Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mozart @ 257 Festival

The TSO Mozart @ 257 concert series concluded last week.  I attended the final event which featured three works by the prolific composer.  Music director Peter Oundjian provided some opening comments and mentioned that we'd see the orchestra growing as the evening progressed.  He wasn't kidding.  The opening "Serenade No. 12 in C Minor" had only eight musicians, two each of oboe, clarinet, french horn, and bassoon.  It was nice to hear the more chamber size group and be able to pick out the instruments clearly.  I particularly liked the driving force of the 2nd clarinet part and the equality in timing and tone.
Teng Li (
The second piece, "Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra" featured concert master Jonathan Crow and principal violist Teng Li.  Mozart apparently played the viola part when he performed it and why not?  He didn't relegate it to a supporting instrument but used it equally with the violin.  True it doesn't have the higher, easier to project tone, and when both violin and viola were playing, particulary with the now larger orchestral accompaniment, it was sometimes difficult to hear the viola part. However, when they alternated melodic lines, even switching seemlessly in the middle of the phrase, the viola shone through.  The ending had an alternating repetative part violin, viola, violin with embellishment, that was repeated again with the viola starting so it got the embellishment section.  That was a cool moment.
At intermission there was a lobby chat with William Littler and Teng Li.  He asked about the viola not getting the respect it deserves and shared a few viola jokes.  The first joke being if you see a crushed skunk and a crushed viola on the roadway what is the difference between the two?  Answer: There are skid marks in front of the skunk.  He ended the chat with one he'd been told by another viola player, why are viola jokes so short?  So violinists can understand them.  The listening audience and Ms. Li seemed to appreciate that :)
The concert concluded with "Symphony 40 in G Minor".  I tend to associate minor keys with dissonance and lack of melody.  Honestly I never really knew this symphony was in a minor key because it is so melodic.  The opening movement is probably my favourite, likely because I'm familiar with it from who knows where.  As Maestro Oundjian also commented Mozart's music is everywhere, even in elevators. As symphonies go it didn't feel very long, but was very full with lots for the ear to latch on to.  It was evident in all the pieces that Mozart's music is open, there may be a lot going on but each section, each part is exposed and can be honed in on.  Nothing sounded off or out of place so I'd say the TSO did a great job in their celebration of Mozart's 257th birthday.  Looking forward to 258!

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