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Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Night Shift concert, 25 Oct 2012

October 28, 2012
Mozart circa 1780 by Johann Nepomuk della Croce, detail

On Thursday 25 October 2012 The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment performed a concert of music by Mozart as part of their The Night Shift series.  This concert was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank.

The Night Shift is, to quote the programme, “a series of relaxed late-night concerts” which the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment perform as  follow-ups to performances earlier in the day.  We arrived around 9.15pm and had a drink in the foyer while listening to the jazz band Last Summer’s Tealights entertain the audience with their melodically and rhythmically inventive compositions.

The concert in the main hall began at 10.00pm.  The programme consisted of two pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791),the Symphony No. 36 in C, (the Linz) and the Horn concerto No. 4 in E flat.  The OAE does not have a conductor and was directed by the violinist Maggie Faultless.  The soloist in the Horn Concerto was Roger Montgomery.  The MC for the event was the enthusiastic Alistair Appleton.

Maggie Faultless gave an introduction to the Linz symphony which made some interesting points about the innovative nature of the work.  For example, the trumpets and drums make a quiet entry in the slow movement.  The performance of the symphony was polished and energetic: the fact that the OAE had performed the work earlier in the day clearly had not diminished their enthusiasm.  The philosophy informing performances by the OAE was even more clearly demonstrated in the Mozart Horn Concerto.  To quote the programme:

 We try to be authentic, by using instruments and playing styles similar to those the composer would have been familiar with.  You get to hear what Mozart actually wrote and intended, not a modern version of it.  You might be wondering what difference this makes to the actual sound.  Well, it tends to be a more edgy sound that polished modern orchestras.  It’s a gutsy and definitely a less “polite” sound.  Plus the OAE is well-known for its sheer enthusiasm for music, which comes across at every performance.

In accordance with this philosophy the solo part in the Mozart concerto was performed on a natural horn.  We were given a short but comprehensive explanation of the difference between a natural horn, an instrument that Mozart would have known, and the modern horn.  The essential difference is that the natural horn has no valves so various ingenious techniques have to be used to produce the range of notes used in a Mozart concerto.  The natural horn demands a specific range of techniques from the player  and Roger Montgomery, on the evidence of this performance, must be regarded as a true master of this demanding instrument.  It is interesting that the natural horn sounds quite different from the modern horn to the extent that there is not a uniform tone throughout even a fairly simple melodic line: this is part of the interest of the instrument.

Both of these well-known pieces by Mozart were received very enthusiastically.  The Queen Elizabeth Hall was just over half full, a good result for a concert this late.  The next The Night Shift event is on 22 November 2012 when the OAE will perform anthems by Handel, including his early masterpiece Dixit Dominus.

To follow the OAE The Night Shift series:

twitter: @theoae

Facebook: oaenightshift

Barry Mitchell

28 October 2012

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