Sunday afternoon’s concert was the second of two performances featuring
the music of Mozart and Beethoven. With the Music Hall currently out
of commission it was necessary to provide two opportunities to allow
audiences to enjoy what was bound to be a very popular programme and
High Church, Hilton was packed to capacity for the second performance
Conductor Garry Walker has worked with numerous orchestras in Britain and beyond. He appears regularly with Aberdeen Sinfonietta and has become a favourite with Aberdeen audiences. Today’s violin soloist Anna-Liisa Bezrodny pursues an international career as a soloist and as a chamber musician. She was born in Moscow but studied in Finland and has close associations with the music scene in Estonia.
There is almost no point these days in me saying that this was going to be an absolutely fabulous concert. That is simply what we have come to expect from Aberdeen Sinfonietta and of course that is precisely what we got on Sunday afternoon.
The more intimate ambience of High Church, Hilton with its rather dry acoustic meant that for the orchestra, there was to be absolutely no hiding place. Every sound was going to come through clearly and crisply rather like when you listen to a recording through headphones. This simply exposed the superb playing by every member of Aberdeen Sinfonietta and gave it the ultimate stamp of sterling quality.
The concert opened with the Overture to Mozart’s Opera La Clemenza di Tito. At once the crispness, clarity and energy of the playing hit me. It was a wonderfully tightly controlled and exciting performance given to us by Garry Walker and the orchestra. The rapidly descending scales for the strings in perfect focus were a special feature of this piece.
The energy and precision of the orchestral playing was carried over into their support for Anna-Liisa Bezrodny in her wonderfully animated performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major K216. In addition to the energy she put into her performance her playing also had exceptional elegance and lightness of touch as well. I loved the variety of dynamics and string tone that she gave to Mozart’s musical phrasing especially where there was a sense of statement and answer in the music. The orchestra followed her nicely in that too. The first two movements had marvellous cadenzas and these were played magnificently with every detail of the playing coming through in the High Church acoustic.
The upper strings were muted to accompany Anna-Liisa in her playing of the delicious slow movement, the lower strings offering gentle pizzicato. The programme note included a description of that music by the German-American musicologist Alfred (not Albert) Einstein “an adagio that seems to have fallen straight from heaven”. I can’t put it better than that.
The Rondeau Finale was marvellous with magical interplay between the soloist and the orchestra. The ending of the piece is quite surprising though, just a short flurry from the woodwinds and then ….nothing.
To complete a fantastic performance we were given an electrifying performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat op. 55 the “Eroica”. Garry Walker got the orchestra to attack the opening with real Brio. I loved the way in which when the strings handed the melodies over to the winds this was accomplished with perfect smoothness. The extensive opening movement has so much richness in it. Beethoven gives not just one but two development sections. In composing this music his imagination was clearly on overdrive.
The second movement began with great depth and nobility. The oboes played by Geoffrey Bridge and Fiona Gordon were superb. Other soloists whose playing stood out in this performance were flautist Margaret Preston, horn player Robert Martin and the other horns too, yes, and timpanist Isabel John. The excitement generated by the whole orchestra in the fugal section of this movement made me want to jump out of my seat but fortunately I managed to restrain myself.
The Scherzo had a special wind-blown energy to it and the Finale with another two fugal sections demonstrated Beethoven’s creative generosity in this symphony. In it, the classical era reaches its culmination and the birth stirrings of the romantic era are also there. Sinfonietta’s splendid performance delivered all of that and everything else promised in the excellent accompanying programme note by Dr Roger B Williams who played a major role in the founding of this great orchestra.