Mozart, Schubert and a different conductor

Yesterday evening's concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall was scheduled to be conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi; however he was taken ill and replaced at very short notice by Fabio Luisi. This might have been expected to adversely affect the performance, but both works were still given good and involving performances.

Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra in E flat, K364 is oddly named, because in effect it's a double concerto - three movements, not four. The soloists were Janin Jansen (violin) and Maxim Rysanov (viola). The work is one of Mozart's finest, the slow movement in particular having easy-flowing melodic lines and a depth of feeling which placed him well ahead of his times. Since E flat is an awkward key for the viola Mozart specified that the instrument should be tuned a semitone sharp and composed the part in D major: one wonders how a violist with perfect pitch would cope (and how many strings get broken in the process).

The young soloists played well together, though Jansen's tone was a little thin and sometimes the viola overbalanced her; but on the whole their committed and warm playing brought out the best in this marvellous work.

Schubert never heard his 9th (and last) Symphony ('The Great'): his attempts to get it performed were rejected on the grounds of it being too difficult. Ten years after his death it finally received a performance under Mendelssohn's direction - though in a cut version: it runs 50 minutes and this was felt to be too exhausting for the players. Modern orchestras evidently have more stamina - and after Mahler 50 minutes doesn't seem excessive.

The work maintains its length well, with plenty of invention and development; after a solemn (and yesterday perhaps a little ponderous) opening the first movement has a strong drive and memorable melodies. The slow movement is a moderately-speeded and restrained march, the scherzo is a lively rustic waltz and the finale - here played with with excitement and precision - a fast tarantella. A complex, lively and mature work and - despite the unexpected hand at the tiller - a splendid performance.

Posted: Wed - March 10, 2010 at 09:12 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM