15 Aug 2018

Elizabeth Kerr reviews Zefiro

From Upbeat, 12:00 am on 15 August 2018
Ensemble Zefiro

Ensemble Zefiro Photo: Marin Barza

Baroque wind ensemble Zefiro has recently begun a tour of the country. Elizabeth Kerr gives their opening night concert is Wellington her hearty approval.

This tour by the Ensemble Zefiro is an example of the broader approach to chamber music being taken these days by Chamber Music NZ. The group is a sextet of early wind instruments with Baroque and Classical repertoire played on the instruments of those periods – two oboes, two bassoons, two horns.

The concert fell into two halves, the first half from the Baroque period on Baroque instruments, the second half Haydn and Mozart, played on the instruments of the Classical period. Handel’s music opened the concert, music written for the outdoors, reminding us of his Water Music. The music for these early wind bands is party music, written for social functions, garden parties or banquets, music for a good time. And the Ensemble Zefiro were having a very good time and their exuberance and humour were infectious.

Handel was followed by a composer less well-known, Johann Friedrich Fasch, who was an exact contemporary of Handel and J S Bach. His Sonata in G minor for oboes and bassoons showed off the virtuosity of the musicians; these early instruments are very difficult to play with such apparent ease. Ensemble Zefiro stand to play and are constantly on the move, swaying, bending their knees, almost dancing at times. Their playing of the final work in the first half, a French Overture Suite by Telemann, was full of theatrical character and droll effects.

In the second half of the programme the five movements of Haydn’s Parthia offered very beautiful expressive playing alongside more fleet-footed virtuosity, and in the final work by Mozart, another Divertimento, Zefiro’s performance was wonderfully stylish and full of variety as the composer exploited the dynamics and colours of the instruments.