October 28, 2004
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie

Ensemble Oriol Kicks Off the First of Five


Heitor Villa-Lobos
»Bachiana Brasileira« No. 9 for String Orchestra
Paul Hindemith
Concerto for Trumpet, Bassoon and String Orchestra
Alberto Evaristo Ginastera
»Glosses sobre temas de Pau Casals« für Streichorchester und Streichquintett »in lontano« op. 46
André Jolivet
Konzert für Fagott, Streichorchester, Harfe und Klavier
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Divertimento für Oboe, zwei Hörner und Streicher D-Dur KV 251


Ensemble Oriol Berlin
Maurice Bourgue - Leitung
Sergio Azzolini - Fagott
Matthias Höfs - Trompete

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Ensemble Oriol Kicks Off the First of Five

by Lydia Steier

On Thursday, October 28th, Berlin's Ensemble Oriol gave the first of five concerts scheduled in the Philharmonic's Kammermusiksaal this season. Under the baton of Maurice Bourgue (or alternately the batonless concertmaster, Florian Donderer), the string ensemble played a program of Villa-Lobos, Hindemith, Ginastera, Jolivet and Mozart. This mid-20th-century tilted concert gave ample opportunity for the group to stretch its range in terms of timbre and texture, in addition to the audience's patience, owing to the complicated and sluggish stage rearrangements between pieces. Still, the Ensemble Oriol, founded in 1987 and a part of the Kammerakademie Potsdam since 2001, managed to surprise the ear and delight the audience in this concert, in no small part as a result of the charismatic playing of the evening's bassoon soloist, Sergio Azzolini.

The program began with the ensemble's least noteworthy performance of the concert, Hector Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasilieras No. 9 for String Orchestra. The group's lower strings sounded too thin to support the hollow, woody tones created by the violins, and there were regular intonation issues in the unison duo playing which carried the piece's thematic repetition. Toward the end of the Bachianas, the cellos produced a sweet sighing quality that promised more lovely moments later in the evening. The piece was performed without a conductor, and it was quite enjoyable to watch half of the group "dance" to a theme carried by the other half, while anticipating an entrance.

The first movement of Paul Hindemith's Concerto for Trumpet, Bassoon and String Orchestra seemed to indicate a growing confidence within the group, its strange Carl-Stalling-esque lines were shaped with a sly humor that belied despair-leading up to a sly wink of a conclusion. The Molto adagio placed a firm focus on the trumpet and bassoon soloists, Matthias Höfs and Sergio Azzolini. The mellow and articulate playing of the former matched well with Azzolini's roundly narrative style, the crossing lines of the duet sections sliding cleanly against each other. Their physical personalities contrasted starkly: Höfs stoic bugling was an entertaining foil to Azzolini's dancing, stomping and bowing. The short final Vivace featured razor-sharp delivery of odd, arrhythmic "hits" by the strings.

Ensemble Oriol

One of the evening's highlights came with the opening of Alberto Ginastera's Glosses sobre temes de Pau Casals. The Introduccio features moments of intense lyric beauty, dissolving into sections of dripping, scraping, twitching cacophony that reappear throughout other movements. These figures were very skillfully delivered. Oriol's high strings consistently produced surprisingly vocal textures throughout the piece. A quintet of mixed strings, set several meters from the main group in an audience walkway, provided heartbreakingly delivered thematic onsets as well as odd and wistful echoes. The piece's wild and dizzily accelerating conclusion was perfectly controlled.

Sergio Azzolini was the lone soloist in the concert's first offering after the intermission, Andre Jolivet's Concerto for Bassoon, String Orchestra, Harp and Piano. Over the subtly delivered, Poulenc-like interludes of the Allegro giovale, Azzolini had the perfect platform for his showy, hungry playing. Absolutely unexpected from a bassoon player, this performer creates an audience experience not unlike that of seeing a great jazz concert-where fantastically inventive playing is made into sound entertainment simply through charisma. Later in the piece, in alternating sections with the first violins, Azzolini appeared to be "trading" solos.

Employing an old and relatively sneaky trick of concert planning, the audience was "anchored", in this evening of mid-20th century works, by a Mozart's Divertimento in D, K. 251. Cleverly (if not frustratingly), it was shifted to the end-one imagines to insure that audience members without a taste for this type of composition would stay until the end. So, after the harp, grand piano, conductor's podium and stand, some dozen chairs, half-dozen stands, and all Ginastera parts were removed from the stage, (this took several minutes, over two hours into an already satisfying program), a reduced Ensemble Oriol re-entered, joined by horns Elke Schultze-Hoeckelmann and Andreas Bohm, as well as the conductor of the Hindemith, Ginastera and Jolviet, Maurice Bourgue, this time as oboist (with frequent, lovely solos in this divertimento).

The Mozart was solidly and stylishly performed. However, after an evening of long, silent pauses and constant re-shifting, one was not surprised when audiences made the easy mistake of falling for this work's deceptive pre-climax-the bold final chords of the Rondo. After several seconds of premature applause, Ensemble Oriol delivered a staid Marcia alla Francese.