Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Birmingham Town Hall, 17 May 2023, 5***** David Gray & Paul Gray

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Symphony in F major & ‘Cello Concerto in A Major * Johann Christian BachSinfonia Concertante for Violin & ‘Cello in B flat major * Wolfgang Amadeus MozartSymphony no 34 in C major

Although written only five years apart, the two symphonies that started and ended this concert given by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment felt as though they came from totally different eras. 

CPE Bach composed his Symphony in F major in the Empfindsamer Stil (see: Empfindsamkeit (music) – Wikipedia ) when he was in his sixties.  Its dynamism is elegant and the form straightforward.  In contrast, Mozart wrote his Symphony No 34, when he was still in his twenties.  It is very much a younger man’s work, but also one that belongs firmly in a later era.  Its energy is exuberant, and harmonically & structurally it is altogether more complex than the Bach symphony.

The orchestra responded magnificently to the very different challenges of these two works, perfectly capturing the elegance of the former and the vivacity of the latter with style, intelligence and flawless ensemble.  On the microscale, every phrase was beautifully shaped and pointed.  On the macroscale both readings were thoughtfully articulated & structured by Director, Kati Debretzeni, who led from the violin.

The symphonies sandwiched two concerti:  Jean Guihen Queyras was the soloist in CPE Bach’s Cello Concerto in A major.  This was a commanding performance, technically polished, highly expressive, and full of colour and imagination.  Again, the ensemble was unanimous with a very real sense of a conversation and playful interaction between soloist and orchestra.

Unfortunately, the ‘cello soloist in JC Bach’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Cello in B flat major was not credited in the programme.  This is a shame, her playing was elegant and the duetting with violin soloist, Debretzeni full of understanding and sharing.  Debretzeni played with a soaring expressiveness in the Larghetto, and the outer movements were replete with jocularity and good humour.

This was a deeply satisfying concert with every player on the stage exhibiting consummate artistry.

Kati Debretzeni  – director/violin

Jean Guihen Queyras – ‘cello

David Gray & Paul Gray are Reviewers for Birmingham, West Midlands and the Three Choirs Festival. If you would like David & Paul to come review for you, drop us a line at p.gray.20@abdn.ac.uk

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