Friday, August 10, 2018

Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra – Louis Langree, conductor; Daniel Lozakovich, violin. August 8, 2018.

David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.  Orchestra (Seat T108, $50).

Pre-Concert Recital
Rhapsody in E-flat major, Op. 119, No. 4 (1893) by Brahms (1833-1897).
Reminisceneces de Don Juan (1841) by Liszt (1811-1886).
Dominc Cheli, piano.

The Chairman Dances (1985) by Adams (b. 1947).
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K.216 (1775) by Mozart (1756-1791).
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 (1799-1800) by Beethoven (1770-1827).

I studied (in a cursory manner) Brahms’s piano compositions numbered Op. 11X (e.g., Op. 119, simply titled “Four Pieces”) many years ago, and retain some familiarity with the Rhapsody played in tonight’s preconcert.  I could make out the structure of the piece, but not the subtleties.  Nonetheless, it sounded more like a meditative piece rather than the brilliance and playfulness one associates with, say, ones by Liszt and Gershwin.

Liszt’s piece is based on Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni.  While I am generally aware of the story behind the opera, I am familiar with only two of the tunes, one of them, “La ci darem la mano” is used extensively in this rather long composition by Liszt. The Program Notes notes that Liszt’s conception “rearranges the opera’s moods, offering doom seduction, and high living in that order.”  I was just blown away by how difficult the piece appeared (I looked at the score beforehand) and how Cheli seemed to coax the different moods from the piece.  A better knowledge of the opera probably would have helped with the enjoyment, but I was nonetheless mesmerized by how demanding the piece was.  At some point one wonders if the fingers move faster than a video camera can catch the movements (30 fps); I will do some calculations to find out.

Dominic Cheli put in impressive performances of works by Brahms and Liszt.

The “classical” parts of today’s program are from the respective composer’s early periods.  Mozart was all of 19 when he wrote his third violin concerto.  This is a piece popular with violinists early in their student careers, not too difficult, but has enough showmanship to highlight one’s skills.  Lozakovich, all of 16 years old, gave a lovely rendition of it.  As with many of these popular concertos, I have in my mind a way it should be performed.  So for me he put too strong an accent on some of the notes, and slowed down too much on some of the notes.  So there are different ways to get the job done, and the audience applauded after every movement.  This unfortunately became the practice for the entire concert.

Lozakovich and Langree after the Mozart violin concerto.

For encore Lozakovich played Bach’s Sarabande, a piece that was a bit beyond his grasp. A well-played Bach violin solo would sound like chamber music, here he was struggling to get the notes out correctly.

I wonder if this was an opportunity missed for this young man.

Many consider Mozart’s violin sonatas less intellectual (for lack of a better adjective) than his later works; I don’t recall similar remarks being made about Beethoven’s first symphony (he was 29 at the time.)  And it was indeed a full-blown, mature work, only “simple” when compared with his later symphonies.

This was a well-performed work.  Many different instruments got a workout, and met the challenges beautifully.

After Beethoven's First Symphony.

“Nixon in China” was one of John Adams’s operas, and “The Chairman’s Dance” was an elaboration of material from that opera, with a storyline somewhat like Salome (the Program Notes has Adams’s description of the scene.)  Unfortunately, the storyline was a lot more interesting than the music, which sounded a bit monotonous. There were some interesting percussion instruments scored, including these two plates that made a sound when rubbed against each other – I was wondering if static electric would be generated as a result.

The Evening's Program started with John Adams's "The Chairman's Dance."

Getting in for the pre-concert meant we had to hurry with our meal; today we had Chinese takeout.  Weather has been good so far: all our meals were eaten in the woods by the Opera House.

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