If time travellers were a thing, someone should pay Mozart a visit, pump his hand and praise him for placing the humble viola as well as the showier, stage-stealing violin in the limelight in his Sinfonia Concertante K394. This work was an ideal vehicle for violinist Daniel Kowalik and violist Thomas Chawner from the much-garlanded Orava String Quartet, because it featured both of them as concertante soloists.
Thanks to Mozart, who was a brilliant violinist with a deep affection for the viola a maligned instrument still the butt of many jokes – the viola could be seen and not heard for instance – this music is light years away from a second fiddle mentality because its charms are championed through an inspirational work of classy lyricism which empowers both instruments.
Regardless of genre, it’s a privilege to listen to two players who have a deep rapport. Koralik and Chawner’s connection is distinctive, well-honed; defined from years of Quartet playing. Their rapport was revealed through symphonic music resplendent with beautifully crafted dialogue not only between the soloists but with the orchestra. It's a coup for Camerata to have the Orava Quartet as artist-in-residence. The unassuming ‘stars’ breezed through Mozart’s considerable challenges. Chawner’s viola was a marvel of exquisite tone and pathos.
In the Camerata’s unspooling of Mozart’s glorious lyricism and stunning sound blends the delivery was easeful and the ‘Camerata Windies’ which included the very capable oboist Eve Newsome and Ysolt Clark, French hornist added to the wealth of magical sonorities.
Chirai, the wild card mystery guest, is a Zimbabwean singer-songwriter who sang Sam Cook’s enduring anthem, Change is a Coming. The performance, slotted between Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and the Jupiter, refreshed the ear with its vocal timbre. Clearly, Chirai’s voice has immense power, rich qualities and an enviable range.
The original recording of Cooke’s classic has strings and brass and, as there were french horns, flute and oboe boosting the orchestral sound; maybe they could have been represented in the arrangement of Cooke’s anthem. One or two playing alongside Chirai, in such a formal setting, may have enabled her to dazzle at full throttle. She was honoured by Camerata but may have been disappointed by her appearance with a classically-oriented ensemble in such a formal setting. Evidently, she has so much more to give.
Leonard Bernstein, Simon Rattle and Simone Young’s recordings of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony steer a firm yet measured pacing of the Jupiter’s first movement. Brendan Joyce and Camerata fired an engagingly fast and feisty tempo. The powerful opener sparked by a drum roll convincingly alternated with the violinist’s tenderly drawn response.
Interpretations of Mozart can be bogged down by the 21st century’s reverence for this 18th Century compositional giant. Performances can be overly polite and drowned in syrupy elegance.
The Camerata’s breezy, uplifting take made every element from two-note slurs, sweeping melodic phrases, sudden dynamic shifts to cadence points and underlying textures, entertaining. Camerata’s thrilling detail with its superb Mannheim crescendo, which transition from soft to loud in a phrase and the bold, bow-in-the-air theatrical silences had great presence.
Through Brendan Joyce’s trusting, democratic leadership, players are encouraged to offer ideas in rehearsal which partly explains the ensemble’s ownership, authenticity and earnest unity. The Jupiter’s last movement fizzed with exhilarating fughetta episodes. Each voice slicing through the music’s blazing complexity like fireworks in an evening sky. Camerata’s tight unity and interpretative depth can be compared to the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Gillian Wills is an author and arts writer who has published with Australian Stage Online, Limelight, Griffith Review, Australian Book Review, The Australian, Good Reading, The Strad (UK) Cut Common, Loudmouth and Artist Profile. Her short stories have been published with Dillydoun Review, Antonym, Dewdrop, Unbelievable Stories and Hare’s Paw Literary Journal. Her memoir, Elvis and Me: how a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other, Finch Pty was released in 2016 in Australia, America, Canada, The UK and NZ.
Venue: Concert Hall | QPAC, QLD
Dates: 24 November 2022