Monday, February 23, 2009

St. Luke Orchestra - All-Mozart - 02/22/09

Conductor: Roberto Abbado
Mozart: Symphony No 35 in D Major, K. 385, "Haffner"
Mozart: Piano Concerto No 15 in B-flat Major, K. 450 - Andreas Haefliger
Mozart: Symphony No 41 in C Major, K. 551, "Jupiter"

The St. Luke Orchestra is quite a unique ensemble on the current music scene, and not only for the infallibly high caliber of its performances. For the past 34 years, it has been an organization that includes musicians from the Orchestra, the Chamber Ensemble, and the St. Luke's Arts Education Program. With additional incentives such as Roberto Abbado conducting and Andreas Heafliger at the piano for an all-Mozart program, I was on my way to Carnegie Hall yesterday morning. All composed while he was at the height of his creative power, the Haffner, the Piano Concerto No 15 and the Jupiter promised a couple of hours of blissful respite on a cold, grey and rainy Sunday.

Originally written as a serenade for the ennoblement celebration of Sigmund Haffner of Salzburg, Mozart later revised it to fit the traditional Viennese symphony format. The end result turned out to be quite compelling, with a solemn first movement, a lovely andante, a festive menuet and a splashy finale. Maestro Abbado economically but persuasively led the musicians into a highly refined interpretation of it, consistently highlighting the graceful coherence of the whole piece.
Always the busy man, Mozart composed no fewer than 12 concertos between 1784 and 1786, and yesterday it was the Piano Concerto No 15 that Andrea Haefilger was set to play for us. Mostly unusual for its emphasis on the wind instruments, it also gives the piano discreetly virtuosic parts, which stood harmoniously out amidst the elegantly understated score.
The pièce de résistance, the Jupiter symphony, was last on the program, but more than worth the wait. Promisingly starting with what have to be the sexiest pick-up notes in the whole classical music répertoire, it majestically unfolds as a composition of extraordinary complexity and appeal. Its melodic power makes it instantly accessible, and its multi-layered richness makes the listener constantly discover new unsuspected nuances. The orchestra gave a beautifully subtle and vibrant performance, bringing the amazing grand finale to a rousingly spot-on conclusion. This Jupiter brightly shone in all its timeless splendor.

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