The first lesson any budding musician learns is that Mozart should sound effortless. The second lesson is that it takes great skill and effort to do so.
Fortunately, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra excelled on both accounts at its most recent concert, Amadeus.
The evening started off with Mozart’s iconic Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
From the joyful, buoyant energy of the first movement, Allegro, to the infectious driving pulse of the final Rondo, the orchestra played with commitment and drive.
Entries were tidy, articulation clean and dynamics were handled with an appropriately subtle touch.
Maestra Rosemary Thomson conducted the nuance of the music rather than keeping the beat, resulting in a performance that was well prepared and well thought out.
After this tasteful opening number, guest clarinetist Erin Fung joined the OSO in a performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A, K 622.
Fung is principal clarinetist with the OSO and it was a real treat to hear her highlighted as a soloist.
The opening Allegro immediately proved that Fung is a musician who knows and understands the subtleties of Mozart.
With clear projection and liquid tone, she sculpted her musical lines and phrases with superb clarity.
It was clear that both orchestra and soloist shared the same overall concept of the work and it was a delight to hear this partnership.
The second movement, Adagio, was, in a word, exquisite. Thomson eschewed the baton and conducted with her hands, directing the orchestra with delicate touches of her fingertips.
Fung’s awareness of Mozart’s vocal line was evident, as was her understanding of his flair for the dramatic. Her beautifully controlled and modulated tone sang out with ringing high notes and whispered low tones.
Notes appeared from the ether, something that requires tremendous breath control and which Fung made look effortless.
The third movement, Rondo, was an energetic romp that didn’t let up until the last playful phrase.
Fung more than deserved her spontaneous standing ovation, for which the audience was rewarded with an enchanting encore of a work by Argentinian composer Ástor Piazzolla.
The final number on the program was a performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C, K 661, Jupiter.
While it is doubtful Mozart knew this would be his last symphony, it is clear he put his heart into this work.
While written just 11 months after Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the character of this music is more forward moving, as if Mozart had something to say and he wasn’t going to beat about the bush to say it!
The first movement, Allegro Vivace, was exuberant, with Maestra Thomson conducting the character of each theme rather than beating the time.
As always, attention to the subtleties of articulation and phrasing made the music come alive.
Kudos to principal oboist Lauris Davis and second oboist Akane Setiawan for their tight staccato scale passages.
The second movement, Andante Cantabile, was an operatic aria with the violins singing long and luxuriously shaped phrases. Gorgeous.
The third movement, Menuetto: Trio (Allegretto), was cheerful, appropriately dance-like and a perfect foil for the intensity of the second movement. The orchestra captured the light, uncomplicated quality of the music.
The closing Molto Allegro movement was a triumphant ending to Mozart’s final symphony. Unlike the standard of the day, Mozart did not present a Rondo for this last movement, but a heady and thickly composed sonata-form work which required the audience and orchestra to work a little harder.
Careful attention to the clarity of phrasing and balance between orchestra sections made this music transparent and clear.
There is a reason Mozart is considered a great master: perfect balance, clear direction, delicate phrasing and stylish dynamics are the hallmarks of this genius, and the OSO nailed them all. It was a highly successful evening and the orchestra merited their standing ovation.
To date, each of the OSO’s Masterwork’s concerts has been sold out. As the next concert on Feb. 16 will feature a piano concerto by Penticton composer Ernst Schneider performed by Shuswap prodigy Jaeden Izik-Dzurko, tickets will definitely be at a premium — purchase sooner rather than later!
Anita Perry is a Summerland music teacher.
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