Monday, August 10, 2009

Mostly Mozart Festival - The Chamber Orchestra of Europe - 08/09/09

Conductor: Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Haydn: Symphony No 101 in D Major, "The Clock"
Ligeti: Chamber Concerto
Mozart: Piano Concerto No 19 in F Major, K. 459 - Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Round 2 of my Mostly Mozart Festival included predictable names and a decidedly unexpected surprise: Haydn was again on the program, which is only fair considering his close friendship to Mozart and the 200th anniversary of his death. Needless to say that Ligeti's presence had me do a double-take, but after all he did share with Mozart an uncompromising commitment to contemporary, therefore often "difficult" and often not readily accepted music. The program was going to conclude with, at long last, the man being honored himself. Adding to my excitement, the critically acclaimed, multi-cultural Chamber Orchestra of Europe was conducted and accompanied by the no less appreciated, multi-faceted Pierre-Laurent Aimard. His keen interest in unique programming as well as his pristine reputation as a pianist made me very much look forward to hearing my fellow countryman live in the context of my first visit to the new, much talked about, Alice Tully Hall.

The Clock was Haydn at his best and happiest. It owes its nickname to the fun second movement, which effectively features the mechanical sound of a timepiece as the main melody. It is for sure the most outstanding part of the symphony, and effortlessly fits into the general harmony of the whole piece.
From Haydn to Ligeti, the jump is not as big as initially thought because the much more hermetic concerto by the Hungarian composer in fact contains some mechanical passages reminiscent of a clockwork in the form of repeating figures moving at different speeds. In that respect, Pierre-Laurent Aimard's detailed explanations and live demonstrations were very helpful in the audience's appreciation of Ligeti's unusual musical ideas. Even if the lack of traditional melodies can put off the listener, a little attention to the score's intricacies went a long way, and the complex rhythms ended up becoming a quite interesting, if not immediately compelling, challenge in polyphonic study.
And, FINALLY, Mozart. For that last piece, Pierre-Laurent Aimard took over the double duty of conductor and soloist, and elegantly mastered both. Written during what was probably the happiest period of his life, his piano concerto No 19 consequently is probably one of his happiest works. Back on familiar territory, we all listened to Mozart's joyful, carefree dialogue between the orchestra and the piano with a more relaxed but still attentive ear. The peaceful beauty of the music eventually led to some virtuoso fireworks, which were the perfect ending to the concerto, and the concert.
The Alice Tully Hall turned out to deserve all the raving reviews it has been receiving, and its classy, versatile design along with fabulous acoustics made the packed performance even more special. Two down, one more to go.

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