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Avi Avital with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Home > Sydney > Shows | Performing Arts | Music | Fun Things To Do | Classical Music
by An epicurean and a plebian (subscribe)
One of us likes the simple things, the other, adventure. But for better or worse, we are dining partners for life! We aim to provide you 2 perspectives in our reviews. After all, there's no wrong way to eat a reese's; or a jalebi. -Plebe Epicure
Event: -
Magnetic mandolinist mesmerizes masses
Avi Avital, back for an encore performance following his widely acclaimed tour of Australia in 2014, is better than ever (tickets HERE 28 October to 4 November). Mr. Avital is world renowned for reintroducing us to the mandolin and re-imagining its capabilities. With a light-hearted command of his surroundings, easy going swagger, and handsome smile, the man is a bewitching performer in addition to an expert mandolinist.
Avi Avital, Australian with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Avi Avital with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra


For those of us unfamiliar with the instrument, think of a mandolin as a cross between the violin and guitar. Like a guitar, it is held on the lap and plucked. Its tuning, however, is identical to a violin. Although most of us are familiar with the mandolin for its prominence in folk and bluegrass music, it was once the instrument of upper-society who commissioned concertos for and orchestras comprised of these little lutes. To see it featured in a classical concert, plucked by a master and accompanied by other period instruments, is an exceedingly rare treat.

Avi Avital
Avi Avital at the Sydney Music

Avital and Artistic Director Paul Dyer (who performs tonight on the harpsichord, reminding us that he is a musician as well as a visionary) have created a wonderful program that is light on pretence and heavy on fun. The enthusiasm of the orchestra is felt in the first piece as the musicians come alive with smiles and sways, signalling that this concert won't be your grandfather's stuffy affair. Gone are the tails, ties and conductor; replaced is a dimly lit stage reimagined as a Moroccan music den.

The program is a plucky combination of mandolin orchestrations spanning countries and eras, and classical violin pieces arranged for mandolin by Avital himself. Because violins and mandolins are identically tuned, any music written for the violin is easily transposed to the mandolin. But transposing music and actually playing it are two very different things. The long arm of the violin bow allows it to both quickly skip and lugubriously glide over the strings to produce notes that are quick and sharp or long and sustained. Conversely, every note must be struck by the mandolinist and struck multiple times in order to sustain it. This results in an energetic sound; even during more sobering pieces. Therefore, for a mandolinist to take on music by Vivaldi, the Baroque composer with a penchant for carpal tunnel-inducing violin orchestrations, is an amazing feat. Particularly so, is Avital's rendition of the Autumn movement from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The overall result is a performance that is lively, bright, and often gripping.

So to is the maestro, who performs these pieces with his whole self - never still, constantly weaving and bobbing – it's as if Avital is urging more out of both the orchestra and the audience all at once. It's no wonder he was asked back – the man is a smashing treat whose performance reminds us exactly why he holds the trivia-worthy distinction of being the only mandolin player to ever be nominated for a Grammy!

Pro tips:
Make sure to bring your loudest shoes and best clap as the encore songs we were treated to were worth the price of admission on its own. To relive Avi Avital's Vivaldi, grab a CD and a signature post-show. If in Sydney, grab a glass of wine before the show and head into the pre-concert talk by Dr Alan Maddox, Sydney Conservatorium of Music at 6:20. It's a friendly primer on the mandolin, its ancestors and the pieces on offer tonight.

Avi Avital, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Avi Avital with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

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Why? Delight your ears, expand your mind
When: Sydney - 2016 • Wed, 26 October, 7:00 PM • Fri, 28 October, 7:00 PM • Sat, 29 October, 2:00 PM • Sat, 29 October, 7:00 PM • Wed, 2 November, 7:00 PM • Fri, 4 November, 7:00 PM Melbourne - 2016 • Sat, 5 November, 7:00 PM • Sun, 6 November, 5:00 PM
Phone: 1300 782 856
Where: Sydney, Melbourne, & Brisbane
Cost: 32-173
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