Labèque, Labèque, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Rattle


NCH, Dublin

Haydn– Symphony No 64.

Mozart – Concerto in E flat for two pianos K365; Symphony No 33.

Haydn– Symphony No 95.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Simon Rattle offered a very full musical sandwich at the National Concert Hall on Monday. A pair of Haydn symphonies, one rarely heard, one relatively well-known, enclosed a concerto and a symphony by Mozart.

The 64th of Haydn’s numbered symphonies is a work that Rattle made sure was full of surprises, at times so much so that the effect was reminiscent of that panel game where different people complete a sentence by each adding a word at a time.

It’s a work whose success is completely dependent on timing in performance, and Rattle gauged the unexpected turns and their often unpredictable resolutions to perfection.

The evening’s second Haydn symphony, No. 95 in C minor, is from a different and altogether more familiar world, better ordered, so to speak, altogether more genial, and, in the case of this particular symphony, with a delectable, long-limbed cello solo in the third movement’s trio.

The soloists in Mozart’s Concerto for two pianos were the fleet-fingered Katia and Marielle Labèque, playing copies of Anton Walter Viennese pianos that would have been familiar to Mozart.

The silvery tone of these instruments is incredibly light and clear, so light, in fact, that the delicacy of the orchestral writing that Mozart provided and its delivery by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment seemed almost miraculous.

The springy energy of Mozart’s Symphony No. 33 was beautifully caught in Rattle’s performance. But the playing, fine as it was, had a slightly more generalised feel than in the two Haydn symphonies, where the composer’s quickness of wit, overt cleverness, and sheer chutzpah of musical invention seemed to have spurred Rattle and his players onto a higher plane.