Conductor: Adam Fischer
Haydn: Symphony No. 97 in C Major
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219 (Turkish)
Leonidas Kavakos: Violin
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (Jupiter)
As I was racking my brain to find the perfect birthday gift for my Viennese friend Angie back in the spring 2018, Carnegie Hall serendipitously came to the rescue with its catalog for the 2018-2019 season, which included a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, whom she had never heard live, at Carnegie Hall, where she had never been, for an all-Viennese program, which she was passingly familiar with. The only non-Viennese element would be Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos, but needless to say, nobody in their right mind could possibly resent having perform him Mozart’s compelling “Turkish” concerto, or anything else for that matter.
Then she had to wait for about nine months, but as she would say, “Vorfreude ist die Hälfte des Spaßes”, and then the time finally came for our Viennese date last Sunday afternoon. Although that first weekend of March was mostly wet, gray and depressing, there was a lot of anticipation building in the sold-out Stern Auditorium, whose audience consisted of an impressive mix of locals and visitors, aficionados and neophytes, all eager to check out the prestigious ensemble and the crowd-pleasing program.
The concert started with what had to be the least exciting piece on the program in Haydn’s Symphony No. 97, but one still has to acknowledge the importance of the composer in music history, the pleasantly carefree mood of the piece, and the sharp reading of it by the orchestra.
Mozart’s remarkable knowledge of the violin is often overshadowed by his much more extended repertoire for the piano, not to mention his extraordinary output for orchestral music, chamber music and opera. On Sunday afternoon I was reminded what an unpardonable oversight that is by the brilliant performance of his fifth and last violin concerto by Kavakos and the Vienna Philharmonic.
As dauntingly complex, naturally elegant and unabashedly witty as anything he ever composed, that Turkish immensely benefited from the impressive symbiosis between soloist and orchestra, who all made sure to convey the work’s many qualities with an impeccable sense of exactness that did not exclude plenty of warmth. Just because you’re the ultimate technical wizard does not mean you don’t have a heart.
Our roaring ovation eventually earned us a short side trip from Vienna to enjoy a French dance revised by a German composer with Bach’s Gavotte from his Partita No. 3, which Kavakos unsurprisingly handled with virtuosic ease.
After intermission came Mozart’s last and, by all accounts, best symphony, the Jupiter, one of those masterpieces that make you wonder what would have happened to classical music if the prolific composer hadn’t died at the top of his game. Opening with its signature irresistible come-on and developing with incomparable assertiveness and grandeur, Mozart’s glowing symphony No. 41 is the ideal vehicle to display the orchestra’s exceptional unity of sound and vision, and on Sunday afternoon, it sure did.
Since it was Mozart’s party, we got to hear more magic from the Viennese master during the encores, starting with the Adagio of his Cassation for Orchestra in G Major, an early and lovely effort.
Lastly, as if to wrap things up with a memorable bang, we got treated to a truly dazzling overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, a perennial crowd favorite that spontaneously brought the remaining audience to its feet.
Once the music was over, but our heads were still happily buzzing, we left Carnegie Hall staunchly determined not to let the new onset of wintery weather spoil our fun, and therefore headed to Jacques Torres for some decadent (French) hot chocolate and stimulating English conversation. And that definitely did the trick.