Today was the Music of Baroque's and Music Director Jane Glover's annual salute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who would have turned 252 this year had he lived in biblical times. Jane Glover, an internationally renown Mozart specialist, introduced the program with so much love for the man and unabashed enthusiasm for the music that there could be no way that the concert was going to be a disappointment. At its best the concert was a revelation of how Mozart's music should sound, and at the very least, it was a rollicking good time. Performed at Millennium Park's Harris Theater for Music and Dance, this concert once again proved the wisdom of becoming a subscriber to the MOB. There's only one concert left for me in this subscription, and the concert features no less imposing a work than Bach's St. Matthew Passion. I can't wait. But I digress.
The concert featured two symphonies, Nos. 34 and 39 and the piano concerto No.22. I was going to describe the concerto as elegant, but with Mozart, such an adjective is implied. Mozart's music is always refined and well-poised, and these performances were no different. Jane Glover led her ensemble of under 30 with no score. She stood before the players without the obstacle of a stand. This allowed her to practically be amongst the strings when she wanted to show emphasis. It also showed the audience that when it comes to Mozart, she loves to listen to it as much as conduct it. The two symphonies were performed with such command and precision. Especially in the slow movements, Glover allowed the silent moments to become events in themselves. These movements were treated with as much respect for their emotional gravitas as any Romantic slow movement would demand. The slow movement of the 34th truly shines brightly under Glover's direction. It takes on such poignancy and weight at the center of this three-movement work. The fast movements are alive, and the finale of the 39th really shows its contrapuntal complexity rivalling anything Haydn could manage. They were brilliantly performed.
Imogen Cooper, Mozart specialist in her own right, was the soloist in the Piano Concerto No.22 in E-flat major. My first encounter with this piece of music was in the movie Amadeus where the concerto's finale is used as the music for the end credits. I had no idea what music that was when I first saw that movie, but I knew I loved the music. And under Cooper's hands, that movement comes alive. Ms. Cooper personifies the qualities inherent in Mozart's music - poise, grace, refinement. She flowed on stage and sat stiffly upright at the piano, as if to slouch would be an insult to the music. Her playing was assured and thoroughly Mozartean. I felt at times that it was too elegant, as if there was nothing below the surface. Her playing seemed to vary from quiet to whisper and back, nothing boldly stated. Perhaps that wouldn't seem in character anyway. Her cadenzas (I assume they're hers because no indication was given in the notes as to authorship, so why not her) were not consistently successful. The first movement cadenza was a true synthesis of as many themes she could get in there, but at times, I felt it stunted the forward motion of the piece. The final cadenza however, was more forceful than I had heard all evening, and never seemed halting, flowing naturally into the wonderful conclusion. Cooper seemed so comfortable with the music by the end that one wished she started that way. It wasn't some ossified classic that had to be respected from a distance with a stiff back, but just music that makes you feel like you've come home. With these two interpreters, Glover and Cooper, Mozart is home, and the audience was allowed to peak inside their most comfortable space for a truly enjoyable performance.