Conductor: Louis Langrée
Mozart: Symphony No. 34 in C Major, K. 338
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor
Another summer weekend in New York City, another couple of hours whiled away in line for another free concert, in vastly different circumstances from the previous weekend though. Last Saturday morning, as a gentle breeze was efficiently keeping the Upper West Side cool, I patiently waite in front of the Avery Fisher Hall for about three hours with a couple of New Yorker magazines and a pauper's breakfast for the opportunity to score premium seats for the preview concert of the Mostly Mozart Festival that very evening. And for the fourth year in a row, patience proved to a be conquering virtue.
The crowd-pleasing program included, of course, a work by the man himself with his Symphony No. 34, and then what has to be one of my favorite works in the entire classical music repertoire, Brahms' Symphony No. 4. So after the de rigueur stop at the L'Arte del Gelato cart located right on Lincoln Plaza and the leisurely enjoyment of our refreshing treats with a sweeping view over the Hearst Plaza, my friend Angie and I took our seats in the packed to the rafters (and on the stage) Avery Fisher Hall for the unofficial opening concert 49th Mostly Mozart Festival.
After the usual welcome speeches, Louis Langrée, MMF's iconic and beloved music director and main conductor, and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra went right down to business with Mozart's spirited and elegant Symphony No. 34. The compellingly breezy rendition by the orchestra, which even benefited from a swift insightful comment by maestro Langrée right after the unfinished minuet, was a fitting tribute to the young 24-year-old composer, who by all accounts was just hitting his stride at the time.
The MMF preview concert is an early and short affair, so after a quick pause, conductor and orchestra whole-heartedly switched from quintessential Classical to full-blown Romanticism with Brahms' magnificent final symphony. Serenely opening with the hypnotic, famously unaccompanied principal theme, the first movement rapidly became awash with lush melodies and high drama. And so the journey went on, richly expressive but still fundamentally austere, all the way to the no-holds-barred, Bach-inspired grand Finale which gave way to a thunderous ovation. According to a quick and informal show of hands during the introductions, there were a few people new to classical music in the audience. If this stunning performance of this stunning piece did not convince them of its merits, I am afraid nothing will.