Based on the program the Canadian ensemble Les Violons du Roy performed Tuesday night at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the civilized world during the late 1700s must have enjoyed some of the most cheerful and charming music ever written.
The pieces came from the pens of three of the period’s most stalwart representatives: Jean-Philippe Rameau, Joseph Haydn, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The concert also marked Les Violons’ fourth appearance on the Troy Chromatic Concerts series as well as being part of a 10-concert North American tour, which also featured the expert Canadian pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin.
Working under associate conductor Mathieu Lussier, who was filling in for an ailing Bernard Labadie, the 23 musicians began with Rameau’s Suite from “Les Boreades” (1763).
They played the bright, bouncy tempos, gentle flowing melodies with lots of ornamentation, and a little chromatic harmony with precise techniques, seamless ensemble and a lively energy. Everything sounded fresh.
Haydn’s famous Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor (“Farewell Symphony”) (1772) entertained even as it showed Haydn cleverly experimenting with form and harmony. The work also provided a window into the lives of musicians in Prince Nikolaus’ court orchestra during its annual season at his summer court in Esterhazy.
A stormy first movement invigorated; Lussier made a judicious use of a narrow range of dynamics in the transparent slow second movement; an interesting third movement shifted tonalities; and the final romp sparkled before the musicians slowly left the stage in twos and then fours to end with only two violins playing — a hint to the prince that the musicians wanted to go home. The audience, most of them knowing what to expect, were still delighted and laughed.
Hamelin was flawless in Mozart’s lovely Concert-Rondo in A Major (1783) playing with effortless precision, technical clarity, a singing tone and gentle nuances.
He applied the same style to Haydn’s Concerto in D Major (1784), which was memorable for Haydn’s inspired writing, Lussier and the orchestra’s solid support, and Hamelin’s joyous interpretation. The slow second movement’s piano cadenza was especially wonderful. Hamelin used a crystalline tone to play super soft lines of great sweetness. It was magical.
The crowd gave a standing ovation, and Hamelin responded with the short but speedy Finale from Haydn’s Sonata in A Major (1773), which Haydn had dedicated to the prince.
The final concert of the series is April 26 with the Mozart Orchestra of New York under Gerard Schwartz.