United Kingdom Salieri, Mozart, Koželuch and Haydn: Janina Fialkowska (piano), London Mozart Players,/Jaime Martín (conductor), St John’s Smith Square, London, 26.5.2016. (AS)
Salieri: De scuola de’gelosi – Overture
Koželuch: Symphony in C, P1:6
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 13 in C, K415; Symphony No. 35 in D, K385, Haffner
Haydn: Il ritorno di Tobia, Hob 21/1 – Overture
This was the last of four concerts in the London Mozart Players’ “Mozart Explored: 1783” series, which as the title suggests, contained works written by the composer or given first performances in that year. Salieri’s opera De scuola de’gelosi, described in the concert programme as involving “romantic plotting, unrequited love and incitements to jealousy between members of three social statuses”, was also performed in Vienna that year. As befits the subject matter the opera’s overture is a lively, excitable piece, with some very imaginative dramatic effects, and it formed an effective opening item for the evening. After that a member of the orchestra read three of Mozart’s letters to the audience, at least one of which, a stinging criticism of Clementi’s keyboard sonatas, did not put the writer in a good light.
The piano concerto was billed to come next, but no piano appeared and without announcement the orchestra then launched into what the audience rightly assumed to be the Koželuch symphony. As in the case of Salieri, this composer has no great posthumous reputation, and as in the case of Salieri’s overture, Koželuch’s symphony belied this lack of reputation, proving to be a most satisfying work, with an arresting first movement introduction followed by an intriguingly worked out allegro section; a beautifully warm slow movement, a sprightly Minuet with a lovely trio, and a bubbly, vivacious finale.
In the opening movement of the concerto Janina Fialkowska produced some attractively fluent and elegant playing, but a strong sense of momentum, sometimes a little too forced, prevented a great deal of expression from coming through. In the Andante Fialkowska produced some nice turns of phrase, and there was a good uplifting rhythm in the main sections of the finale, but here was not a performance to suggest this work to be one of Mozart’s masterpieces. Dare one say such a thing, but it didn’t seem to be on a greater level of inspiration than the two works that preceded it. Could it be that the great god Mozart has unfairly overshadowed the achievements of his contemporaries?
There was a time, of course, when even Haydn’s genius was put in the shade by his younger colleague, but fortunately not now: the masterly and highly individual overture to his lengthy oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia underlined the parity between the two masters on this occasion.
So far I have not mentioned the conductor Jaime Martín, who at short notice took the place of an unwell Gérard Korsten. In the space of a few days, as I learned after the concert, Martín had had to learn three of the concert’s works that were new to him within an already busy schedule: the previous evening he had conducted in Zürich before flying to London to take the one rehearsal for this concert. That he (and Fialkowska) managed to prepare any decent standard of performance in such limited rehearsal time was remarkable in itself. But in fact there was no suggestion of under-preparation: the performances were remarkably detailed, confident in expression and masterly in execution.
The evening ended with a strikingly fresh, beautifully pointed and expressive performance of the Haffner Symphony. The music making had enthusiasm, verve and the feeling of a like-minded group of talented musicians all happily putting maximum effort into supporting an obviously charismatic leader.
Jaime Martín is a comparatively new figure on the conducting scene, having been a successful freelance flautist in London and on the continent over a period of 20 years. He has already secured engagements with leading orchestras, who clearly recognise his highly individual and outstanding abilities.