Demarre McGill Wows in Middle Mozart

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Mozart: Demarre McGill (flute), Seattle Symphony, Douglas Boyd (conductor), Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 28.2.2013 (BJ)

Mozart: Symphony No. 1 in E-flat major, K. 16
Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major K. 313
Serenade No. 7 in D major, “Haffner”, K. 250 (248b)

Sprightly playing was the order of the evening when Douglas Boyd made a welcome return appearance with the Seattle Symphony. Even so, the all-Mozart program clocked in at something over two hours of performance time, including some pleasantly informal introductory remarks from the conductor.

It would have been longer still if, in the First Symphony and the “Haffner” Serenade, a goodly number of repeats, as well as one or two complete sections, had not been omitted. Serenades being of their very nature a relaxed and unpretentious genre of entertainment music, it would be silly to make a fuss about this. As it was, Boyd led performances that cast both works in a highly appealing light.

Mozart was already an experienced composer, with more than a dozen works to his credit, when he tackled the symphonic form for the first time—at the ripe age of eight! A juvenile essay it may be, but his Symphony No. 1, K. 16, proclaims a penchant for individuality at its very start, opening with an ear-ticklingly asymmetrical three-bar phrase.

The orchestra played zestfully, and the zest was amply evident also in the biggest work on the program, the Serenade, composed twelve years later for a Haffner family wedding. Here Boyd set tempos that were brisk but never exaggeratedly so. With regular woodwind principals either away on opera duty or performing as soloist, Alexander Lipay on flute, Dan Williams on oboe, and Paul Rafanelli on bassoon filled their orchestral roles with assured artistry, and the string sound throughout combined solidity and sparkle in due proportion.

As with most Mozart serenades, the eight movements plus march of the voluminous “Haffner” (a different work from the one that the composer shortened and adapted into his better-known “Haffner” Symphony) include three that constitute a full-scale violin concerto. Here, associate concertmaster Emma McGrath starred as a mellifluous soloist.

But the main solo spot of the evening belonged to Demarre McGill, who demonstrated all the richly saturated tone and expressive warmth that have established him within two seasons as a fully worthy successor to the much admired Scott Goff as principal flute. Aside from a shortened version of Jean-Pierre Rampal’s cadenza that was still a tad too long, his performance, in the first of Mozart’s two solo concertos for the instrument supplied the evening with a beautifully shaped and brilliantly executed centerpiece.

Bernard Jacobson