Chamber Philharmonia Cologne @ The Scots’ Church

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a classical music concert, in fact I think the last time was about two years ago when this string ensemble played in Melbourne. The new program, featuring pieces by Vivaldi, Bach and Saint-Saëns, made for a delightful evening out.

The only drawback of attending a concert in a church is the lack of air conditioning. The summer, which seems to have all but faded away last week, came back with the vengeance, blasting Melbourne with a string of hot days. While it wasn’t unbearably stuffy inside, I think it made the old gentleman sitting in the row behind me drift off frequently during the first half. The amazing acoustics and virtuosic performances more than made up for the lack of cool air, but during the interval we moved to the back where you could fan yourself without feeling self-conscious.

I can never decide between the piano and the violin as my favourite classical instrument, and this night definitely boosted the case for the latter. It’s always incredible to me that so much beauty can emerge from a small piece of wood and horsehair. The lead violinist (who the program identified as Ukrainian-born) injected a dose of weirdness into Vivaldi’s La Tempesta di mare by breaking into an improvised jazz section midway, an unexpected but welcome surprise. Other two soloists included a cellist and an oboist; I’ve never been all that keen on oboe but the Vivaldi concerto he performed was very enjoyable. Saint-Saëns pieces near the end were probably my favourites and sounded vaguely familiar, either I’ve heard them before or someone nicked his melodies for a different piece of music.

For the encore, the ensemble pulled out the surefire crowd-pleaser, Vivaldi’s Presto from Summer a.k.a. that bit from Four Seasons everyone and their dog knows (I of course adore it too). It was a great finale to a truly sublime evening of music.

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