Lee-Chen brings out the best of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Melbourne Recital Centre, November 9-10

To hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on period instruments is a bit of a bucket-list item for many lovers of classical music. As the lights went down at the Recital Centre, I overheard several people excitedly whispering that they'd never seen it live before.

And they were in for a treat. The level of enthusiasm in the full house never once dipped – not when Paul Dyer arrived on stage to give a genial and loving introduction to the music he had programmed, not through the terrific first half of music by Telemann, and certainly not when the main event finally rolled around.

Outstanding: Australian Brandenburg Orchestra concertmaster Shaun Lee-Chen. Credit: Supplied

Opening the program, the Telemann Concerto for 4 Violins in G Major was set spectacularly. Associate concertmaster Matt Bruce led his quartet adeptly through the short but virtuosic work.

The drama was then ramped up with a full orchestra joining the stage for Telemann’s great Water Music. Directed by principal baroque violin Ben Dollman, the piece’s sumptuous movements – at times majestic, occasionally humorous – were expertly manoeuvred. The piece, in 10 movements, earned unadulterated applause after the fantastic sixth, Harlequinade. The musicians graciously accepted.

A joyful, joyful night.

It is a thrilling thing to behold when classical audiences lose themselves enough to throw off the stuffy clapping practices of the concert hall: here they were so moved they clapped at the "wrong" time.

And finally, the moment we had all been waiting for, the Four Seasons. It’s a classic for a reason. The pacing is exceptional and the highs and lows have you consistently on the edge of your seat.

Of course, the concerto aspect requires a skilled soloist and leader – a challenging combination, but a role taken on with absolute aplomb by ABO concertmaster Shaun Lee-Chen. He was, at times, not only a conductor and soloist but a choreographer, his playing stylish and passionate.

Lee-Chen’s Four Seasons was outstanding, his movements bringing out the absolute best from the orchestra. A joyful, joyful night.

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