Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra – Jeremie Rhorer, conductor; Betrand Chamayou, piano. August 23, 2011.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Orchestra Right (Seat T112, $50).

Symphony No. 22 in E-flat major (“The Philosopher”) (1764) by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809).
Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K.414 (1782) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).
Symphony No. 29 in A major, K.201 (1774) by Mozart.

This is the third of the Mostly Mozart concerts that we went to. As I type this (Thursday evening) the threat of Hurricane Irene is all over the news, forecast to hit the area directly late Saturday. That would ruin any plans we might have harbored for the season finale, which we were somewhat inclined to do after these three rather enjoyable concerts.

The problem with three concerts in rapid succession is that they tend to blend into each other. Although we went only two days ago, I will have to work very hard to reconstruct how I felt about the concert (we shall see as I didn't jot down any notes.)

Haydn was a contemporary of Mozart’s. Of course Haydn was 20-some years Mozart’s senior, and Mozart died 18 years before Haydn did. The Program Notes indicates that they were rather good friends. I studied Mozart (as part of a German course) when in college, I thought the two didn’t meet that often, and that Haydn’s first reaction to Mozart was on the aloof side. Be that as it may, Haydn chose to stay with a steady employer while Mozart decided to free-lance. Haydn thus had to compose rather prolifically to generate enough fresh music for the Esterhazy court, including more than 80 symphonies. These symphonies tended to be rather short (this one is 16 minutes) and could work with a small orchestra.

This symphony is unusual in that it uses English horns rather than oboes, and uses a slow-fast-slow-fast arrangement for its four movements (the movements being Adagio, Presto, Menuetto and Finale: Presto). Together with the gravity of the music, the symphony is referred to as “Der Philosoph.”

Rhorer, a young French conductor, led a spirited and enjoyable rendition of the symphony. My only beef is, did he need to be so animated? While I don’t expect him to be as economical in his movements as a Toscanini or a Fiedler (admittedly I never saw these maestros in person), Rohrer reminded me of this 3 year kid who was a YouTube sensation.

The Mozart Piano Concerto is a familiar one, and Chamayou, another French musician, did it reasonably well. Certainly his approach was much more balanced than Juho Pohjonen, whom we heard last week. He and the conductor together put together an enjoyable performance. The movements are the traditional Allegro, Andante, and Rondeau: Allegretto. Chamayou also played Mozart’s cadenzas.

Another fact relayed by the Annotator (Paul Schiavo in this case) was that Mozart was an admirer of Johann Christian Bach, son of Johann Sebastian, and that Johann Christian had passed away recently. Some musicologists think Mozart quoted from JC Bach’s work, some are not so sure. Interesting, maybe. Germane? Not so sure.

Mozart wrote his 29th Symphony when he was barely 18, while he was still employed in the court of the prince-archbishop of Salzburg. As in the case of Haydn’s symphony, Mozart had a small orchestra of around 20 musicians. He certainly did wonders with such a small ensemble. The symphony is well-known for the descending octaves in the first and last movements. It seems everything clicked for this reading by the orchestra. Only complaint was maybe it was a bit rushed, so the orchestra didn't sound as crisp as it could. The movements are Allegro moderato, Andante, Menuetto, and Allegro con spirit.

I guess my worry at the beginning of this blog is correct: I don’t remember much about the concert, except in very general terms. Enjoyable, but not memorable.

We managed to find off-street parking after circling the block a few times. Also, Atrium just sent out an email about discounts for tomorrow’s concert (I was talking about the Saturday one earlier). Perhaps we will give that a try. Stay tuned.

Note added on 8/30. We ended up not going on Friday, among other things we needed to do was to get the boat prepared for the hurricane. We did hear a bit of the live broadcast (most of the Schubert piece) on WQXR. This will be our last concert this season. Next season will start in late September with Met's Anna Bolena. And I will be starting another scrap book then.

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