Conductor Paul Dyer and Baroque oboe soloist Emma Black with the orchestra

As part of their 30th birthday season the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir presented HANDEL’S ANTHEMS AND FIREWORKS .

The first half began with the four coronation anthems Handel wrote for George II and Queen Caroline in 1727 and which have been performed at every coronation since. The Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir gave a stylish, vivacious performance of great aplomb. The most famous anthem, Zadok the Priest, opened with pulsating, throbbing strings and then the thundering choir exuberantly burst in delivering a vibrant, very energetic and thrilling rendition.

My Heart is Inditing, the next anthem we heard , with delicate strings, featured a wonderful quartet of male voices followed by another quartet of sopranos and baritones, then the push and pull of interweaving, melding voices of the full choir in strong , dynamic melodies and cascading voices that at times were like erupting fireworks.

Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened followed. It was stately yet vibrant with swooping, soaring voices .At other times it was bursting with exuberance and this was contrasted with more fluid reflective passages.

Let The King Rejoice had a dynamic orchestral opening and then the choir joined, brisk and fiery. Circling,  eddying melodies and voices flowed yet were somewhat spiky.


Opening the second half was Handel’s early Oboe Concerto No 3 in G Minor, HWV 287, thought to be written while he was in Hamburg . Special guest soloist was Australian oboist Emma Black, who has a highly successful career in Europe but she also performs here in Australia often.

Black has a stirring unique sound and with Dyer now conducting on harpsichord, the first movement was a witty dialogue between oboe and orchestra, the oboe sinuous and singing. In the second movement the oboe was languid, yet passionate and hypnotic , leading the string accompaniment. The vibrant third movement opened with dynamic strings then the oboe entered centre stage like an opera diva in an exquisite, mesmerising performance.

The final section of the concert was the exhilarating Music for the Royal Fireworks, written for an outdoor event in 1749 celebrating the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle,

We do not know what the audience reaction was at the premiere , and the major event was rather an anticlimax, fraught with bad planning, injury and accidents. There was a rich brass and woodwind sound throughout the whole work and some delicate strings. George 11 wanted a military sound , but Handel also insisted on including violins.

The music began with a crashing drumroll then a strong and stately melody, taken and passed around the various orchestral sections. There was a rich brass and woodwind sound throughout the whole work and some delicate strings. This then changed to scurrying tumbling melodies with flourishes that switched back to a more lilting atmosphere but then yet again another mood change to galloping and boisterous. The other four movements ranged from brisk and emphatic, with use of bright trumpets at the end , to gliding and fluid or bright and bouncy all leading to a sizzling finale .
Running time – just on two hours including interval

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra in HANDEL’S ANTHEMS AND FIREWORKS is at City Recital Hall Sydney 24 July -2 August then tours to Brisbane and Melbourne .