Sunday, February 1, 2009

NSO - Haydn, Mozart, Previn & Strauss - 02/01/09

Conductor: André Prévin
Haydn: Symphony No 104 in D Major, "London"
Mozart: Violin Concerto No 3 in G Major, K. 216 - Anne-Sophie Mutter
Previn: Double Concerto for Violin, Contrabass, and Orchestra - Anne-Sophie Mutter & Roman Patkolo
Strauss: Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

Although having a chance to hear Anne-Sophie Mutter play is no doubt a drop-everything-and-go opportunity, I did not make it to her last appearance in Washington, which was WPAS' season opening concert at the Kennedy Center. Of course, gorging on classical music and sight-seeing in her native country's capital was no meager consolation, but still... So there was no way I would miss her next performance, again at the Kennedy Center, featuring her playing a classic among classics, Mozart's violin concerto No 3, and a more modern and intriguing piece, André Prévin's double concerto for violin, contrabass and orchestra. The much honored composer/musician looked frail as he was moving around, warmly greeted by the respectful audience, but he did not waste any time and got things rolling for his 80th birthday celebration.

The concert started with one of Haydn's 106 symphonies, the last one he composed in London, and which was included in his farewell performance in the capital, hence its name. It opens quite solemnly, almost like as funeral march, but things eventually lighten up with lively harmonies. The andante is warm and subtle, the minuet a lively country dance and the finale, inspired by an exuberant peasant song from Croatia and/or an English street tune, concludes the piece on a festive note in total opposition to its beginning. Even if the music did not always have the expected effervescence, it was a nice introduction.
Although Mozart always preferred the piano, he had quite a talent for violin playing as well. He wrote his violin concerto No 3 (and the four others) while he was a mere 18-years old, and it magistrally demonstrated his already extraordinary maturity as a composer. It is a beautifully balanced, elegantly refined piece, and yesterday evening Anne-Sophie Mutter performed it with teutonic cleanliness, emphasizing its classical seriousness, with a few occasional sparks. Not surprisingly, the exquisite andante was heavenly ethereal in her hands and brought the whole audience to a breath-holding state of grace.
She came back for the next piece accompanied by the young but already highly regarded Roman Patkolo, a protégé of Mutter and Prévin, who wrote the work they performed especially for them. After the precise vibrancy of Mozart, the mood turned decidedly jazzy, and allowed the violinist and the bass player to engage in spirited dialogue. While the first and third movements were eclectic and contained strong rhythms, it is during the Interlude and the second movement that things really heated up between the two soloists, the deep, dark sounds from the double bass creating the perfect counter-point to the playful, polished harmonies coming out of the violin.
The Suite of Der Rosenkavalier concluded the evening with loud rumble and tumble, playful stop-and-go, and let us go into the cold night with an uplifted mood.

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