Mostly Mozart (11): Meandering with a Purpose from an Audience Favorite

United StatesUnited States Mostly Mozart (11) Mozart, Tchaikovsky: Joshua Bell (violin), Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Louis Langrée (conductor), Avery  Fisher Hall, New York City. 20.8.2013 (DS)

Joshua Bell Photo:  Eric Kabik
Joshua Bell
Photo: Eric Kabik


Mozart: Symphony No. 36 in C major, K. 425 (“Linz”) (1783)
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major (1878)

 Being the last week of Mostly Mozart, it seemed only fitting that one concert I would attend throughout the festival would, in fact, involve the playing of some Mozart. (This year’s festival has been dedicated to Beethoven and many others, quite frankly.) Music Director, Louis Langrée led the festival orchestra in Mozart’s “Linz” symphony, and after a bumpy start in the opening Adagio, everything fell into a pleasant easy flow. Langrée brought out the regal qualities of this symphony with unabashed gusto: the Andante held together in a taught but well-paced tempo—sturdy yet flexible—and the Presto was vigorous while attentive to all the unusual meanderings that Mozart invented for this final movement.

Speaking of meanderings, the second half moved away from Mozart and landed on Tchaikovsky, and New York concert heavyweight Joshua Bell in the violin concerto. With an audience ready to clap for him even before the first note sounded, Bell hit the ground running. That’s not to say it was played overly fast. But rather, he hit up his forms of interpretation with aplomb and with clarity of creative power, making the performance both exciting and thought provoking. Some ideas worked, some didn’t. (I found the waves of sudden tempi “push-pulls” sometimes a bit extreme even for Tchaikovsky. Perhaps Bell had recently watched Ken Russell’s film, The Music Lovers—in which case, who can blame him?) The runs were veritable furies of expression, though a bit speed-trapped and whiplash-prone. In the slow second movement, Bell ultimately glowed forth, lovingly wrapping himself around the melody.

Bell gets an “A” for hard work, but an extra-credit “A-plus” for a short and perfectly relaxed encore—after all, he’d made it through this demanding concerto twice in two days—Tchaikovsky’s sweet Melodie for violin and orchestra.

Daniele Sahr