Diana Doherty Sydney Symphony Orchestra classical music concert reviews


[usr 5]

Sydney Symphony dominated the classical music scene in Sydney last night with a well filled house at City Recital Hall attending Mozart’s Gran Partita whilst simultaneously performing Bach’s Magnificat at the Sydney Opera House

The Recital Hall concert offered a relatively short concert of an hour duration which suited the audience well. Some were happy to head home in the dwindling light of an Autumn evening whilst others headed out to dinner in the city.

The orchestra Emeritus Principal for Bassoon Matthew Wilkie curated the program for the concert beginning with a seldom heard, unfinished Quintet by Beethoven and the much better known Serenade No 10 by Mozart, otherwise known as the Gran Partita, the title of the concert.

The Beethoven Quintet was a complete delight. The composer is best known for fairly serious and dramatic work but this quintet was written when he was in his early 20’s so is unscathed by the issues that burdened him later in life. With an unusual mix of instruments there are very few works in general written for three horns, oboe and bassoon. It’s possible the work was meant to be a sextet as the original fragments of composition had a line for clarinet with no music written.  Sounds more like a marvellous prank to play on an unsuspecting clarinet player actually. It is hard to imagine Beethoven writing all the parts and then going back to add a clarinet afterwards.

Some 70 years after the original manuscripts were written, composer Leopold Alexander Zellner took great pains to put the manuscript fragments into a presentable order based on all he had studied about Beethoven. True to the original, he did not include the clarinet and did not attempt to write the final movement.

The sound of this combination of instruments is refreshing for chamber music plus it’s nice to see the horns about front when they are usually well hidden amongst the orchestra rows. The sparkling clean brass is stunning in the spotlights. Wilkie provided the bassoon demonstrating his expert touch and tonguing.  Oboe was provided by Diana Doherty, a natural born star who immediately connects with the audience from the moment she steps out on the stage. It’s not an extroverted “look at me” vibe but more of a loving, reaching out which gets an instant positive response in return. Her expressive movements while playing were a contrast to the otherwise still ensemble. The horns had plenty of volume behind them but the oboe and bassoon were still clearly heard. It was a lovely balance in sound.

After a quick break to reset the stage, the larger ensemble arrived for Mozart’s “Gran Partita”. The work was written for 13 wind instruments plus a basso continuo provided by Noriko Shimada’s contrabassoon nicely boosted by the double bass of Kees Boersma.

The two works in the program were a beautiful match. Beethoven, in his early years was very much inspired by megastar Mozart who passed away only a few years earlier. You can hear influence from his operas in the quintet melodies. Vienna is also a connecting point with both pieces likely to have been composed there.

It was fun to watch how Mozart wrote this piece for the instruments in pairs. Sometimes they would work together, sometimes converse on an intimate level and other times putting forward their independent point of view to the collective. At the front stage left were clarinet players Francesco Celata and Christopher Tingay. One sitting forward, one lounging back, they were like two friends having a relaxed chat allowing us to listen in on the conversation. Of course, art is art concealed and there was plenty of effort put in but years of playing and a friendly attitude made the interaction between this pair particularly appealing. Alexander Morris was joined by guest Romola Smith on two very odd looking bass clarinets which have the bell turned up like a little silver saxophone and a peg to stand on like a cello. Mozart had some really lovely phrases reserved for them as well.

Classical music concert reviews Matthew Wilkie Sydney Symphony Orchestra 2023
Matthew Wilkie Principal Emeritus Bassoon created the program for the concert.

The Gran Partita has 7 movements and by far the most memorable is the Adagio you would easily recognise. It’s the piece of music highlighted in the play/Oscar winning movie Amadeus which the character Salieri describes as starting like a rusty squeeze box. The high oboe floating over the top is enough to make your hair stand on end. Doherty’s superb breath control and clear, clean tone lifted the whole auditorium. To say it is genius writing is an understatement. Perhaps better described as a piece of magic to blow away all your problems for a moment. (There’s a link below if you want to listen to it.)

Each musician drew together to make a concert that was simply superb. One wonders if the shorter program might have been designed for those with a short concentration span and yet, when it is programmed so perfectly, the audience can disband completely satisfied. After all, just one moment of magic is all you need for the evening to be seen as a success and leave you smiling as you finally hop into bed. What more could one want?


Quintet for three Horns, Oboe and Bassoon, Hess 19 by Beethoven

Serenade No 10 in B flat major, Köchel 361 “Gran Partita” by Mozart


Diana Doherty, Callum Hogan, Francesco Celata, Alexander Morris, Christopher Tingay, Romola Smith, Matthew Wilkie, Noriko Shimada, James Dodd, Euan Harvey, Marnie Sebire, Rachel Silver, Emily Newham, Kees Boersma.

Related Links

The divine Adagio movement from Mozart’s Gran Partita https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NecLh4YOT9M

Upcoming concerts from Sydney Symphony:  https://www.sydneysymphony.com/#calendar

Upcoming concerts at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place: https://www.cityrecitalhall.com/whats-on/ 

More about Oboe player Diana Doherty: https://www.artsmanagement.com.au/main/?c=sb-plugin-gocontacts&sb-plugin-gocontacts_task=view_item_details&id=30010