On a cold 22 December, 1808, in a previous life as an officer in the Coldstream Guards on detached service, I attended a very long concert of works by Beethoven, conducted by the composer, in a freezing hall in Vienna. On Saturday night the Mostly Mozart Festival orchestra reprised this historic concert, breaking it, fortunately, into two parts.
At 4PM, Maestro Louis Langree led the orchestra in a fine reading of Beethoven’s Sixth (“Pastoral”) Symphony. Never my favorite symphony by LvB, I nonetheless enjoyed it very much, especially as for the first time in years I had a stage seat immediately next to the orchestra and I enjoyed watching Langree’s expressive and enthusiastic conducting.
Then followed “Ah! perfido” sung by the talented soprano, Anja Kampf, making her New York debut. I hope to hear her again and soon.
The Swedish Radio Choir sang the “Gloria” from the Mass in C major. Anyone familiar with this stellar group doesn’t have to be told that they meshed beautifully with the orchestra.
And then the wonderful pianist, Jeffrey Kahane, performed Piano Concerto No. 4, earning a standing ovation.
After an uncivilized forty-five minutes to wolf down some food I was back at 6PM for the second half of the concert which began with Beethoven’s rousing hymm to the vagaries of Fate, the Fifth Symphony. It could have been the New York Philharmonic performing – an outstanding, vivid reading.
Back came the Swedish Radio Choir for the “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” of that great C major mass.
Re-enter Jeffrey Kahane for the solo Fantasia in G minor, a Beethoven gem I haven’t heard performed in quite a while (but more recently than 1808 I hasten to add).
The concert closed with the run-up to the Ninth Symphony, the Fantasia in C minor (“Choral Fantasy”), not Beethoven’s greatest work but one that admirably united orchestra, soloist Kahane and the Swedes.
Avery Fisher Hall was packed for both concerts with a fair representation of younger people. Louis Langree proved again that he’s an impressive podium presence and I’d love to see him conduct a few Philharmonic subscription concerts.
Before the first concert, Duke professor Brian Gilliam, whom some may know here as a specialist in the life and works of Richard Strauss, gave an amusing and spirited background lecture which added to my enjoyment of otherwise familiar pieces.
This season’s Mostly Mozart Festival is a little low on interest for me but Saturday night was a special treat on an awfully hot and miserable day.