The Sunday matinee concerts in Amsterdam’s fabled Concertgebouw draw the most dedicated and discerning audiences, converging on the hall from all directions, across the Museumsplein and through the Vondelpark, for their weekly hour of musical worship.
While the public gathered in the foyers or milled on the pavement in front of the hall, Richard and the Orchestra were onstage fine-tuning, trying out some playful timing in Haydn’s Symphony No.83 – a flourishing cadenza designed to trick the audience into thinking the last movement was over, daring someone to start clapping, before hurtling back to the double-bar for the final repeat.
Earlier in the morning, the musicians had relished the newly forged collaboration with South-African-born, Australian-raised pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. This match had been made by the Concertgebouw who had recognized the potential for musical chemistry between Kristian and the ACO and brought the two together for this Sunday matinee concert. It was an inspired choice – Bezuidenhout’s exquisite articulation and highly personal sense of phrasing combined with the ACO’s quicksilver approach turned Mozart’s rarely heard C major Concerto K.415 into a freshly minted masterpiece.
Every seat in the Concertgebouw was filled when the ACO strode out onto the stage which has borne every legend of classical music since Mahler. A quick bow and the concert was instantly in flight. All of those acoustic qualities which aficionados drone on about were suddenly clear and present – crisp brilliance in the tuttis, luminous tone in quiet passages, offering the ACO’s unsurpassed instrument collection the ideal environment in which to glow, shine and thrill.
Richard’s gift for Haydn has been one of the greatest joys of his directorship of the ACO, and his fearless quest for the quirks and irreverences of Haydn’s invention makes each symphony a string of playful delights. This symphony’s nickname The Hen refers to the clucking sound of the second subject in the first movement, but in this performance its character was given a distinctly Australian accent, suggesting The Chook might be a better name.
As soon as the symphony reached its vigourous and unambiguous close, the entire audience rose as one to give a thunderous standing ovation which would not subside without an encore.
A great first concert on this tour of so many of Europe’s most prestigious halls. The next two days will be spent in the rehearsal room of the Muziekgebouw perched over the water adjacent to Centraal Station and the focus will be on Jonny Greenwood’s Water. Glimpses have been heard through the door of the ACO Studio over the last couple of weeks but tomorrow it all comes together with its Indian tambura and sound effects in preparation for the world premiere at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Thursday night.
Tim Calnin, General Manager – ACO