United StatesMozart: Thomas Hong (conductor), Miho Saegusa (violin), Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 26.1.2015 (BJ)
Mozart: Adagio in E major, K. 261; Rondo in C major, K. 373; Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216; Divertimento in D major, K. 136; Symphony No. 21 in D major, K. 134
Originally announced with the distinguished French violinist Augustin Dumay as both soloist and conductor, this all-Mozart program eventually came to pass with divided responsibilities for those central functions. Miho Saegusa, the orchestra’s concertmaster since 2011, took over the solo role, and Thomas Hong conducted. Hong has lately been assembling several associate positions, as well as plaudits from such luminaries as Kurt Masur and Gerard Schwarz, into a decidedly healthy career.
The entire first half was given over to works for violin and orchestra. I was glad that the C-major Rondo had been added to the original program, both because it’s a delightfully tuneful piece that is played less often than it deserves, and because the performance it received was the best of the three given by Ms. Saegusa. I have to say that the first half of the program was something of a disappointment. The sonority projected by the orchestra lacked its usual clarity and solidity of texture, and the soloist herself, for all her obvious dedication to Mozart’s expressive warmth, played the Adagio and the wonderful Third Violin Concerto with a line that oscillated excessively between loud and soft dynamics.
The orchestra sounded better after intermission, when Maestro Hong fashioned performances of the programmed divertimento and symphony that were agreeable and sufficiently stylish, if not quite stellar in the matter of technical polish. His choice of tempos was convincing, and, though a few repeats were omitted, his observance of the second-half ones in the finale of both works helped to endow both performances with a cogent sense of completion.