Mozart at Twilight

Kings Park

reviewed by Stuart Hille

It might be pleasant enough sitting on the lawns of Kings Park, enjoying a late summer sunset, wining and dining and listening to the music of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Indeed, al fresco BYO dinner concerts are delightfully arcadian in concept but the reality, from a purely musical point of view, can be something quite different.

One feels that organisers and patrons perhaps become caught up with an idyllic notion and in doing so, forget some basic but important points.

As we experienced during this particular concert, the principal considerations here are Perth’s notoriously fickle summer evenings and its growing reputation for providing less than ideal amplifying systems.

Putting the two together and placing the musicians, in period costume, within a large gazebo, produced, on this occasion, the impossibility of a reviewer giving an accurate critical analysis and the distinct possibility of the performers being noticeably uncomfortable.

The Amadeus Players opened the concert with an account of Mozart’s Divertimento in D, K136 that simply wafted away in the strong breeze. There also appeared to be some slight distortion coming from the speakers. Moreover, these early divertimenti by Mozart, most likely written as the classical version of ‘dinner music’ aer fairly lightweight to begin with, so combining this with Perth’s summer wind and questionable electronics made for a hapless auditory experience.

Anna Sleptsova bravely followed with a rendition of Beethoven’s ‘Les Adieux’ piano sonata. The frustration, knowing this pianist to possess a fine talent, of being unable to perceive the nuances of her interpretation, became quite acute. And one can hardly blame her for adopting some unusually fast tempi. After all, a quick exit from the stage from a difficult situation was probably the most prudent approach.

Baritone Andrew Foote singing two Mozart arias (which are arduous even under the best circumstances) and Jane Rutter, performing a selection of works with Sleptsova and The Amadeus Players, were similarly disadvantaged. Costumes and wigs were going wild in the wind, amplified sound would grow and disappear according to the prevailing gust and Rutter even managed to entrap a flying cockroach in her coiffure.

In fact, this critic felt beaten before he began and decided to leave during the interval before the disenchantment increased. If the situation had become only marginally worse, it could have provided material for a Monty Python sketch.

One does not say this vindictively or to engage the reader in a piece of cheap humour, but rather to earnestly plead with organisers to put the musicians foremost: what setting best enhances their talents, what amplification can best cope with the elements and what music is better suited to outdoor performance. Even a full brass concert would have struggled under these circumstances.

Being lulled by a BYO dinner and wine supped on the beautiful lawns of Kings Park, without thorough planning, is throwing caution to the wind, so to speak, when attempting to mount a serious concert.

(It should also be noted, that as matter of simple courtesy, ALL performers’ names should appear on the programme leaflet.)

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