They do say Haydn is a musician’s musician, but he’s clearly not a favourite of Madonna’s. Which is a shame because in avoiding his music she missed the highlight of this concert. Her diminutive figure was seen stealing into the Royal Festival Hall (RFH) almost incognito (were she not the only audience member in dark glasses) just as Papa Haydn’s eccentric, penetrating symphony No. 64 ended.
Sir Simon Rattle, who elicited playing of great tonal sophistication and exquisite balance from the players, was not the draw: it was the ravishing Labèque sisters in their bejewelled 18th century-style coats and raven-black locks that Madge had come to see. These days the Parisian sisters are mentors to rock royalty – Sting and Herbie Hancock among them - but quite what Madonna made of Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos K315 played on fragile fortepianos taxes the imagination.
Beginning with a throaty trill, which on these instruments had the air of low, distant laughter, the concerto is a charming exercise in mirror images and teasing echoes, and the sisters choreographed it beautifully, accompanied with gossamer touch by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE). It says much for the improved acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall (RFH) that we could hear every note of these delicate keyboard timbres, and there was a collective held breath during the cadenza.
After the interval, when Madonna had long left the building, Mozart’s graceful Symphony No. 33 was followed by Haydn’s magnificent Symphony No. 95, written just after Mozart’s death, and in many ways a tribute to his Jupiter Symphony (No. 41). Here, at last, was some dramatic meat to feast on, from the incisive variations to the eloquent cello solo in the Trio, played with great character by Pierre Doumenge, and the extravagant last movement, complete with trumpets and drums.
Thanks to Matty