BWW REVIEW: The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra's THE HARPIST with Xavier de Maistre Is An Exquisite Night Of Exceptional Music
Saturday 5 May 2018, 7pm, City Recital Hall Sydney
The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra's (ABO) latest concert, THE HARPIST, pairs the wonderful orchestra with the amazing talents of the acclaimed harpist Xavier de Maistre. ABO Artistic Director and Conductor Paul Dyer's is well known for his fantastic 'finds' of wonderful musicians who are both masters of their field and appear to be delightful people and the French de Maistre is no exception delivering an evening of exceptional music to delight Australian audiences.
Dyer has programmed a diverse night of music that showcases the de Maistre on Harp and the 33 piece orchestra which includes Dyer on Harpsichord. As always, Dyer leads the orchestra with his unique passion and enthusiasm which is a delight to watch along with observing an equal immersion and connection to the music exhibited by the musicians. Demonstrating part of why de Maistre fits so well with the orchestra, the handsome Frenchman is equally expressive in his execution of the music as he caresses the gold inlaid light wood concert harp, on loan from the Opera Australia orchestra.
The evening commences with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No. 20 in D Major, presented by the orchestra, led by Dyer. As with the original intent of the symphony to open a concert program, this selection is a delightful start to the night as the Allegro moves through bold chords, light passages and bold fanfare filled with emotion and expressive texture underpinned by the timpani. This makes way for the warmth of the flute solo in the Andante which has more considered statements and floating phrases that glide above the strings before returning to the bold conversation of delicate and powerful exchanges in the Menuetto and Trio, leading into the sprightly passionate frenzy of the final movement.
The second half of the first part of the program has de Maistre join the orchestra for Francois-Adrien Boieldieu's Harp Concerto in C Major. The orchestra opens the piece with powerful phrases balanced with languid lightness before de Maistre shows how delicate and detailed the harp can be with intricate passages that convey emotion, underpinned by the boldness of the orchestra. It is mesmerizing to watch de Maistre as he draws out a range of sounds from the instrument with a tenderness and precision of dancing fingers. His technique is incredible and his engagement and connection to the music is captivating. As the work moves from the Allegro Brillante it takes a darker mournful tone for the Andante Lento with the strings forming a moody, mysterious fog beneath the ethereal harp before a brighter Rhondo: Allegro Agitato which has a humorous and cheeky frivolity to the music which Dyer and de Maistre also acknowledge with shared amused smiles.
After the interval the orchestra returns with Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's Symphony No 1 in D Major where the Allegro di molto shares the conversation of bold statements that are met with responses of passionate frenzied passages that are underpinned with the weight of the deeper instruments. The Largo features the viola, cello, double bass and flute floating over the languid but restrained piece before returning to a frenzied and suspense filled finish. The orchestra also presents Maurice Ravel's Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte, a melancholy work that features the horns over the strings with the support of the woodwinds. The piece has a sweeping mournfulness as expected from a work who's title translates to Pavane for a deceased Spanish Princess but it makes way for a celebration and reflection on a young life of sorts with the lightness of the flute which dominates the latter part of the piece.
The final three works see de Maistre take the stage solo to present works from the 19th and 20th centuries starting with Manuel De Falla's Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve. The Spanish folk and gypsy inspiration is evident in the work which moves from light to a darker, more sinister tone allowing de Maistre to show that the Harp is not just lightness and sweetness. The Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega has a delicate floating lightness but it is de Maistre's expression of the punctuating low notes that resonate like stones on water that is hypnotic both acoustically and visually as it is impossible not to want to remain focused on de Maistre's fingers. The final programmed piece, Vltava (The Moldau) from Ma vlast by Bedrich Smetana is a warmer piece and the storytelling of the passage of the river is evident in the transitions from rumbling undertones of the water to expressing the folk themes of the Czeck countryside, the darkery mysterious forest and innocent whimsy of the mythical creatures returning to the slow awakening of the river with firm plucks of the strings and expressive flourishes.
As always, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra delivers an enjoyable night of beautiful music and the inclusion of Xavier de Maistre takes the experience to another level as he showcases an instrument that remains relatively rare due to its size and complexity. It is easy to see why de Maistre is so successful and why Dyer chose to have him join the ABO for a three city tour. As well as being an amazing musician, he appears humble and generous, particularly as he treated the Saturday audience to a delightful encore. Whether you have a particular interest in Harp music or simply enjoy classical concerts, this is another must see performance from the ABO.
Sydney - 2018 - City Recital Hall
- Fri, 11 May, 7:00 PMF
Melbourne - 2018 - Melbourne Recital Centre
- Sun, 13 May, 5:00 PM
Brisbane - 2018- QPAC
- Tue, 15 May, 7:30 PM