Sunday, June 2, 2013

Orchestra of St. Luke's - Mozart & Haydn - 06/01/13

Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
Mozart: Symphony No 29 in A Major, K. 201
Haydn: Cello Concerto No 2 in D Major, Hob. VIIb:2 - Steven Isserlis
Mozart: Ballet music from Ideomeneo, K. 367
Haydn: Symphony No 99 in E-flat Major, Hob. I:99

Although the seasons of most musical ensembles and venues are coming to an end, some concerts are still being performed these days as a result of Big Bad Sandy. That's how last night I found myself back at Carnegie Hall for a concert by the always brilliant Orchestra of St. Luke's featuring the equally brilliant cellist Steven Isserlis for a decidedly Classical Viennese evening of works by Haydn and Mozart. Better late than never.

Mozart's famous knack for crowd-pleasing complexity was continuously apparent through his Symphony No 29, which opened the concert, as if to remind us why he is one of the most popular figures in classical music history. This is not one of his most memorable pieces, but the fluid and bright playing by the orchestra made it fly by just like the refreshing summer breeze that was so much needed on that stiflingly hot evening.
The main attraction last night had to be the presence of Steven Isserlis, who is always a pleasure to hear and to watch no matter what he tackles. He has probably played Haydn's second cello concerto more times than he cares to remember, and it is to his credit that he still brought unbridled vitality and a superb technical command to the task. It also turns out that this performance was actually more special than usual as he dedicated it to Janos Starker, eminent cellist and professor. Solidly seconded by the musicians of St. Luke's, he happily grabbed the work and let the seductive dark sounds of his instrument create beautifully lyrical moments in between intricate challenges. As soon as the last notes had faded away, my evening had been made.
Sandwiched between Haydn's cello concerto and Symphony No 99, The ballet music from Mozart's Idomeneo clearly demonstrated how much the young composer had learned from and was quickly surpassing the old master. A vibrant testimony of Mozart's effortless elegance, this elaborate portion of the opera is perfectly capable of standing on its own, not unlike some of his dazzling overtures, as it did last night.
Haydn's Symphony No 29 went off smoothly as well, with Nicholas McGegan watching over all the details of the engaging score. The three sections of the orchestra eventually stood up for the few final notes and concluded this impeccable performance with a well-deserved happy ending.

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