Monday, 12 February 2018

THE MOZARTEAN EXPERIENCE / ADDO Chamber Orchestra / Review

ADDO Chamber Orchestra
The Chamber, The Arts House
Friday (9 February 2018)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 12 February 2018 with the title "A romp down Mozart's path".

The ADDO Chamber Orchestra continued its popular Mozartean Experience concerts with another light-hearted romp, now at the historic Chamber of Old Parliament House. The venue was bathed in an eerie pale blue light, and at one corner sat a bewigged lady in period costume talking and singing to herself.

Members of the orchestra walked in, completely ignoring her presence, much to her consternation. Respect was what she deserved, revealing herself to be the ghost of Anna Maria Mozart (1720-1778), devoted mother of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Except she was not an apparition, but Italian dramatist-soprano Sabrina Zuber in her usual irrepressible self.

This was how ADDO Chamber Orchestra's Mozartean concerts usually begin, with an educational angle dressed up in finery and frippery. It was a relief that conductor Clarence Tan did not show up wearing a wig himself, as he had on previous occasions. But there was a cheeky nod to the nation's founding prime minister when he addressed a centrally-seated gentleman as Kuan Yew.

Then the music began with seven lady string players descending on Mozart's Divertimento in D major (K.136). Even if there was thinness to the string sound of this familiar music, there was no denying the vitality of its outer movements. In between was an elegant slow minuet, which came across with much grace.

Next was a rarity, the Double Bass Concerto in D major by the almost-forgotten Italian Antonio Capuzzi (1755-1818) who was active as conductor and violin virtuoso in Vienna during Mozart's time. It may be cruel to state that some works are justly neglected, but because this was written for the great bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti, it deserved an occasional dusting.

Bassist Damien Kee did the honours, turning the unwieldy instrument into a kind of super-sized violin by being unexpectedly nimble. The melodies were banal, which he kept mostly in pitch and there was an aria-like slow movement to save the day. The finale saw him egged on by a pair of oboes which seemed to say, “Catch us if you can!”

There was a comic moment when Kee had difficulty adjusting his music stand, attributing that to ill spirits, to which Frau Mozart retorted, “This is poor manpower, my dear child.”

The final work was a Symphony in B flat major by Mozart, but which Mozart? The work that was designated as Symphony No.2 (K.17) by Wolfgang Amadeus was actually written by Leopold, his father. This short 4-movement piece came from the infancy of the symphonic genre, and for all its pleasantries was as generic as one could get.

There were remnants of the baroque, influences of Haydn and the Italians, and simple tunes which the orchestra whipped off with relative ease and gusto. Anna Maria also tried her hand in conducting - with a fan - but that was mercifully short as the concert wound to a humorous close. 

Everybody wants to take a photo
with Mozart's mother!

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