03 March 2014

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra & Anna: Mozart's last concerto

Melbourne Chamber Orchestra
Anna Goldsworthy, piano
Deakin Edge
Friday 28 February 2014

It’s thought to be a truism that if you program a piano the hall will be full. It must also be true that if you program a Mozart piano concerto the hall will be full-er. It is certainly true that Deakin Edge was nearly full last Friday evening but the truism serves only to denigrate the band and the pianist. Both have are now compelling reasons to fill a hall in their own right.

William Hennessey’s Melbourne Chamber orchestra, studded as it is with ANAM graduates and members of chamber groups that are well-known around Australia, are so musically expert that they worked without a conductor-up-front for most of this concert. The strings were not as razor sharp as, say, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, but they were warmer and musically aware enough to work with a soloist with no-one pointing at them. They were able to play like a small chamber group watching and listening to the pianist in order to play with her rather than against her. Anna Goldsworthy, the pianist concerned, has had 20 years playing with Seraphim Trio. My observation was that the orchestra-pianist relationship was like a very big piano trio – one with double bassoons, oboes, horns and strings. She knew what she was doing and so did MCO.

Anna Goldsworthy not playing Mozart
Anna played Mozart’s last piano concerto with absolute assurance. Every note earned its keep. Every phrase was nuanced and shaped so that Mozart’s classical structure was given the tiniest touch of romanticism. Her pedalling was delicate so that every note was heard to it’s written value. Last year I heard Angela Hewitt play a Beethoven piano sonata with so much sustain pedal that notes struggled to rise above the indistinguishable. There was none of that here. This performance was not about egos. It was about what Mozart had to say: clever, very inventive and highly chromatic music writing. So Anna’s playing was at once liquid and sparkling so she became the star simply by not attempting to be so.

The same was true of the band’s playing of Mozart’s 36th symphony for strings and tympani, and double bassoons, oboes, horns and trumpets. No maestro, no podium, no white ties and tails, no pomp and circumstance. The conspiracy between Emma Sullivan, double bass and John Acaro, tympani, to instance but one example, was pure joy: single, gentle tympani notes that blended into the bass notes to underpin - and direct -  the rest of the orchestra.

The trains rumbled underneath, the silver gulls wheeled about outside, St Paul’s bells invaded gently and the odd rubbernecker peered through the glass polygons. MCO was alive and well and at home.

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