Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival Review: Haydn’s Solar Poetics

An exceptional celebration of Haydn’s early works, like eavesdropping on the past.


Presented by Adelaide Festival & Australian Haydn Ensemble
Reviewed 5th March 2022

The Adelaide Festival and Australian Haydn Ensemble collaborated to present something special this past weekend. Each performance celebrates one of Haydn’s early symphonies: Le Matin (morning,) Le Midi (midday,) and Le Soir (evening). Accompanying works are provided by CPE Bach and (a very young) Mozart. All the works were composed around the same period, in the middle eighteenth century. As luck would have it, this is also when the guest of honour was first built.

Conductor Erin Helyard performs alongside with his orchestra on an expertly restored Kirckman harpsichord, originally crafted in 1775. As Helyard began to play, it felt as though the past was coming alive.

CPE Bach’s Symphony in E Minor begins with a sense of urgency, as the theme sweeps through the orchestra. Helyard die not sit at the harpsichord, rather he crouched as he played, so he could instantly stand to conduct whenever free. The entire stage was energised.

Mozart’s Keyboard Piece K1 was his first composition for harpsichord, written at age five. A truly delightful piece, it certainly hints at Mozart’s later greatness.

Both Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto in G Major and Le Matin show that he knew exactly how to champion the harpsichord. Its antique voice is never overwhelmed by the orchestra, but rather perfectly complements it. The Concerto has a beautiful lilting melodic conversation between the violins and harpsichord.

Le Matin captures the excitement and bustle of the new day, starting with a cheerful melody in the first movement. The hero instruments of the symphony include the harpsichord, flutes, horns, and violone (an ancestor of the double bass.) A truly unique and beautiful piece.

The morning performance flies by. Those who purchased tickets to all three concerts should count themselves lucky. Haydn’s Solar Poetics was smartly curated and expertly performed. One hopes the Adelaide Festival presents similar concert series in the future.

Reviewed by Nicola Woolford

Season Ended

Rating out of 5: 5

Photo Credit: Tony Lewis

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