Ancient music at the Wigmore

The Academy of Ancient Music is not a building, but an orchestra who, like the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, play 18th-century music using period instruments (either originals, or modern copies). I've commented before on how much I prefer this sort of performance to hearing Mozart losing the battle with a full-scale modern symphony orchestra.

The composers in yesterday evening's concert at the Wigmore Hall - Mozart, Joseph Haydn and his younger brother Michael - were all court composers, providing elegant music to be played in the background for idle aristocrats. In order to get the true period experience, yesterday's audience should have been eating, drinking, chatting and playing dice during the concert: but that would have been carrying authenticity rather too far.

The hall was originally built to showcase pianos, and is suitable for chamber groups: the orchestra was quite small - three first violins, three second violins, two each of violas and cellos, one double-basas, two natural horns, two flutes, two oboes and a bassoon: probably about the size of orchestra which would have been used in the smaller courts. The conductor, Giuliano Carmignola, also performed the two violin concertos, directing as he did so - again, authentic behaviour.

As to the works themselves: Mozart's 14th Symphony (K114) shows the sixteen-year-old composer experimenting with the construction of his symphony and a few mildly dissonant chords: it may lack the smoothness and flow of his mature works but has a youthful charm. Joseph Haydn's Violin Concerto in C major is a mature and polished work, lively and energetic, and played in a forthright manner by Carmignola - perhaps a little too forcefully.

Haydn's brother Michael is less well known, but was an established composer in his own right, and indeed his Violin Concerto in A major was the most interesting work of the evening: fully confident use of sonata form and flowing melody, and in this case played with a more gentle touch. The final work, Joseph Haydn's Symphony No 49 in F minor, nicknamed 'La Passione', is much more sombre and dark than the other works in the concert, showing an emotional intensity which foreshadows the dramatic symphonies of Beethoven.

Altogether a pleasant and civilized evening - and the programme was free: now that is civilized!

Posted: Thu - June 19, 2008 at 08:59 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM