Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra
City Recital Hall, March 6
The Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra, led by violinist and concertmaster Rachael Beesley, moved from disciplined, if cautious playing in music by Mozart and Eberl in the first half to surging rhythmic energy and abandon in Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in the second.
They attended to Mozart’s Overture to his short comic opera, Der Schauspieldirektor, with crisp articulation and a fresh, unmannered style, though for a comic piece it was, in places, a little tame.
Two hundred and seventeen years after it was written, ARCO has brought to these shores for the first time the Symphony in E-flat major, Opus 33 by Mozart’s friend, and possibly his pupil, Franz Anton Eberl.
Historical premieres are notoriously difficult to be certain about, but a search of the National Library’s Trove database certainly suggests most of the performances his music has had in Australia have been of works mistakenly thought to be by Mozart. The Symphony Opus 33 demonstrated a keen appreciation of some of the techniques Mozart prized – the mixture of major and minor modes to create harmonic interest and a balance of light and dark, unpredictable rhythm, and use of counterpoint and fugue to create interest and intensity.
This was a most welcome performance and if ARCO goes on to record the work, it would be particularly rewarding to inject some of the driving momentum and intensity of sound they demonstrated in the Beethoven (in the lead up to Eberl’s Beethovenian Coda in the first movement, for example).
There was no reluctance to engage with the exuberant rhythmic physicality of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, Opus 92, which Richard Wagner famously called “the apotheosis of the Dance”. Although playing without conductor posed the occasional challenge (and one perilous moment in the first movement where Beesley intervened to bring wind and strings back together), it also created strong engagement from the players which translated into exciting involving listening. In the fughetta in the famous Allegretto, they achieved an admirable mix of intensity and clarity. Particular strengths included the first oboe and the horns to whom Beethoven entrusts key moments in the outer movements.