Sydney Soloists

Friday, 7 July 2017 at 8pm

Andrew Haveron (violin), Roger Benedict (viola), Umberto Clerici (‘cello), Alex Henery (double bass), Francesco Celata (clarinet), Todd Gibson Cornish (bassoon), Robert Johnson (horn)

Note. This concert was previously advertised as the Verbrugghen Ensemble. The musicians will now appear as the Sydney Soloists. The name may have changed, but it is still a group of Australia's finest musicians performing the same exuberant programme!

All tickets sold already with the name 'Verbrugghen Ensemble" printed on them will be accepted by the Concourse for admission to this concert.

Tickets for this concert can be purchased in advance:

 

Programme

Haydn            Divertimento a tre for horn, violin and 'cello in E-flat, Hob IV:5

Mozart            Clarinet quartet in E-flat, K 380/374f

INTERVAL

Beethoven     Septet for strings and winds in E-flat, op 20

About the Artists

The Sydney Soloists are an ensemble of musicians with distinguished careers in orchestral, solo and ensemble performance. All are principal performers in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. As a chamber ensemble, they perform with passion, intelligence and masterful technique. 

Artistic Director Francesco Celata  described the special qualities of the group "The core of the Sydney Soloists are orchestral players who know each other very well; we work together every week, Often we are joined by guest performers, whom we know well. So when we come together in a chamber group there is a natural rapport, a shared musical understanding and similar style. That familiarity is essential; it gives us a firm base, so that we can develop our ideas for the pieces we perform.  It is very satisfying to work as a group, all contributing ideas and working towards musical consensus and a beautiful performance."

Read more about the performers.

Programme Notes

HAYDN  - Divertimento a tre for horn, violin and 'cello in E-flat, Hob IV:5

Moderato assai (con variazioni) / Finale. Allegro di moto

In the late eighteenth century the divertimento was a popular music form. These short works were written for small ensembles and were intended as light entertainment that would please aristocratic audiences at social functions and show off the virtuoso capabilities of the host’s musicians. 

As Kapellmeister at the Esterházy Court, Haydn composed many divertimenti. He wrote Divertimento a tre for horn, violin and ‘cello in 1767 and gave it a particularly attractive and demanding horn part. There has been some speculation about the horn player Haydn had in mind for the part. Whoever it was, their talent must have been formidable to meet the demands for energy, agility, brightness in the high notes and rich textures in the lower register. 

The work begins with a cheerful folksong-like theme gently introduced by the horn. The violin and ‘cello join in with charming melodies. Then, as if competing with the violin and ‘cello, the horn begins a sequence of variations that become increasingly complex, higher in register and faster in pace.

The finale is a good-natured romp that ends with a beautiful solo from the horn. The horn’s transformation is complete; gone is the robust countryside character of the work’s opening passage, the horn now has the lyrical and elegant character of a courtly instrument. 

The divertimento a tre is a work that embodies many of the qualities we associate with Haydn’s chamber music; genial character, lively melody, energetic spirit and technical brilliance.

                                                                                                                          C. B. 

MOZART - Clarinet Quartet in E flat major K380/K374f

Allegro / Andante con moto / Allegretto  

At the end of the eighteenth century the clarinet and other solo wind instruments were still relatively new. It was not unusual for performers and composers to arrange earlier compositions for other instruments to enlarge the wind repertoire and show off the lyric possibilities of these instruments.  

This quartet for clarinet and strings is based on Mozart’s sonata for piano and violin in E-flat K 380. The quartet arrangement was first published in 1799. It is not known who arranged the work, but they certainly possessed an intimate understanding of Mozart’s sonata, preserving its lyrical quality and élan in the transcription for clarinet and strings.  

To do justice to this work, performers must have both a technical understanding of the music as it is written in the 1799 arrangement, and an artistic understanding of the spirit and feeling in Mozart’s original sonata.  

The allegro movement opens with majestic chords from the strings and a graceful response from the clarinet that grows into delightful trills. The movement develops with a masterful blending of sounds as the clarinet melody flies above the mellow notes of the strings.  

The andante movement has a gentle wistful quality expressed with simplicity and restraint. Melodic lines from the clarinet and violin intertwine almost hesitantly at first, and then develop with restless energy.  

The final movement is in the form of a rondo; the clarinet announces a vigorous hunting-horn type theme, which gives way to more serious moments and then returns with buoyant energy. The work ends with liveliness and good humour.  
                                                                                                                         C. B.

BEETHOVEN -  Septet for strings and winds in E-flat, op 20

Adagio; Allegro con brio /  Adagio cantabile  /  Tempo di minuetto /  Tema con variazioni: Andante / Scherzo: Allegro molto e vivace  /  Andante con moto alla marcia; Presto  

In 1800, Beethoven was 29 years old with a reputation in Vienna as a virtuoso performer and a composer of some distinction, which made his first Akadamie Concert (a concert for paying subscribers rather than noble patrons) in May 1800 a much-anticipated event. Its programme was intended to impress the Viennese public and included the premiere of two major works: the Symphony No 1 and the work we will hear tonight, the Septet for Strings and Winds. 

Beethoven composed the Septet as a serenade/divertimento, a classical form popular at the time. He gave it the movements, charming melodies and harmonies the audience would have expected of such a work.  But what might have surprised the audience was the sophistication of the work, its lively character, complex development of themes, pleasing contrasts, clever variations, youthful energy and beautiful writing of parts for the unusual combination of instruments. These features lifted the Septet above light entertainment to a level of quality worthy of its dedication to the Empress Marie-Therese. 

The Septet’s success was immediate. It was published in 1802 and became Beethoven’s most popular work during his lifetime. Sadly, Beethoven became quite disdainful of the Septet and its enduring popularity, which far outshone that of his later more personal and more profound compositions. 

The first movement of the Septet is introduced by an elegant and dignified Adagio.  A lyrical theme from the violin then begins development of the music in Sonata Allegro form. The effect is warm and vibrant. 

The second movement begins quietly, as a delicate theme emerges from the  clarinet and is developed in an exchange of long lilting phrases with the violin. There is beautiful subtlety  and restraint in the blending of the instruments that achieves an almost symphonic grace and flow. 

The mood lightens as the  Minuetto movement  begins. It has a bright, sunny character and features a trio with exuberant rhythms. 

The fourth movement is a set of variations on a Rhenish folk song. It begins with a particularly lovely passage from the violin and viola, echoed in the deep timbres of the other instruments  As the variations unfold, Beethoven  shows off the unique capabilities of each instrument in the ensemble; they perform in solo parts, blend in different combinations and develop dialogues with melodies and responses flying between strings and winds. 

The fifth movement is a Scherzo introduced with playful phrases from the horn. It develops with an invigorating robustness and features a contrasting trio in which a graceful theme is presented by the cello  to the accompaniment of the strings and bassoon. 

The mood changes dramatically as the final, Andante, movement is introduced with a grand and stately theme (recalling the slow introduction to the first movement). The movement then develops with energy, drive and rich instrumental tones. One of the movement’s highlights is a virtuoso violin cadenza. Finally, The violin leads the ensemble in closing the Septet with a thrilling coda. 

The Septet has inspired many arrangements, tributes, and homages, the most famous of which was Schubert’s Octet Op 166.  A number of the musicians  who had performed in the premiere of the Beethoven Septet in also performed in the premiere of the Schubert Octet. 

You might remember that in the Sydney Mozart Society 2016 concert season, the musicians of the Verbrugghen Ensemble performed Schubert’s Octet. Tonight several of those musicians  return as the Sydney Soloists to perform the Beethoven Septet. That’s a nice salute to history, even if the performance order is reversed!

                                                                                                                        C. B.

 

          Artistic Director

                        Francesco Celata, Artistic Director of the Sydney Soloists