Camerata Academica of the Salzburg Mozarteum/Alexander Janiczek (violin)
Symphony No 85 (La Reine) - Haydn
Clarinet Concerto - Mozart
Symphony No 5 - Schubert
Salzburg's Camerata Academica is a chamber orchestra with a distinguished history. It was founded in 1951 by Bernhard Paumgartner, recorded an acclaimed series of Mozart's piano concertos directed from the keyboard by Geza Anda in the 1960s, and from 1978 was directed by the great Hungarian violinist, Sandor Vegh, who died last January.
The orchestra's Sunday afternoon programme at Belfast's Waterfront Hall was directed from the first desk by the leader, Alexander Janiczek. He's an animated figure, who bobs and wheels in communication with his players to secure playing that's as elegant as it is vital.
In the first of Haydn's Paris symphonies, the one nicknamed La Reine (supposedly because Marie Antoinette liked it so much), Janiczek and his players retained that essential sense of the unexpected, of playful Haydnesque surprise. Tempos and phrasing had a delightful buoyancy and the sense of give and take between players had a strong flavour of gracefully pointed chamber music making.
The soloist in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto was Paul Meyer. A Frenchman from Alsace (an occasional slight hint of vibrato betrays his nationality), he plays Mozart with the lightest touch imaginable. His extraordinary facility leads him to explore the thinnest threads of sound. His mastery of pianissimo - the single most striking feature of this performance - takes him well beyond anything the music requires. But the effect is so arresting, the vein of fantasy in the playing so rich and so varied, the range of musical response so imaginative, that everyday considerations of style and proportion hold no sway. And the orchestral players' response was keen and fine to match.
Schubert's Fifth Symphony in the second half didn't sparkle or sing as easily as might have been expected. It's not that it was in any way a dull performance, merely that the level of illumination showed a drop from the musicmaking of the first half. The highest standards were re-asserted in the single encore, Schubert's Quartet Movement in C minor, played by the orchestra's string section (without double basses), in as convincing an orchestral reading of a string quartet as it's ever been my good fortune to hear.