Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates Leopold Mozart’s Three-hundredth Birthday

16/11/2019

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Haydn, Leopold & Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Paul Merkelo (trumpet), Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra / Marios Papadopoulos & Hannah Schneider (conductors). Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, 14.11.2019. (CR)

Haydn – Symphony No.92 in G major, ‘Oxford’; Trumpet Concerto in E flat major

Leopold Mozart – Trumpet Concerto in D major

W. A. Mozart – Symphony No.39 in E flat major, K543

Three hundred years to the very day, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated the birthday of Leopold Mozart – an event that has otherwise been very little observed in the musical world this year, despite the penchant for anniversaries. Admittedly his fame rests not so much on his compositions, as for his treatise on violin playing and, of course, for being the father of probably the finest and most famous musician who ever lived. And, even though his compositions are, at best, competent rather than inspired or inventive, it is surely of interest to hear the work of the only teacher young Wolfgang ever had in a formal didactic sense. In Leopold’s symphonies one can hear a similar style as that of his son’s earliest efforts in the 1760s, that short-lived era of the musical Rococo. Whilst taking the opportunity of casting a light upon Leopold’s output it seemed a pity that some of those symphonies were not performed alongside his relatively well-known Trumpet Concerto here – even if only the attributed, but entertaining ‘Toy’ Symphony – or perhaps either of his concertos for horn or trombone.

Still, the audience had cause to be thankful for the lustrous performance of the Trumpet Concerto (1762) from Paul Merkelo with the modern strings of the OPO, complete with harpsichord accompaniment. The concerto was written for the natural trumpet and so Merkelo’s seamlessly executed melodies on a valved instrument made the music sound all too effortless, but contemporary audiences are unlikely to object to that. By contrast, Haydn’s example (1796) was the first concerto composed for the newly-invented valve trumpet, meaning that the instrument could now cope with all the chromatic notes of the scale and modulate into any remote key required of it (as Haydn exploits in this work). More so than in Mozart’s concerto, Merkelo projected a bold, golden tone for the grander Classical expression of Haydn’s work. All three movements were taken by Marios Papadopoulos at a fairly broad tempo, allowing a pregnant expansiveness in the opening movement, but resulting in a slightly earth-bound Andante. The Allegro finale was airier in texture, with Merkelo’s solo unexpectedly lither here than in the Andante, and an excitable speeding up in the Concerto’s final bars springing another surprise, albeit a thrilling one.

Opening the concert was the symphony which Haydn himself presented in the very same venue in 1791 (to great acclaim) when the University of Oxford conferred upon him a doctorate at its annual honorary degrees ceremony, hence its nickname. The OPO’s assistant conductor Hannah Schneider brought out the portentousness of the work’s slow beginning, though it might have exuded more mystery, if only for the sake of contrast with their performance of the rest of the symphony which was robust and assured. A fairly heavily textured, even Romantic, approach to the upheavals of the second movement foreshadowed Beethoven. A less strenuous articulation of the Minuet’s Trio section would have brought out its pert syncopations with more alacrity, and thereby make the link with Beethoven’s rhythmic innovations in the scherzos of his symphonies more explicit. But the stately pace of the Minuet itself conjured up the aristocratic world in which Haydn had spent much of his career prior to the composition of his late, great symphonies such as this one, and the bustling horns in the chattering finale radiated this composer’s characteristic bonhomie and wit.

Papadopoulos brought the programme to a conclusion with a similarly broad, even leisurely account of Mozart’s Symphony No.39 – the first of the three symphonic miracles which Mozart brought to fruition in what turned out to be his final contributions to the genre. Unusually for Mozart, the first movement employs a slow introduction, in the manner of Haydn’s late symphonies, and this performance invested that and the succeeding Allegro with the solemnity that is a hallmark of Mozart’s writing in the key of E flat major. The OPO carried that over into the second movement – not exactly ‘con moto’ as marked, but Papadopoulos turned the little marching phrases expressively and elongated them suggestively. The Minuet and Trio flowed cheerfully, particularly as it should with the lilting dialogue among the woodwind of the latter section, but the overly broad finale failed to capture fully the humour that is present in another significantly Haydnesque movement. Even so the high spirits of this and the other works in this programme shone through, constituting a welcome diversion on a cold November night.

Curtis Rogers

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Southbank Centre __________________________________
  • NEW! Snape Maltings – January to April 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month