OAE/Pinnock at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Haydn, Boccherini, Salomon

Symphony No.6 in D (Le matin)
Cello Concerto in G, G480
Romance in D for violin and orchestra
Symphony No.93 in D
Overture to an English Opera

Jonathan Manson (cello)

Kati Debretzeni (violin)

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: Graham Rogers

Reviewed: 21 October, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Trevor Pinnock. Photograph: Clive BardaEver thoughtful in its programming, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment here presented the welcome opportunity to compare one of Haydn’s earliest symphonies with one of his last, alongside related music by his contemporaries.

Under Trevor Pinnock the OAE was on sparkling form. An instantly arresting account of the first of Haydn’s sunrise portrayals opened Symphony No.6. The often-virtuosic solo lines were tackled with assuredness and aplomb by OAE principals. The quicksilver outer movements featured lovely flute solos (and impressively agile strings); and, elsewhere, there were characterful bassoon and double bass standouts. Leader Kati Debretzeni and cellist Jonathan Manson were eloquent in the beautiful slow movement, supported by sumptuous strings.

Symphony 93, with festive trumpets and drums, dates from 30 years later – the first of those ‘London’ symphonies that Haydn wrote for his first visit to England in 1791. The first movement features one of Haydn’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of radiantly sunny melodies, and his famous sense of humour is never far away: the serenity of the gentile second movement is cheekily disrupted by an unexpected final rasp from the bassoons. The finale boasts another joyous melody, deliciously elfin in character, which is led through some mischievously remote modulations, all performed with lusty exuberance by the OAE.

In between the symphonies, a refined and soulful cello concerto by a prolific composer once mentioned in the same breath as Haydn and Mozart, but now unjustly remembered purely for a single Minuet – Luigi Boccherini. Manson was more than equal to its technical demands – agile in the rapid passagework and unfazed by Boccherini’s frequent use of the instrument’s upper register for heightened brilliance, a feat all the more impressive because Manson’s cello was not supported by a floor spike. He was especially poignant in the sparsely textured slow movement, scored solely cello and violins – an absolutely entrancing performance.

The concert was completed with a lively overture that Haydn wrote for a masque by London-based impresario Johann Peter Salomon, and a charming Romance by Salomon himself, the violin solo sensitively rendered by Debretzeni. And, after the excitement of the Haydn finale, a reflective encore: an exquisite little Minuet by another Haydn contemporary, Karl von Ordonez, rounded off a typically fine evening’s entertainment from the OAE.

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