Conductor: Louis Langrée
Mozart: Symphony No 38 in C Major, K. 504 (Prague)
Schubert: Symphony No 4 in C Minor, (Tragic)
After a month of July busy with various outdoors performances and their wide range of unpredictable, frustrating and priceless moments, it was with much giddiness that I was expecting the start of the wonderful New York summer tradition that is the Mostly Mozart Festival. Moreover, as if to ease our way into paying to hear live music again, the preview concert last night was free of charge, but not free of delight thanks to two major symphonies by Mozart (Duh!) and its fellow countryman Schubert.
Since the tickets were distributed at 10 am at the Avery Fisher Hall and I figured that the competition would be fierce, I decided not to take any chances and showed up on the Lincoln Center Plaza at 7:00 am, only to find myself in the company of less than a dozen sleepy people. This type of dedication, however, paid off handsomely when (Flash forward 12 hours later) my friend Linden and I took our premium seats smack in the middle of the orchestra section. To top it all off, the seat right in front of me remained unoccupied the whole evening, providing me with an impeccable view on ever-gracious maestro Louis Langrée, with whom I had had the pleasure of exchanging a few words in the lobby in the morning, and the orchestra, all surrounded by temporary bleachers packed with hordes of music lovers. Who would have thought I’d be so happy to be back in the Avery Fisher Hall?!
After the standard welcome speeches, our patience was finally rewarded by a miraculously undisturbed performance of Mozart’s attractive Prague symphony. Apparently as eager to play as the audience was to listen, the orchestra unofficially opened the Mostly Mozart Festival with a rousing, unabashedly joyful account of one of the Viennese master’s later works. Intrinsically simple in all its discreet refinement, the lovely composition appreciably benefited from the dynamic conducting of Louis Langrée, who did not seem to miss an opportunity to vividly highlight each and every charming detail of it. If this was a preview of the rest of the festival, there is a lot to be expected indeed.
Although I am a die-hard fan of Schubert’s chamber music, his other works had never done much for me until I became acquainted with the Tragic symphony last night. While its title made me expect gloom and despair, it was by no means a depressing piece. The beginning may have been slow, brooding even, but the mood quickly switched to a more upbeat tone with appealing rhythms and pretty melodies, turning the whole thing into an unequivocally engaging work. Its natural vigor expertly emphasized by Louis Langrée’s high-spirited baton, Schubert’s symphony quickly proved that it could easily hold its own against Mozart’s, and that’s no small feat.
All in all, the evening was a total winner and the audience made no mistake about it, spontaneously erupting in heart-felt applause after each work (well, each movement, actually) and hopefully making plans to come back for more. The Mostly Mozart Festival has arrived, and not a minute too soon.