Harmoniemusik is a life-enhancing concert from the Academy of Ancient Music in Cambridge

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Harmoniemusik: From field to table: Peter Whelan (bassoon) / Members of the Academy of Ancient Music. Livestreamed from the West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, 21.5.2021. (CC)

AAM’s Harmoniemusik: From field to table

Mozart – Divertimento in B flat, K 270 (1777)

Beethoven – Duo in C for clarinet and bassoon, WoO27 (before 1792). Sextet in E flat, Op.71 (c.1796)

Krommer – Partita in F, Op,73 (1810)

The repertoire of so-called Harmoniemusik is some of the most refreshing one can encounter. That outdoorsy feel to the faster pieces is so full of life; as it was from the off here in Mozart’s B flat Divertimento, K 270. The filming of this livestream was remarkable: the individual timbres of the players shone through radiantly. Wonderful, too, to see an audience there, reacting to the performances with enthusiasm.

Mozart’s Divertimento in B flat, K 270 is a prime example of what makes Harmoniemusik so very wholesome and life-enhancing The Andantino is gentle and calm. For all the deceptive simplicity of this music, including the pronounced gentilité of the Menuetto, there are perilous moments for all concerned; and it is all credit to the Academy of Ancient Music players that all emerged so naturally and easily; and what a jocular Trio this performance held. Always good, too, to know without consulting the programme booklet what the tempo indications are. No doubting this finale is a Presto in this performance; and yet detail was beautifully managed.

Fabulous to hear a Duo by Beethoven, one of his smaller works (there are a surprising number of these chippings from the bench). Katherine Spencer and Peter Whelan were the superbly attuned performers here. Playful and resourceful, there is dialogue aplenty between the players. Lovely to hear the slightly acidic bassoon sound on the authentic instrument, some lovely playfulness in the finale, too. The Sextet for winds (two clarinets, two horns, two bassoons) is a work of grace and charm (if I remember correctly from my performance days, as much a joy to play as it is to listen to) and Beethoven claimed to have written this piece in one night, which must have been intense if true. The work is impeccably crafted, and benefits form the ‘danger’ of a live performance. Those second horn semiquavers at the end of the first movement are notorious, for example. The eloquence of the slow movement (some beautiful bassoon lines) was balanced by the rather more raucous Minuet, with some superb horn playing from Gavin Edwards and David Bentley. The finale was remarkably multifaceted; with more than a touch of wit, particularly noticeable at the close (and how nice to hear a giggle from an audience!).

Finally, some Krommer, with its contrabasson part played on double bass. Franz Krommer is a name cherished by wind and horn players, his works beautifully crafted yet, as here, often robust. This was the piece that included everybody: pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns plus that double bass. As such the tutti sound was wonderfully solid because Krommer delights in the individual strengths of each instrument. The sheer jauntiness of much of this music is positively medicinal, Leo Duarte’s oboe in particular exuded character. The finale is an ‘alla polacca’, here as joyous and as playful (and as infectious) as can be.

A fabulous performance to crown a life-enhancing concert. The splendour of the AAM players has never been in doubt, but how lovely to hear the wind and horns spotlit like this.

Colin Clarke

For more about the Academy of Ancient Music click here.

1 thought on “<i>Harmoniemusik</i> is a life-enhancing concert from the Academy of Ancient Music in Cambridge”

  1. A fantastic concert… when there isn’t a full orchestra it would be so much nicer if all the players could be named or receive a mention… it’s been a tough year for them with the Covid restrictions. First time back playing in live performances is a momentous occasion for everyone involved. Let’s remember that many of these guys have had little if any income for over a year. They ALL deserve recognition.
    Leo Duarte oboe
    Bethan White oboe
    Katherine Spencer clarinet
    Emily Worthington clarinet
    Peter Whelan director and bassoon
    Ursula Leveaux bassoon
    Gavin Edwards horn
    David Bentley horn
    Judith Evans double bass


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