Ensemble Zefiro

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16 August 2018, MTG Century Theatre, Napier 
By Louis Pierard

Dalla Tafelmusik al Divertimento. Handel – Due Arie, HWV 410, 411 and Marcia in F Major, HWV 346; Fasch – Sonata in G minor; Telemann: Ouverture in F, TWV 55:F9; Haydn – Parthia in C, Hob 11.7; Mozart – Divertimento in E flat, K 252/240a.

This Chamber Music NZ subscription concert by six Italian baroque wind players was a delight – it was musically fascinating, highly informative, and had a comic flair that made it unfailingly engaging.

Oboists Alfredo Bernadini and Paolo Grazzi, bassoonists Alberto Grazzi and Giorgio Mandolesi, and horn players Dileno Baldin and Francesco Meucci are performing and teaching specialists in top European baroque orchestras and institutions. Zefiro, has been breezing, in various combinations, around the world since 1989 performing an 18th century repertoire on authentic and copies of period instruments.

Like it or not, many concertgoers might regard so-called “historically informed” performance as the musical equivalent of driving a Model A.  What distinguishes Zefiro from some early music performers is that, despite their evident scholarship, there is a refreshing lack of earnestness. They clearly love what they do and have an unforced and infectious good humour, bringing to life what, in the hands of others can be an arcane pursuit with ossified museum pieces, to reveal the charms of music written to compensate for, as well as to exploit the physical limitations of the hardware. One  grows to love such performance for – not despite – its imperfections.

And skilled performers Zefiro certainly are, with their spontaneous swaying and the starter’s orders tutti crouch before launching into a presto, the discreet musical shrugs as the horn players wrestled with the harmonic complexities (and necessary routine draining) of primitive plumbing systems, as well as the hilarious encore – a march by Georg Druschetzky, a Czech contemporary of Haydn –  in which, one by one, the players ran out of music and quit the stage until it ended in an oboe solo.

As a footnote (and to indulge in some lazy stereotyping about Italian style), any sartorial expectations were well-rewarded . . .  those ties with the charcoal suits were works of art in themselves.

Photo: Andrea Rognoni

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