La fedeltà premiata – Overture
Cello Concerto in C
Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92
Steven Isserlis (cello)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson
Reviewed: 20 March, 2017
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
The Overture to La fedeltà premiata is probably best known as the Finale to Haydn’s Symphony No.73 (La chasse). Ádám Fischer stressed the links to the hunt – the first set of horn-calls rang out from a balcony at the far-left of the auditorium. The first section of the Overture was repeated and this time the hunting calls came from the far-right. Toward the close, the rousing horn duet emerged from the rear of the Hall. This was a splendid idea and it did not matter that they did not play within the OAE for the remainder because their parts merely double the trumpets at the octave. Strong, emphatic rhythm was a feature of Fischer’s exhilarating performance and reminiscent of the vibrancy achieved by an earlier champion of ‘period’ style, Karl Richter.
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment reduced its numbers a little for Haydn’s C-major Cello Concerto of which Steven Isserlis gave a superbly stylish rendering. His phrasing was graceful and his tone exquisite. This is an early work (c.1765) but so expressive was this reading of it that Haydn’s lyricism, familiar in his later compositions, was fully in evidence. Using little or no vibrato, the OAE strings provided an ideal partnership for the refinement of Isserlis’s playing; he, however, did use it occasionally for communicative purposes. Isserlis subtly aired the gorgeous floating melodies of the gentle Adagio where, interestingly, he sometimes joined the cellos during non-solo moments. There is only one way to play the Finale: very fast. Isserlis did exactly that but his beauty of tone and graciousness of phrase remained; this was the essence of his deeply-felt playing.
There was an encore and Isserlis’s choice was Chonguri, by Georgian-born Sulkhan Tsintsadse: a cheerful guitar-like showpiece spiced with daring harmonies and entirely pizzicato.
Beethoven 7 was given an outing notable for convincing choice of tempo and welcome absence of subjective impositions on the music. Clear inner detail was a feature and the uninterrupted rhythmic swing of the first movement was invigorating. Subtleties abounded; an impressive example being flautist Lisa Beznosiuk’s delicate announcement of the Vivace section but, the melody now having been established, she played the same passage at the start of the exposition repeat with firm assertiveness. Textures were ideal, the trumpets stylishly sonorous and timpanist Adrian Bending, always thrilling at the big moments, used his instruments expressively.
Fischer chose a suitably forward-moving pace for the Allegretto and added just enough illustration to the repeated notes to avoid over-earnestness. Although the Trio section of the Scherzo was taken more slowly than usual Fischer retained strong impulse and to his credit he omitted the unnecessary repeat of the latter part of the final statement. Tempo for the Finale was ideal – rapid certainly – but it ensured that this amazing creation had the right degree of fury without becoming hectic. The coda typified all that was excellent about the playing: blazing brass, thundering timpani and yet all the vital woodwind and string lines were fully in evidence.