‘World-class’ music leaves listeners wanting more

Special guest Benjamin Bayl directed “Handel & Delirious Love”.

Music / “Handel & Delirious Love”, The Australian Haydn Ensemble. Albert Hall, September 26. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

HANDEL, Scarlatti and the theme of the “delirium of love” headlined the bill for this concert of transcendent music performed by the Australian Haydn Ensemble.

The ensemble was directed by special guest artist, harpsichordist and associate director of The Hanover Band, Benjamin Bayl, who made his debut performance with the ensemble. Also included were soprano Sara Macliver and Amy Power, playing oboe and recorder.

The dramatic music of Avison/Scarlatti (After D. Scarlatti) “Concerto Grosso No. 3” in D minor opened the concert. This strong piece danced to a forceful rhythm emphasised by accurate and solid playing. It was based upon keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti.

The short five parts that were played of this seven-part concerto mirrored one another in tempo through allegro and largo in a highly entertaining contrast. Bayl who led from the harpsichord played with one hand and directed for the most with the other. He kept the ensemble tight and together.

Then, artistic director and principal violinist Skye McIntosh introduced soprano Sara Macliver for Handel’s “Motet for Soprano and Instruments”. Also Joining in was Amy Power on Baroque Oboe, who added so much colour to the ensemble. Macliver announced her present strongly as the music stopped for a short rest. As a leading exponent of the baroque repertoire, her voice melded into the divine sound adding so much depth to the story in the music.

Through three arias and a recitative, the oboe and soprano voices complemented each other perfectly. The accuracy and quality of this ensemble, no matter what they present or who accompanies them on stage, always sound like a professional recording, such is their tonal and emotional quality.

Next came another work by Handel, his Aria from Alcina, “Tornami a vagheggiar”. Macliver dazzled in this operatic work. Her voice rose above the instruments to create a powerful presence of virtuosic flexibility. Her vibrato that shone through the crescendos was powerfully affective and deeply moving. The vocal gymnastics required in this piece were handled with perfection, and the audience let her know how good they thought it was.

After the interval, it was Scarlatti again, his “Concerto number 5 in D minor”. The four movements they played from this seven-part work went from spritely to dead slow. The work included a baroque guitar, which added another flavour to this delicious sound. Again, they showed how attuned they are to the baroque sensibility in this bright short piece.

Handel’s Cantata for solo voice “il delerio amoroso” showed Macliver’s well-controlled voice at its best. Again, Power on oboe, who also doubled on recorder and plays so wonderfully led the way. This dramatic yet sensitive cantata had it all. Sensational solos from several performers and maybe the best music from the best ensemble in Australia.

The night ended with an encore Aria by Handel. It topped off a concert of world-class music that leaves a listener wanting more.

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