A most stimulating start to The Mozartists’ 2019/20 season

21/09/2019

Haydn, Mozart: Regula Mühlemann (soprano); The Mozartists / Ian Page (conductor). Wigmore Hall, London, 19.9.2019. (CC)

The Mozartists’ opening 2019/20 concert (c) Martin Kendrick

Haydn – Symphony No.6 in D minor, ‘Le Matin’; Overture, Philemon und Baucis; Symphony No. 80 in D minor

Mozart – Concert Aria, ‘Voi avete un cor fedele,’ K217; Concert Aria, ‘Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!,’ K428; ‘Giunse alfin … Deh vieni, non tardar’ (Le nozze di Figaro); Concert Aria, ‘Ah, se in ciel, benigne stelle,’ K518

This was the opening concert of The Mozartists’ 2019/20 season, so it was appropriate that the first sounds we heard were those of dawn: specifically, Haydn’s Symphony No.6, known as ‘Le Matin.’ The piece does indeed stretch itself into life in its Adagio opening (a special mention for the sweet-toned flute of Georgia Browne); the Allegro was a constantly fresh joy, beautifully cleanly executed. The tripartite slow movement (Adagio-Andante-Adagio) featured the solo violin of Daniel Edgar and the superb solo cello of Alex Rolton; the epitome of gentilité, it ceded to the stately Menuet (superb flute staccato from Browne again) and that fascinating Trio it holds for bassoon and double-bass (Philip Turbett and Cecilia Bruggemeyer). In the finale it was the solo cello of Rolton that once more shone. Full of surprises, parts reminded one of the excellence of the composer’s cello concertos. Outrageous, rustic horns topped an exhilarating ride.

Making her Wigmore debut, soprano Regula Mühlemann, who took the role of Rosina in Mozart’s La finta semplice at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last year (review), confirmed her stature in a sequence of arias. The concert aria ‘Voi avete un cor fedele’ (1775) was an insert aria for Galuppi’s Le nozze di Dorina and was indeed sung by the said Dorina, with words by Carlo Goldoni. It is a meditation on what will happen to her lover’s heart once they are married, and on related trust issues. The aria segments nicely into two sections, the lyrical ‘Voi avete un cor fedele’, wherein we were reintroduced to Mühlemann’s superb tuning and great diction plus sense of style, and the second, more dramatic ‘Ah, non credo!’, where Mühlemann’s negotiating of Mozart’s melismatic writing was a joy. Haydn’s Overture to Philemon und baucis (1773) acted as separator, its depiction of a storm absolutely on point (Allegro con espressione), its more interiorising Andante poco allegro brought about via a simply revelatory transition of great beauty. Page ensured the rawness and the softness complemented each other perfectly, his players the epitome of grace in the later stages.

Back to Mozart and another insert aria, this time for the 1783 Il curioso indiscreto by Pasquale Anfossi: ‘Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!’, beginning with a radiant oboe solo from James Eastaway. The obbligato oboe part from Eastaway (just the odd hiccup as the piece progressed) was in real dialogue with Mühlemann. Vocally, this sounded like a tour de force (in fact, far greater mastery was to come in the second half); the point was one really believed Mühlemann’s sense of hope as the character, Clorinda, awaits her lover the Marquis Calandrano. The aria asks for ability to negotiate the soprano stratosphere, and Mühlemann delivered impeccably.

Post-interval, we were in familiar territory with ‘Deh vieni, non tardar’ from the fourth act of Le nozze di Figaro. Perhaps Mühlemann’s lower register was tested a little too much here, but how Mühlemann and Page engineered the perfect weight of meaning to the silence after ‘all’idol mio’. Mühlemann’s vocal purity was once more in evidence in the aria proper (‘Deh vieni’) where the woodwind shone in their contributions. But the glory of the evening was the concert aria ‘Ah se in ciel, benigne stele’, written for Aloysia Weber and fiendish in its difficulty. The text comes from Metastasio’s L’eroe cinese and is sung by the character Siveno. This is Mozart writing in 1788 at his most sophisticated harmonically, the shadings superbly realised by The Mozartists; the huge vocal hoops Mozart puts his singer through were despatched with real aplomb by Mühlemann, who seemed absolutely in her element. If ever an encore could have been deserved, it was here (it was not to be): the drama as well as the complexity was phenomenal.

Finally, Haydn’s Symphony No.80 (1783/4), replete with Sturm und Drang but endowed with a balancing wit. Page got the balance just right, opting for a bright tempo Adagio that kept the second movement moving yet finding all of the available emotion for the sighing cadential Affekt. It was in the finale, though, that Haydn’s cheeky side was outed in his rhythmic play with the main subject. Vigorous in delivery (it is after all marked Presto), this breezy and invigorating movement was the perfect close to a most stimulating concert.

Colin Clarke

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