Conductor: Louis Langrée
Mozart: Symphony No 39 in E-flat Major, K 543
Mozart: Symphony No 40 in G Minor, K 550
Mozart: Symphony No 41 in C Major, K 551, “Jupiter”
What more appropriate way to wrap up the Mostly Mozart Festival could there be than with the man himself, represented by not one or two, but three of his final, all-around brilliant and widely popular symphonies? The idea of playing the famous trilogy of 1788, which he composed within six weeks three years before his untimely death, is so clever that it is kind of hard to believe it has not been done more often, if at all.
I had been lucky enough to hear the endlessly contrasting and ambiguous No 40 less than a month ago as part of the festival’s preview concert, but yesterday I was more than ready to get into its groove again, as this time it was book-ended by the promising No 39 and the majestic No 41, on the closing night of another highly successful Mostly Mozart Festival.
The Symphony No 39 is probably the less well-known of those final masterworks, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the reason for that relative neglect might be as I was listening to its more subdued but just as attractive lines. Back on the podium for this festival’s final hurrah, Louis Langrée was by all accounts fully in charge, sans score but with plenty of insights, which his orchestra happily took in for a light and joyful performance. This No 39 sounded like the older and wiser, as well as less complicated, child who people sometimes do not bother to notice but who, when given half a chance, comes alive as fervently and memorably as its younger, more hot-blooded siblings.
Yesterday’s latest take on the Symphony No 40 was as satisfying as the previous one, both elegantly emphasizing the contrasting themes of grace and sorrow in one intensely emotional journey. The urgent Molto allegro, the thoughtful Andante and the forceful Menuetto all confidently led to an ever-changing, energy-filled Finale to everyone’s delight.
The intermission, which is typically meant to provide a welcome break for performers and audiences, was a totally different affair last night due to the first evening of the Met’s Summer HD Festival, which yesterday featured Willy Decker’s acclaimed production of La Traviata. That’s how, standing on the balcony of the Avery Fisher Hall above a mobbed Lincoln Plaza where people were enjoying a balmy and free outdoor night at the opera, I got to relive the last few minutes of the tense Hvorostovsky-Dessay encounter, followed by a Dessay passionately begging Polenzani to love her as much as she loved him before fleeing for his alleged own good. This Verdi-infused interlude had to be the most unusual and elating intermission ever for a lot of the concert attendees, myself included.
Back to Mozart in the concert hall, the most assertive come-on of the entire classical music répertoire wasted no time opening the symphonic gates and let the mighty Jupiter powerfully unfurl. Then solidly at the top of his game, the unstoppable composer seems to have thrown in everything he had learned so far, add a healthy dose of his own genius, and come up with what has to be one of the most accomplished musical masterpieces ever written. For the final work of the final concert, Louis Langrée and his orchestra did not save anything and delivered a well informed and genuinely enthusiastic performance of the intrinsically complex, immediately appealing score. A resoundingly glorious finish for a resoundingly rewarding concert. À l’année prochaine !