Saturday, March 13, 2010

Apollo's Fire: Mozart Celebration

Mozart: Overture from Idomeneo, K. 366 with concert ending by Jeanette Sorrell
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K 491; Sergei Babayan, piano.
Mozart: Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K 385 ("Haffner")
Mozart: Ballet Music from Idomeneo, K. 367

Anyone who's been reading this blog long enough knows that my Apollo's Fire concert experiences this season were polar opposites, to put it kindly. Tonight's concert in Cleveland's Severance Hall falls somewhere between the two. It was nice to hear Apollo's fire in a venue that didn't involve two hours on the painfully hard wood of a church pew. As the orchestra tuned I was struck by what a massive difference there was in sound with the Baroque A=430Hz tuning instead of the modern A=440Hz -- those 10 Hertz have a huge impact on the sound; I don't think I've noticed before because I've never heard Apollo's Fire in a venue where I've heard any other group perform prior to tonight.

The opening Overture from Idomeno was generally pleasant and a good start to the concert, but felt a little boomy, and generally felt that the balance between percussion and the rest of the orchestra was a little off.

The Piano Concerto, on the other hand, left nothing to be desired. I've heard Sergei Babayan play two solo recitals at CIM, and while an excellent pianist his work truly shines when pared with an orchestra. The balance between piano and orchestra was perfect giving the impression of a dialog between the two rather than a shouting match as often seems to be the case. Much ado was made out of the unavailability of the originally announced 1877 Bluthner pianoforte yet I can't imagine the that performance would have been any more enjoyable to listen to.

The second half of the performance included Mozart's Haffner Symphony. You may be asking "Wait, didn't you just hear the Cleveland Orchestra play that last weekend?" -- when I saw the program, that was certainly my first thought, until I realized that the program listed only four movements and has a different Köchel number, with the Symphony coming much later than the Haffner Serenade (K. 385 vs K. 250). My fears of having to compare two performances of the same work thus assuaged, it was an great piece to listen to, with the first movement holding to it's Allegro con spirito tempo notation. The second and third movements seemed to be just a touch lethargic and occasionally stiff, yet the fourth (presto) movement, which Mozart directed be played "as quickly as possible" was a burst of well paced energy.

And thus we have Ballet Music from Idomeneo to end the program with Carlos Fittante and Robin Gilbert-Campos as period dancers. I have to say that the strongest reaction I can muster is "apathetic". The music didn't particularly catch my ear, the dance didn't particularly catch my eye, and I was lulled into a somewhat hypnotic very contemplative state (where reflecting on recent events in life, including two events today, I couldn't help but think of Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts..." [As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII], my Deity certainly has me cast in a comedy at the moment.)


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