Classical: Austro-Hungarian Orchestra; Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Wednesday 13 March 1996
Visits by Nikolaus Harnoncourt are less rare nowadays, but visits by Harnoncourt with his orchestra, the legendary Vienna Concentus Musicus, are much rarer. His Barbican performance kicked off a new series under the inauspicious title of "Group Dynamics" in which artists are shared between concert halls in London and Berlin.
Concentus Musicus is a "grand old group" in historical performance terms. Not until they had rehearsed for four years did they venture to give their first performance, and that was back in 1957. Nowadays, judging from the age of most of the performers, few, if any, can have experienced that intensive study. In two symphonies (Nos 52 and 31), Harnoncourt allowed the valveless horns to have their heads, so that they dominated the texture to startling effect while showing that as instruments they're as hard to tame as the animals they're supposed to hunt out. It was not until the arrival of that impeccably musical soprano, Barbara Bonney, that much heart came into the proceedings. In two arias from Il mondo della luna and L'infedelta delusa, and the dramatic Scena di Berenice, Bonney was in radiant voice, blessing her notes with largely forbidden vibrato.
Adam Fischer's Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra is, compared with Concentus Musicus, very young indeed, founded only in 1987, although the members generally look older. The orchestra, normally no more than 45 (the number Haydn had available to him), is drawn from soloists, chamber musicians and members of leading orchestras in both Austria and Hungary.
If Harnoncourt is head, Fischer is heart. The playing is informed by a grace and lightness far removed from schlag und schmaltz. Within small- scale interpretations, Fischer attends to the minutest detail with loving care that is exquisitely musical. In Haydn's overture to La fedelta premiata and the Farewell Symphony (No 45), he drove a dramatic punch and was rewarded by scintillating ensemble playing. For Mahler's Fourth Symphony, the orchestra virtually tripled on stage, although this was still small-scale Mahler. Fischer brought lightness, the big climaxes good-willed rather than menacing. His "attacca" into the fourth movement brought a palpable gasp from the audience as tension from the emotional rack of the third movement was released by the music rather than by the arrival on stage of an over-decked soprano. Patricia Rozario sang simply and sensitively; a delight met by the most quietly attentive audience I've witnessed for some time - unconventional indeed.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade: Chelsea mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
The New York Times sparks criticism after releasing an all-white reading list
Glastonbury lineup 2015: The Women's Institute to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people