It only dawned on me during the seating rehearsal in Vienna’s Konzerthaus on Saturday evening that the program we were presenting in this musical capital of Europe was an all-Viennese offering – Haydn, Mozart and Webern. I wonder whether the Vienna Philharmonic on its next Australian visit will be presenting an all-Sculthorpe program…
At the end of a grueling three weeks of high energy concerts, long travel and countless packings and unpackings in strangely similar hotel rooms, it was great to finish this tour with two concerts in the superb Konzerthaus, especially as these concerts reunited us with our new musical best friend Kristian Bezuidenhout.
Even in his home city, Haydn’s symphonies are often given somewhat perfunctory performances as curtain-raisers to more substantial music to follow, so it was with real relish that Richard and the ACO threw themselves into the full-tilt drama of the first movement of Symphony No.83. The whole concert was played in an atmosphere of rapt attention from this, the most discerning musical audience in the world, somewhat blasé about the unbroken cavalcade of musical legends performing before them day after day, week after week throughout the season. Of course, the ACO has performed in Vienna many times before, so there were plenty of people in the hall who had a keen sense of anticipation about this antipodean orchestra’s approach to their repertoire. But there were also lots of others hearing the ACO for the first time, perhaps arriving at the hall with a slightly raised, skeptical eye-brow, almost affronted by the audacity of this troupe of musical renegades, several with eccentric haircuts, who refuse to sit when they play.
“The best performance of a Mozart symphony I have ever heard in Vienna” was the verdict of aficionado sitting near me, as soon as the ACO’s bows flourished upwards after the last chord of Symphony No.29. The next afternoon, I was sitting on the roof-top terrace of the Australian Ambassador’s apartment, surrounded by the spires and baroque domes of this low-rise, central European capital. David Stuart couldn’t help basking in the reflected sheen of an Australian orchestra causing such a sensation in music which this city owns, and we talked about how to make an even bigger splash on the ACO’s next visit in November 2017. The final concert had an extra buzz to it, and the sold-out Konzerthaus erupted into cheer, bravos and frenzied applause as soon as that brilliantly bright A-major chord was fired into the rafters. My only remaining duty was the most enjoyable of all – to take the band out for schnitzels and beer.