Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mozart- who needs him?

I attended the Atlanta Symphony concert last night. The program included:

PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto No. 1

MOZART: Overture to La clemenza di Tito

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9

The Mozart was first. I must be one of the few classical music mavens who do not like Mozart. (I also don’t like Beethoven all that much either). To me if you’ve heard one piece by Mozart you have heard them all, and he certainly was prolific, given the young age at which he died. In my opinion, his music is mannered, formulaic, cold, and devoid of great melody, but wait, that seems to describe the classic period of classical music anyway. So, I am not one to judge the ASO’s performance of this piece. At least it did not grate on me.

Ms. Josefowicz was the soloist in the Prokofiev. I heard her last year with the Pittsburgh Symphony and was underwhelmed, especially since she played the electric violin that seemed boring. With the ASO she played a real instrument and she was magnificent. She has a big tone and seems to hit all of the right notes. I liked this performance very much. The Prokofiev concerto is not particularly flashy and only hints at the sophisticated use of the wind instruments that are a hall mark of this composer’s later music. The score calls for a smallish orchestra that seemed to be a good fit with the bad acoustics of Symphony Hall.

The Schubert piece is very long clocking in at over 50 minutes. It is interesting to me that Schubert followed Mozart by about three decades yet music had already begun moving away from the classical style into the romantic period. Schubert had a knack for writing memorable and clever themes that he could develop throughout the piece. His themes are both hummable and rhythmic. He used the wood winds wisely and minimized the use of the horns. Again this style seems to suit the acoustics of the ASO hall better than when the brass play a more prominent role. The symphony is so likeable that its length is easily tolerated.

Abbado, the conductor, comes from a family of musical talent. His uncle is the famed conductor Claudio Abbado. Roberto is talented and seems to be liked by the ASO musicians. His tempi were on target and he keeps good balance within the orchestra. He seats the musicians in the traditional European style with the bass and celli sitting adjacent to the first violins. The second violins sit where the celli usually are in most American orchestras. For me, this arrangement elevates the bases from mere plucked instruments to actual participants in the melodic line. The ASO played admirably and I noticed only one premature entry by the trombones in the

Schubert, but compared to what I have heard before from the ASO, their ensemble was quite good.

All in all, this was a nice and well played concert.

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