Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Mackerras, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

So here was the ever-young Sir Charles Mackerras, pitching urgently into the slow introduction of the Overture to Mozart's Don Giovanni - no dragged-out bass pedals, no halting caesuras from him - and zipping the 43 period players of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment through the ensuing allegro as if the Age of Authenticity had only just dawned. It was clear we were in for a lively evening.

Just as well, since there was a lot of it - not least, three substantial scenas from the rising young Swedish soprano Hillevi Martinpelto. Her qualities were immediately evident in Mozart's scena "Bella mia fiamma", K528: an even-toned range combining a mezzo-ish richness with a radiant edge, and considerable reserves of power. Nor was she phased by the tricky chromatic plunges Mozart teasingly inserted into this miniature death scene to test the sight-reading of one of his leading ladies.

After this, and even at Sir Charles's forward-moving tempi, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, K622, came as an extended episode of repose, with Antony Pay smoothly integrating the gurgling extra low notes offered by his basset clarinet into the flow - though only in the halting minor-key episode of the finale, perhaps, did they find anything very new to say about this much-played piece.

The temperature rose when Martinpelto joined Pay, now on basset horn, for Vitella's aria of perplexity "Non piu di fiori", K621, from La Clemenza di Tito; and still more when Martinpelto launched into Beethoven's extended scena of love betrayed, "Ah! perfido". This was a performance of real intensity, and one was surprised a near-capacity audience did not rise to it more demonstratively. But then, still to come was Vorisek.

Born in the year Mozart died and Beethoven turned 21, Bohemian-born Jan Vaclav Vorisek died younger than either, at only 34. But not before dazzling Vienna with his brilliant piano improvisations and leaving the remarkable Symphony in D Major, Op 24. "Schubert? Hummel? Spohr?" one asked oneself as the work sidled into motion with deceptive amiability - only to be assailed by a fierce motivic argument of Beethovenian impetus, but with quite a different stylistic slant.

The sombre andante and fizzing scherzo proved equally distinctive. Any fleeting nuances of Weber, Mendelssohn, even a foretaste of Wagner, were subsumed in Vorisek's tight inventiveness, individualistic scoring and volatility of mood. Only the bucolic finale perhaps harked back to the witty ways of Haydn. Was the material always as memorable as its working out? No matter, Sir Charles and the OAE audibly relished the symphony's every unpredictability and by the end had convinced us the composer's early demise was a real loss to music. Catch it on Radio 3 on 22 October.