Haydn Ensemble was evident and truly magnificent from the very first note. The members play on period instruments and they create a big, rich sound.

Their bright, even and luxuriant texture and their ability to all hit the same dynamic at the same moment, is a testament to the many wonderful things said about the precision and accuracy of this ensemble. So good is their sound, it was like listening to a studio quality, professionally mixed and mastered recording.

Mozart’s Concerto for Keyboard No. 18 K456 in B-flat major, with Melvyn Tan on fortepiano, followed. The smiling and happy fortepiano specialist came out at sat at the 2014 Chris Maene-built copy of an early 1800s Walter & Sohn instrument. The thin tones of this beautiful fortepiano instantly transported me back to the days of early classical music.

At times, when the full ensemble got into the swing of things, the fortepiano almost got lost in their volume, but the instrument’s original sound still cut through. There has been so much written about the amazing ability of Melvyn Tan, but when hearing that precision, the dexterity and the clarity of his playing live, I can’t help but agree with all those accolades written about him.

The accuracy and clearness of Mozart’s compositions are hard to deny, especially so when performed by such talented musicians on period instruments.

Melvyn Tan and the Australian Haydn Ensemble at the Albert Hall last night. Photo by Peter Hislop

This was a bright, clear and flashy Mozart. The elegant arrangements he was capable of creating were on show in this piece. Its final movement, with its speedy and much more involved piano, had the audience begging for an encore at its end. However, they didn’t get one.

A favourite piece of music of Marie Antoinette (and nicknamed after her) Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 in B-flat major “La Reine” (The Queen) had a dramatic opening, which was played with enthusiasm and had a richer and denser sound than the Mozart concerto for keyboard.

There were some lovely flourishes on the strings and a few petite solos on the oboe in the first movement. The second movement, a romance, sounded like a string quartet, before the mellow voice of the wood flute came in mirroring the simple tune played on the strings. These instruments dominated this movement and, at times, I could swear that the flute was a recorder; such is the mellowness of this wooden instrument.

The final movement, a fast and complex piece that included some light touches from a solo string instrument, had a commanding finish to this excellent concert. This ensemble is simply a joy to hear.

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