Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Anvil

C.P. E. Bach
Symphony in F, Wq.183/3

Symphony No.34 in C, K338

J.C. Bach
Sinfonia concertante for violin and cello, W C46

C.P. E. Bach
Symphony in B-minor, Wq.182/5

Don Giovanni – selections

Orfeo ed Euridice – Dance of the Furies

Mary Bevan (soprano) & Dominic Sedgwick (baritone)

Luise Buchberger (cello)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Kati Debretzeni (violin/director)

Reviewed by: David Truslove

Reviewed: 20 May, 2023
Venue: The Anvil, Basingstoke, Hampshire

The OAE has long been aiming to educate audiences. Attempts to enlighten us on this occasion were both instructive and haphazard. Notes and spoken introductions were partially informative but failed to disclose the number of movements for each piece or give notice of the abrupt transition from Mozart’s Don Giovanni offcuts into Gluck’s Dance of the Furies. It may have made sense to some, but the resulting uncertainty prompted clapping every time the orchestra stopped and tempted Mary Bevan (Zerlina) and Dominic Sedgwick (Masetto and the eponymous anti-hero) to take a bow at the end of their offerings, only to find their presence on the stage redundant. Despite some superb singing, their cameo appearance felt decidedly out of place, muddling earlier efforts from the OAE to illustrate the connective thread between the late-Baroque and early-Classical era, specifically that between two of J. S. Bach’s sons and Salzburg’s most famous offspring.

That said, this traversal from Bach to Mozart did point up the emotional extremes (associated with Sturm and Drang) and the unorthodox procedures in the work of Mozart’s forebears. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Symphony in F revealed his mercurial style, tellingly underlined by virile and delicate playing. Abrupt contrasts and dramatic mood-swings also characterised his Symphony in B-minor. To the work’s idiosyncrasies the OAE players responded with fierce and lyrical expression.

In Johann Christian Bach’s Sinfonia concertante for violin and cello, drama was traded for charm and striking changes of sonority. The composer’s resourceful use of two clarinets, horns and bassoon was amply illustrated and the interplay between the two solo instruments well-judged. If, on occasion, there were any doubts where the music was heading, there was no uncertainty about the quality of musicianship from Kati Debretzeni and Luise Buchberger, both bringing burnished articulation, at times almost coquettish in the carefree Finale where two horns contributed merrily to its rustic frivolities. Debretzeni perfectly captured the emotional heart of the work in gratifying phrases within the central Larghetto.

Mozart’s C-major Symphony was given a welcome hearing, especially rousing from the trumpet- and timpani-enhanced outer movements; the first festive, if a little pompous, the other wonderfully infectious with a steeplechase tempo and tangy oboe colouring.  Finely sculpted string exchanges were much in evidence in the courtly Andante; and overall clearly treasured by the OAE in this involving and vividly projected performance. Equally vivid was Dance of the Furies, given an incandescent outing, its closing bars theatrically enriched by a thunder sheet.

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