After the ceremonial Adagio introduction, Haydn’s Symphony No 7 burst into life in the hands of a reduced-forces Sydney Symphony last night, led by concertmaster Andrew Haveron rather than a conductor. In the intimate space of the City Recital Hall the details of the ensemble shone through in a buzzing, energetic accounting of Le Midi (Noon), the middle of the three ‘time of day’ symphonies Haydn used to show off the musicians he had under his command in his new posting as Vice-Kapellmeister to the Esterházy court.
Bright-toned solo lines from Haveron and darker, sonorous cello lines from Umberto Clerici kept the first movement powering forward, before Haveron gave the vocal-like recitative part in the second movement an insistent, passionate freedom. Haveron and Clerici had some stunning duet passages, which they handled with refined, complementary sounds and an easy ensemble. Haydn shares the love around, showing off the flutes with some arcing duet lines before the horns get the spotlight in the Menuetto and Kees Boersma delivered some vigorous solo double bass melodies. It was the flute’s turn in the finale, Carolyn Harris dispatching the lively solos with panache against the flurries of strings. This was the SSO in fantastic form, the ensemble-work was tight and energised with not a weak-link among the soloists. Papa Haydn would be proud.
Pianist Orli Shaham joined the band for the second half of the compact ‘in the city’ concert, chasing the ominous – almost bleak – opening of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 24, K491, with a delicate-yet-firm piano entry full of pathos. She brought a round-toned smoothness to her playing, drawing out the tension of each phrase. The were plenty of fine moments in the first movement, the strength of Shaham’s upswings meeting cascading flute descents. The presence of clarinet further differentiated the sound world from that of Haydn’s and and with no Mozart cadenzas for this concerto available, Shaham launched into the florid, showstopper virtuosity of one by Saint-Saëns. She brought out the simple beauty of Larghetto, offset by an ensemble of bassoon, oboes and flute.
With no conductor, this was very much chamber music and while the ensemble with the strings was almost effortlessly organic there was some uneasiness between Shaham and the more distant winds in this movement. This uneasiness disappeared in the Allegretto with Shaham’s slinky piano piano lines offset by the tripping bassoon lines and wind interludes. Shaham’s tone lightly sparkling.
The evening was capped off with a “mystery moment” that saw Shaham joined by Haveron, violist Roger Benedict and Clerici for the bright Allegretto movement of Mozart’s Second Piano Quartet, K493, the intimacy of this compact concert distilled into a final moment of fine chamber playing.