Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Mozart's Haffner Serenade (Musically Speaking)

This afternoon's Cleveland Orchestra Musically Speaking performance started, as usual, with a tour of Severance Hall. As usual, there was a new interesting fact learned: The historic seat numbers found in the Reinberger Chamber Hall were not only hand sewn but hand sewn by Adella Prentiss Hughes' circle of friends -- which certainly goes a long way towards explaining why they were preserved.

The Prelude Concert, featuring Six Variations on the tune "Helas, j'ai perdu mon amant" in G minor, K360 (Isabel Trautwein, violin; Carolyn Gadiel Warner, piano) and Piano Concerto no. 14 in F-flat major, K449, played as a quintet (Joela Jones, piano; Takko Masame, Miho Hashizume, violin; Lynne Ramsey, viola; Ralph Curry, cello) left nothing to be desired, though my preference was for Six Variations.

My previous experiences with the Musically Speaking format have also been productions of the Chicago Symphony's Beyond The Score multimedia format. Today's production didn't have the multimedia component, but it wasn't until the post-performance Q&A that I realized that not only was this not a Beyond the Score presentation but it was also something that had been commissioned specifically by and for the Cleveland Orchestra, receiving its debut and perhaps only performance this afternoon.

It goes without saying that I was impressed by the first half of the program; it covered Mozart's life up until the time of his Haffner Serenade with fantastic detail and clarity, even ignoring the fact that this all took place over the course of an hour. Particularly surprising was the very young age at which Mozart started composing, playing the piano, and playing the violin--perhaps needless to say, I felt quite underaccomplished by comparison. I also hadn't realized that Mozart was born to a musical family and that his father really drove the early development and touring (I got the sense that the elder Mozart was perhaps the earliest helicopter parent and crazy-child-celebrity parent wrapped into one).

The first half of the program ended with Mozart's commission to compose Halfner Serenade as "party music", and with quite the cliffhanger--I hope to see the as yet-unwritten second half of Mozart's long-ago written life story.

The second half of the program picked up with selections from the Halfner Serenade in D major, K250, (The 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 8th movements) intermixed with arias from Don Giovanni and The Abduction from the Seraglio. Though a significantly smaller than usual selection of musucians, having heard a handful of orchestras since my last Cleveland Orchestra concert absence incontravertably makes the ear grow fonder: Particularly impressive was orchestra violinist Peter Otto's solo playing, which displayed none of the doubt that he confessed to at the post concert Q&A.

I found the arias interspersed among the movements to be on the level if inter-movement applause and in addition to not being a particular fan of the arias felt that it somewhat distupted the flow of the serenade. I would have liked to hear the complete work or at least not had the movements punctuated, but I think the first and third movements were my favorites. The unannounced encore, an aria Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute, K. 620) was beautifully played and sung.


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