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Hong Kong Arts Festival 2017

Review: Camerata Salzburg and Piotr Anderszewski – effortless precision and colour

Chamber orchestra and pianist delivered ensemble playing of the highest order in some lesser known works by Mozart and Haydn

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 1:00pm

It is gratifying when musical ensembles delve into the lesser known works of the great masters. The Camerata Salzburg did just that in their programme for this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major K 414 and Divertimento in D major, as well as Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, a piece that falls into the composer’s Sturm und Drang period and is not often heard in concert.

The only established work on the programme was Haydn’s final piano concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII: 11.

The K205 Mozart Divertimento was originally written for a smaller ensemble including a bassoon but no cello; the Camerata opted for the usual complement of strings (but a single violin line, however, in keeping with the composer’s intentions). Their interpretation of the work displayed great dynamic contrast that, while never forced, captured its elegance. The exquisite lyricism of the second movement contained a softness that was both delicate and yet controlled.

Performing two piano concertos is asking a lot of a soloist, but Piotr Anderszewski appeared to relish the challenge. Playing with the utmost precision and clarity, he conducted from the keyboard as Mozart would have done.

Anderszewski has the ability to move effortlessly between dramatic outbursts and moments of delicacy, to communicate carefully conceived nuances in every phrase, and to hold audience members captive with his flamboyance. Surprisingly, pitting a Steinway grand piano against the chamber orchestra did not result in any noticeable balance problems.

The final work on the programme was the Haydn symphony – labelled “La Passione”, likely from a performance during Passion Week. In keeping with the unusual setting of all its four movements in the key of F minor, the ensemble exercised minimal use of vibrato, which lent the longer notes a warm tone.

The symphony is full of contrasting moods and contains emotional depth unusual for the period in which it was composed. The Camerata conveyed both its wild and tender moments with effortless simplicity. With concertmaster Gregory Ahss leading from the chair, all the players were fully aware of the subtle tempo shifts and shadings of timbre that lent colour to this infrequently played masterpiece.

Camerata Salzburg and Piotr Anderszewski , Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall. Reviewed: March 10