Glover’s Mozart Teaches with Elan and Zest

12/01/2017

Mozart: Daniel Matsukawa (bassoon), Philadelphia Orchestra / Jane Glover (conductor), Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 7.1.2017. (BJ)

Mozart – Symphony No.1 in E flat major, K.16; Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K.191; Symphony No.41 in C major, K.551 ‘Jupiter’

The last time I heard Jane Glover conduct Mozart, in Chicago, she succeeded – despite the background of an appallingly wrong-headed and vulgar production of Don Giovanni – in crafting a musical performance of high quality. This time, in the less perilous confines of the concert hall, there was nothing to distract from the general excellence of her leadership and the standard of the playing she drew from the Philadelphia Orchestra.

By far the most substantial work on this all-Mozart program was the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony, of which she led an account nicely contrasting with, but not inferior to, the impressive one given for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society just a few weeks ago by Matthew Halls and the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg. Where Halls most strikingly evoked the majesty and grandeur of the music, Glover stressed no less strongly its sheer elan and rhythmic zest.

Tempos were sensibly chosen. The outer movements were lithe and springy, the minuet bounced along happily at a fluent one-in-a-bar pace, and though initially sounding a tad leisurely, the Andante never lost its sense of flow.

It was in the latter movement that the performance offered its only notable touch of unorthodoxy. The little detached note in the second measure of the main theme duly diversified the prevailing muted dynamics with a momentary forte, but when it reappeared in the recapitulation, this time played only by the first violins, it was played quite softly. For a while I felt guilty: how could I have never noticed this nuance before? – but only for a while, until I went home, looked at the passage in the score, and discovered that the reason I hadn’t noticed it was that it isn’t there: the marking is the same forte as in the exposition. It was an entirely acceptable interpretative idea on the conductor’s part, but I think it would have been more convincing if it had been applied also when the lower strings take over a couple of bars later.

I suppose taking six of the ten repeats asked for by Mozart in the course of the symphony may be regarded as relatively generous, though the omission of the second one in the finale did slightly diminish the monumental effect of that stunning blend of sonata and fugal elements. Nevertheless, Glover’s meticulous way with orchestral balance, allowing woodwind lines to make their full impact even in the biggest tuttis, largely made up for that, and there was a rousing contribution from Angela Zator Nelson, whose alert playing once again showed her to be a highly competent associate principal in the timpani section led by Don Liuzzi.

Another section in the orchestra that can count itself particularly well endowed is the bassoons. Principal Daniel Matsukawa, whose sensitivity and cultivated tone made a fine impression in the fairly early concerto Mozart wrote for the instrument, has an exceptionally strong co-principal in Mark Gigliotti.

Earlier still is the First Symphony, written when the already more than competent composer was all of eight or nine years old. This, too, was neatly and stylishly played, with vibrato restricted to just a minimal presence. Like the similar idea I once encountered in a concert conducted by the great Szymon Goldberg – where the composer in question was Haydn – programs that combine a first with a last symphony always have something to teach us about the qualities composers develop with maturity, and those that were present in their music from the start.

Bernard Jacobson

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