Conductor: Louis Langrée
Mozart: Symphony No 1 in E-flat Major, K. 16
Schubert: Symphony No 4 in C Minor, D. 417 (Tragic)
Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 - Joshua Bell
After celebrating the Mostly Mozart Festival last week with Beethoven and some Schubert, I eagerly went back to the Avery Fischer Hall last Friday night for... Brahms and some Schubert this time, and a little bit of Mozart too! But let's face it, my main reason to be there was not Mozart's first ever symphony, which I had never heard, or Schubert's Tragic symphony, which I had heard just two weeks earlier, but Brahms' mighty violin concerto, which has always been one of my top favorites among the whole classical music repertoire. To make things ever better, the performer would be no less than Joshua Bell, whose mission for the last couple of decades has apparently been to bring Romantic works to dazzling life, and the conductor would be no less than Louis Langrée, whose undeniable chemistry with the Mostly Mozart Orchestra consistently produces genuinely satisfying results. There were definitely worse ways to start the weekend in the company of these two gentlemen.
Short, at barely 12 minutes, and straightforwardly entertaining, if not bristling with his trademark inspired refinement, Mozart's first symphony was a welcome curiosity, all the more endearing when one learned that he had reached the ripe age of eight when he composed it. Treating it with all due respect and a whole lotta love, Louis Langrée led the orchestra into a lively and much heart-felt account of this playful trifle.
Schubert was 19 when he wrote his Tragic symphony, and while it is a definitely longer and obviously more mature composition that Mozart's first effort, there's no denying the youthful vigor it exudes. This happy surprise of the preview concert sounded just as good as the first time, opening with a brooding mood before turning into a whirlwind of nostalgia and vivaciousness, and eventually concluding in unresolved agitation. It is a surprisingly complex journey for a teenager to create, but by all accounts Schubert knew where he was going. And so did conductor and musicians at the Avery Fisher. The music was overflowing with a boundless energy and a constant attention to details that would have made the young master proud.
Then finally came Joshua Bell and the Brahms violin concerto, the last, but evidently not least, treat on the program. As far as I'm concerned, hearing Brahms' masterpiece live performed by the right person is one of the most divine pleasures one can experience in a concert hall. Friday night was no exception, with Joshua Bell and his intensely lyrical tone expertly negotiating delicate poetic passages, sweeping dramatic moments and exhilarating dance melodies. However, once the daunting technical challenges masterfully handled, this concerto proved to be much more than just a spectacular flash-over-substance tour de force and got deep into Brahms' own turbulent, spirited and passionate nature. This feat was accomplished in no small part thanks to soloist, conductor and orchestra all getting into the perfect groove for a grand performance. There was no encore after it, in spite of the audience's insistence, but really, none was needed. Or was it?