Hakan Hardenberger
September 21 | Reviewed by Mark Dryburgh

WITH A change in order to the programme there was little rest for trumpet soloist Hakan Hardenberger who appeared in two of the four works. Two eighteenth century, a nineteenth century and modern pieces by H K Gruber constituted the night’s music.

The concert began with Mozart’s D major “Haffner” Symphony No 35. D major was the key Mozart employed most for his symphonies for it's bright "golden" sound. The enlightenment movement through the illuminati and freemasonic societies have a preoccupation with the transforming properties of light particularly present in Mozart’s musical style. Mozart had audaciously quit his post in the court of Salzberg the previous year and was dependent on the commissions made available by his connections. This symphony was commissioned for the ennoblement of the wealthy banker Siegmund Haffner, mayor of Salzburg and family friend to the Mozarts.

The recognisable first theme played in unison is an energetic crowdpleaser. Tension is created by held suspensions prominent in the clarinets. There is a light sense of drama as a halting ascent of trills gather pace. Minor chords retain their shadow character in fleeting appearance. The second movement is an andante in G major, graceful melodies announced by woodwind. Massimo Zanetti conducts as though fencing and acts well to prepare the cadences so frequent in classical era music. Rhythm is used to propel the slow movement as the second subject appears with double-speed accompaniment and chordal presentations are syncopated with violins and violas.

The Minuetto is driven by dynamic manipulation. The conductor passes the focus brilliantly about the orchestra, playing with stereo and depth. The tonic key is cemented firmly and given leverage by the dominant. Relief is given by only few appearances of other chords as the orchestra quietens. The Trio follows without break and provides structural emphasis to the dominant, A major. There is more chromaticism and interesting phrasing in the string lines well executed by the section.

The last movement is marked “presto” and full of surprises. Appogiaturas propel the subject by quickly disolving dischord. The orchestra attacks the theme at full speed, witty lines scurry into dimenuendos as another forte marked line descends on the listener. This movement is reminiscent of the overture to The Marriage of Figaro which was instrumental in inciting the French revolution, to the jesuit banker’s delight.

Zanetti’s conducting suited the first two classical works with a genteel air to his expression in Mozart’s minuetto he appeared as though dancing with a wigged partner. In the Haydn work that followed he held the orchestra well alongside the formidable trumpet soloist. Hakan Hardenberger, called “the greatest trumpeter on earth” by the London Times, plays to perfection. He appears proud and with a seasoned presence. Hardenberger began trumpet at eight years of age and trained at the Paris Conservatoire.

The Haydn trumpet concerto in E flat begins directly with classical aplomb, the trumpet announces itself and rises out of the orchestra to a strong high note. Hardenberger shows an ability to blend with the orchestra and also to punctuate where necessary with tone and articulation. The tone of his trumpet is pure and smooth. The orchestra rises to meet his tone and develops a surface shine due to a wider timbre in instrumentation and softer key that facillitates the upper harmonics sounding. Haydn was a fine melodic writer and his experience as a chorister give his vocal writing easy brilliance that translates to the trumpet in this piece. Hardenberger is able to vary the tone from strident to soft, sweet to reedy and plaintiff; within a phrase, while maintaining the character. His playing was well thought-out. The cadenza was comfortably within the form and demonstrated virtuousity with professional restraint.

The second movement is a slow andante played legato by the trumpet, which is a tiring demand of a trumpeter. The melody rises and falls in a regular manner. The concerto concludes with a fast rondo, recalling the opening allegro. The trumpet melody skips around in fourths; key shifts are rather innovative and subtle. Hardenberger stands close to Zanetti and they occasionally turn to each other as the orchestra and trumpet trade phrases. The low register and percussion has a fraction’s lag to my ears indicative of “laid back” New Zealand that lends a modernity to these classical works and perhaps anticipates the rhythmic feel of the following.

The third piece in a row is by another Austrian composer, this time a modern one. H K Gruber’s writing is influenced by american jazz in these three short pieces that typify the kind of music of “The MOB ART & TONE art Ensemble”. The MOB group was a group of musicians that would give informal concerts in unlikely venues; Gruber acting, singing and playing the double bass.

Hi-hat rhythm holds the first piece together, it is light and playful. The melody is fairly diatonic and moves casually but with offkilter rhythmic touches, trumpet taking a more dynamic role and leaping from low to a very high note imitative of a squeaking mistake. The audience chuckles.

The second piece uses a ringing ride cymbal and mute on the solo trumpet and section. Pizzicato double bass gives the players an outlet for their instrument’s jazz leanings. A drum is played on it’s rim in sharp accents. Hardenberger walks to the front of the stage, crouches a little and sways. Major chords are contrasted with brief occasional “blue” trumpet descents.

The third piece employs more colour with tamtams, muted trumpets, ride cymbal and a cornet (or perhaps a piccolo trumpet). The more sensuous experience draws association with Villa Lobos, some chords in wide spacing. The rhythm is becoming increasingly infectious, though continuity is kept on the verge, diminutive attacks and short lines taunt the listener. The play ends abruptly on a major chord: a satisfying punchline.

After the interval was the Robert Schumann’s second symphony. Schumann was a genuine revolutionary in that he was an individual who strove to express himself. In addition to being a composer he was also a music critic, journalist and champion of music that he considered great but was nonetheless out-of-vogue. Schumann loathed the trend of virtuouso composers who lacked deep musical content and criticised the establishment of moneychangers and corrupt government.

The first movement is slow to take form, the introduction marked sostenuto assai (very sustained), bugle calls bring in the sonata-form remainder. The classical sound is present as in early Beethoven, but there is an integrated darker feeling, without melodrama (making for less popular music). There is a lengthy development extending the theme and diffusing its material into lyrical variations. Schumann’s melodic writing is phenomenal, long lines extend through numerous subtle shifts. While the music is enchanting it requires a devotion to appreciate this symphony. My friend commented that it was a shame that with all the colours of the orchestra available there was little variation. The texture is overall a little thick and colours beyond strings often seem as an afterthought. Mid-nineteenth century orchestras were seldom well endowed, Schumann had little opportunity to write for orchestra and his technical knowlege of the orchestra was limited.

The second movement contains two trios divided by a sixteenth note repetition in the first violins which returns in the coda. The first trio has a triplet rhythm, woodwind moving in retardando and timpani providing tension. The second trio is based on quarter-notes and is subdued, the contrast is most effective. The coda assertively restates the theme with question-answer impetus.

The third movement is particularly beautiful. Oboe and then bassoon combine lyrically. Appogiatura motives in strings appear, in contrast to Mozart’s use to propel, to stall and sob. Her the colours of the orchestra come more into play. Brass is joined by flutes then strings, and horn topped with piccolo. The theme moves slowly giving full weight to the phrase as Zanetti leans forward coaxing emotion from the orchestra.

The final movement, though episodic in form has a good sense of continuity and ties in the theme of the preceeding movement. It opens optimistically and the conductor has fun with this one, his movement gives the impression of rolling and there is a relaxed energy to the orchestra. This is an assured and fitting end to the programme.