Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä , Conductor
Stephen Hough, Piano
At Avery Fisher Hall
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 19, 2005
Osmo Vänskä is music director of the Minnesota Orchestra and Lahti Symphony Orchestra in Finland. He was recently the conductor of BBC Scottish Symphony orchestra in Glasgow. He guest conducts internationally, including Boston, Chicago, Paris, Berlin and Vienna. Mr. Vänskä began his career as a clarinetist, and was co-principal clarinetist in the Helsinki Philharmonic and Turku Philharmonic. (Program Notes).
Stephen Hough won first prize in the Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1983 and has performed with many of the leading international orchestras, plus international festivals, such as Ravinia, Salzburg, and Tanglewood. Mr. Hough has made more than 30 recordings on Hyperion, and these recordings have won international prizes. He has just recorded live with the Dallas Symphony the complete Rachmaninoff Concertos. (Program Notes).
Pre-Concert Recital: Rossetti String Quartet: (Rossetti String Quartet Website) Timothy Fain, Violin; Henry Gronnier, Violin; Thomas Diener, Viola; Eric Gaenslen, Cello.
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Quartet in G minor, Op. 20, No. 3, Hob. III:33 (1772): Allegro con spirito; Menuetto: Allegretto; Poco Adagio; Finale: Allegro molto.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Namensfeier Overture (1814).
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488 (1786): Allegro; Adagio; Allegro Assai.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944 (“Great”) (1828): Andante-Allegro ma non troppo; Andante con moto; Scherzo: Allegro vivace; Finale: Allegro vivace..
Tonight’s Pre-Concert Recital with the Rossetti String Quartet (See a Past Review of the Rossetti String Quartet) included a soulful and spiritual Poco Adagio, with incredibly clear tones and sharp Finale. Rossetti String Quartet is a classy, charismatic, and coordinated chamber ensemble. The new thrust stage design for the 2005 Mostly Mozart series seemed to considerably increase the acoustical quality of this smaller Festival Orchestra.
The Beethoven Namensfeier Overture included surprising ballet-like refrains, building quietly in intensity and mood. Maestro Vänskä is exuberant and conducted this portion of the program with his bubbly baton. Most interesting on tonight’s mix of Mozart-genre composers was Mozart’s own Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major. Stephen Hough, dressed in high collared, fashionable black, seated at a Steinway, brought professional ease and virtuosity to his accompaniment and solos.
The orchestra presented a lovely entrance in the Allegro, with a relaxed, lyrical approach. Quite unexpectedly, tonight’s piano cadenza (Mr. Hough’s own composition) included contemporary inflections with more than a hint of dissonance and drive. The Adagio, introduced by the piano in the well-known theme, returned the work to melodious harmonies, sorrowful and structured. Scintillating strings soon followed, and the orchestra ended the movement with quiet, soft passages. The Allegro assai, begun with no pause, included contrasts of slow, peaceful with racing, tumultuous themes.
After intermission, Maestro Vänskä and the Festival Orchestra returned for Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C major. Maestro Vänskä chose to conduct this work with no baton for the earlier movements. This man is a dynamo and a conductor par excellence. I literally forgot about all the hoopla, regarding Fisher Hall acoustics, as Maestro Vänskä bounced Schubert off the newly nuanced, sound equipment. The first Andante, opening with a mesmerizing, muffled horn, soon turned joyful and jubilant, with six notes repeating in different tempos. Maestro Vänskä led this orchestra as if it were literally the music, itself, arms sweeping and knees bending to choreograph his directives.
The second Andante, with soft tip-toeing oboe lead in lullaby tones, falls silent, prior to stirring celli and lilting strings. As the theme reconstructs, challenging contrasts occur. The Scherzo changes the mood to a lively, boisterous motif, merging to ominous, structured effects. The Finale, marked Allegro, is dramatic and furious. Maestro Vänskä’s physicality was evident, as he conducted in fiery fashion. Ruffled timpani enhance eery references, and Maestro Vänskä connected the audience to the musical moment. As four notes repeated and exploded in layers of completion, the Schubert Symphony ended in grandiose emotion. Due to Osmo Vänskä’s bravura skills, tonight’s Mostly Mozart concert was unquestionably memorable. Kudos to Osmo Vänskä, and kudos to Stephen Hough in the Mozart.