THE MOZARTIAN EXPERIENCE 2017
ADDO Chamber Orchestra
Esplanade Recital Studio
17 February 2017)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 20 February 2017 with the title "Fun journey through Mozart's life and works".
The ADDO Chamber Orchestra's Mozartean Experience was a sequel to last year's successful concert which had the flavour of a “show and tell” class. A programme sheet given to the audience was designed like a tabloid daily, but the surprise came in lieu of traditional programme notes.
Seconds before conductor Clarence Tan gave his first down-beat, a bewigged blonde dressed in period costume gatecrashed the proceedings. It was Constanze Weber, widow of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who had travelled through time from 1791 to address a 21st century Singaporean audience on the great Austrian composer's lives and times. Italian singer-actress Sabrina Zuber played such an irrepressible host with her comedic asides that she almost stole the show.
It was the music, however, which prevailed. First up was Antonio Salieri's short Sinfonia Veneziana, which the orchestra warmed up to with some degree of tentativeness. The ensemble comprising just 11 string players backed up by four wind players initially produced a raw and dry sound, but this soon improved in a hurry.
Constanze refuted the notion that Salieri was Mozart's rival and mortal enemy. Instead they were supportive colleagues with a common vision of making good music. As posterity had it, Mozart was gifted with more memorable tunes, like those in his Third and Fourth Horn Concertos, both in the key of E flat major.
Also introduced was Mozart's horn-playing friend Joseph Leutgeb, whose daytime job was that of a cheese-monger. Returning as soloist from the last Mozartean experience was young French hornist Alan Kartik Jairamin from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, who followed up his helpful demonstration of basic horn techniques with confident showings of both works.
He brought out a warm, burnished sound that highlighted the music's lyricism, and then went all virtuoso mode for the cadenzas. His reading of the better-known Fourth Concerto with its hunting romp of a finale proved a big hit with the audience, which lapped up his every turn and phrase.
To complete the evening's E flat major fare was the Symphony No.84 by Joseph Haydn, one of Mozart's teachers and the mentor who predicted his future greatness. The orchestra which had accompanied the horn concertos very well continued their good work under conductor Tan, now sporting a powdered wig (a la the movie Amadeus).
Jokes aside, this was a very credible performance of a rarely heard work. Its solemn opening soon gave way to an Allegro which bubbled ever so animatedly, fully conveying the humour typical of the composer. The slow movement was taken a a goodly pace, followed by a somewhat ungainly Scherzo and Trio, tinged with an infectious rusticity. Although the finale started with a hint of unsteadiness, this was smoothened out with a mercurial run to an exciting close.
For its next concert on 31 May, ADDO Chamber Orchestra turns its sights on another composing great – Ludwig van Beethoven.