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A Feast with Italy: Ensemble Zefiro - Chamber Music New Zealand

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Long before the age of the ipod or the home stereo, 18th century aristocracy maintained a ‘Harmonie’ - usually a wind octet, for bringing out at the latest party, social function or banquet. Having powdered your wig, donned your best pink silk stockings or your hooped skirt, you would arrive at the palace and the music would be playing - the ‘Harmonie.’ Typically six to eight musicians would perform Tafelmusik - or "table music" - essentially "Musak" for the 18th century, to accompany the feast. But this music would be composed by some of the best composers of the time, including none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And being Mozart, it is worth listening to with your full attention.

Chamber Music New Zealand are bringing this banqueting music to Aotearoa this August with a concert from Italy’s celebrated period wind Ensemble Zefiro. With music by Mozart, Telemann, Fasch, Handel and Haydn, good humour, sparkling joy and jaunty swagger abounds in these programmes. It seems incredible to us now that it was written as background music to a fancy dinner, but alternating between wry-humour and moments of heart-stopping poignancy this is chamber music of the highest quality.

Winners of the Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice award, Ensemble Zefiro's unique timbres and brilliant virtuosity has earned them a cult-like following all over the world. Founded in 1989, by the oboists Alfredo Bernardini and Paolo Grazzi, and the bassoonist Alberto Grazzi, their recordings have also won the Cannes Classical Award and the Diapason d’Or de l’Année 2009.

Performing on period instruments, perhaps their sound can be proclaimed as truer to the composer’s intentions than performances on modern ones. Whereas modern instruments might provide a more polished tone, the sound of Zefiro’s lighter, less sophisticated instruments mingling in tangy harmony, without entirely blending, will underscore the music’s rusticity and humour.

This will be their first time in Aotearoa, and these concerts will be sure to pick up on every morsel of wit and ingenuity in the music, never forgetting that the purpose of it was to entertain. You’ll be elated by the easy elegance and bucolic enjoyment in what promises to be a delightful concert.

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