Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, July 10

Simplicity and sincerity disarm the listener in one of Beethoven’s last great personal statements, the fifth movement Adagio of the String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130. Entitled Cavatina, referring to a straightforward melody delivered without repetition, this work formed the centrepiece of a neatly varied program by six Melbourne members of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra.

Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra.

Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra.Credit:Nick Gilbert

Adapting one of Beethoven’s most intimate string quartet movements for a sextet (two violins, two violas, cello and double bass) was a qualified success. While the addition of double bass to the outer sections lent an appropriate gravitas, unavoidably some questions of balance did arise. At times the melodic interest, centred in the first violin, seemed somewhat recessed, despite the undoubted sensitivity and ardour of the performance. This issue was perhaps magnified by the use of period instruments and gut strings.

Surrounding the Cavatina were works illustrating the development of the symphonic idiom. Mozart’s early and appealing Divertimento in F, K. 138 seemed forward-looking compared with Franz Xaver Richter’s Sinfonia a Quattro in B-flat major, which harked back to the baroque concerto grosso. Rossini’s String Sonata No. 1 in G paid tribute to the dance and sparkled with gentle humour while Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor took off after its sombre introduction to provide an energetic, rhythmically taut conclusion.

Under the insightful leadership of Rachael Beesley, the ensemble impressed with its subtle approach to matters of historical performance practice, and its elegant playing, bringing sincerity to the program’s artfully simple works.

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