CIMF / A splendid concert: thanks to all, including Mr Mozart!

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Neal Peres Da Costa at keyboard, performing with Rachael Beesley, Simon Oswell and Daniel Yeadon. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Canberra International Music Festival / Concert 10, “Greatest Mozart II”, Fitters’ Workshop, May 3. Reviewed by IAN McLEAN.

AS interesting as it is to hear, and to be challenged by, new music from our living composers, it’s also delightful to just enjoy the music of the master composers.

In this case – Mozart! As a bonus, what an extra delight to hear that music played by wonderfully gifted musicians. That was the situation for Concert 10 of the Canberra International Music Festival when players from the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (ARCO) performed a sublime concert of two major Mozart works.

The basset clarinet was first built around 1788 and is similar to a standard clarinet but with an extension at the bottom which allows an added third to its lower range. On all clarinets, the lower range is regarded as being particularly smooth and silky, so the added notes permitted compositional exploration of this deeper tonal quality. The ‘Clarinet Quintet in A, KV 581’ was written in 1789 and utilises the basset clarinet both as a soloist and as a partner player in the chamber music group.

During the first movement, each new theme is first played by the strings with the clarinet then answering and developing the themes. The Adagio second movement explores the entire clarinet range then the Menuet has, unusually, two trios, one for just strings then one specifically for clarinet. The finale is a set of theme and variations which concludes in a playful, bright and cheerful spirit.

Clarinet player, Nicole van Bruggen. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Performing on clarinet was Nicole van Bruggen, an absolute wizard of a player. From the outset she produced a peaceful sound which was relaxing and calming. She combined that ability with a beautiful tone through all registers, strict precision in note placement through rapid passages and total accuracy with every complex and demanding rhythm.

Her fellow performers, Rachael Beesley and Anna McMichael (violin), Simon Oswell (viola) and Daniel Yeadon (cello), produced a wonderfully balanced sound which dominated when performing as a string quartet then blended perfectly when joined by the clarinet. It really was a pleasure to enjoy music of such quality being performed at such a high standard.
Whilst not quite as dynamically written as the clarinet quintet, the other work on the program, the ‘Piano Quartet in G Minor, KV478’, was equally well performed and enjoyable.

Also from the ARCO, Neal Peres Da Costa performed with Rachael Beesley, Simon Oswell and Daniel Yeadon. The challenging piano writing was designed for a virtuoso and this performance succeeded admirably in displaying that quality. Perfectly spaced piano runs were a feature, as was dynamic control and contrast.

The opening musical statement is an attention grabber and this fine group had no difficulty in maintaining that intensity. The playing of the string trio matched piano perfectly with the violin solos in the second movement sounding particularly moving and emotive.

Congratulations and thanks to all players for a splendid concert. And thanks as well to Mr Mozart!

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