For a program inspired to evoke, the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra paired two Romantic European composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Adolf Berwald for a performance of three of their early 19th century pieces. Rather than evoking drama or great action, these quieter and more reserved compositions are about great emotions, sombre moments, and pretty rhythms.
To immediately conjure the close, personal feeling of these pieces, the stage of the City Recital Hall was dressed like a formal wedding reception with a large suspended gilt frame, white flowers and lush ferns, and several ornate classical columns. There was an air of ceremony and ritual but also familiarity to this set design that recalls both immediate family and a long history of traditions, too.
The concert opened with Beethoven’s “3 Equali for four trombones, WoO 30” as performed by Ros Jorgensen, Scott Kinmont, Nigel Crocker, and Brett Page. As a form traditionally performed at funerals, these three short pieces demonstrated the slow and steady sound of the trombone without any flashiness. With the four trombones together, the group were able to showcase the variety of tones and timbres in the trombone for a simple yet exploratory performance.
The Berwald piece “Grand Septet in B-flat major” then took quite a tonal shift towards the cheerful. The happy, upbeat piece opened with a first movement like a nice stroll during springtime with the occasional dappled shadows darkening the atmosphere. But then, the thin, pretty rhythm of the second movement consolidated the feeling. In particular, Nicole Van Bruggen on the clarinet was carefree while the harmony between Rachael Beesley’s violin and Simon Oswell on viola was exceptionally elegant. In the “Finale: Allegro con spirito” the horn played by Graham Nichols added some sharp counter-tones to the otherwise light and pretty Berwald performance.
Beethoven’s “Trio in E-flat major, Op.38” was originally composed as a septet in 1800 but was rearranged for ease of translation into a variety of instrument ensembles. In this performance, ARCO was joined by guest performer Neal Peres Da Costa playing the fortepiano with Van Bruggen on clarinet and Daniel Yeadon playing cello. The rather odd combination of instruments for this trio was exacerbated by the confronting banging of Beethoven’s opening which eventually eased back for a more controlled harmony between the three. The remarkable nature of this composition is the way the three instruments slip in and out of synchronicity with each other, often forming prominent duos or even solos as the other instruments shift to the background.
In particular, the fourth movement combined a twinkling fortepiano with short, sharp notes atop a nearly bouncing staccato from the clarinet and cello. Later, as the fortepiano stayed the same, the clarinet and cello elongated their notes, shifting more into a contrast between these front and back rhythms that was interestingly textured. A sombre opening to the final movement recalled the trombones from earlier in the program before Da Costa’s broke into a kind of rushed scales section and a closing fortepiano solo that clinched the ending.
All three pieces combined spoke to the humbler atmospheres of music from the funeral ceremony to people’s personal sitting rooms. Rather than evoking grand gesture, these Beethoven and Berwald pieces capture simpler emotion and more direct connection between composer, player, and listener.
Evoke was performed at City Recital Hall on May 6th
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