Another fine morning for Mozart at the Salzburg Mozartwoche

AustriaAustria Salzburg Mozartwoche [3] – Mozart: Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Paul Meyer (clarinet), Radovan Vlatković (horn), Gilbert Audin (bassoon), Camerata Salzburg, François Leleux (oboe, conductor). Grosser Saal, Mozarteum, Salzburg, 26.1.2020. (MB)

Mozart – Sinfonia concertante in E-flat major, for oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon, KV 297b/ (Anh. C 14.01); Flute Concerto No.2 in D major, KV 314/285d; Flute Concerto No.1 in G major, KV 313/285c; Symphony No.36 in C major, KV 425, ‘Linz’

‘Play it as if it were Mozart and Mozart it will be,’ seems a good rule of thumb for performance of the embattled E-flat major Sinfonia concertante for oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. In any case, it seems clear to me on a number of counts that Mozart’s was the primary, if not necessarily the only, hand in what has come down to us. Soloists from the French wind ensemble, Les Vents français, joined Camerata Salzburg for this and the two flute concertos and gave as good accounts of all three works as one has any right to expect, oboist François Leleux doubling as conductor for all three, plus the Linz Symphony.

It was a different sound we heard from the orchestra than from the Vienna Philharmonic for Daniel Barenboim the previous evening. That should not, for any number of reasons, surprise. More important were the warmth, brightness, alertness, and fineness of articulation these seasoned Mozart players brought to their music-making. The Sinfonia concertante’s opening tutti was lovingly – not too lovingly – shaped by Leleux, the well-blended wind quartet seemingly growing out of the orchestra rather than standing opposed to it. This was a performance as infectious as those of Mozart divertimenti the previous morning, yet necessarily fuller of sound and reach. The slow movement, spacious and poised, reminded us that there is no firm boundary, especially in Mozart, between hope and melancholy. Lifting the spirits without glibness, the finale proved a delight from start to finish. Cultivated and collegial playing afforded an opportunity for soloistic display that was also so much more than that.

Emmanuel Pahud’s two performances, either side of the interval, boasted from the first work’s – that is, the Second Flute Concerto’s – first solo phrase flute playing to have one sit up in wonder. Then another, and another… Clean, warm, above all musical in cognisance of where Mozart was taking us and why, it proved the perfect foil for elegant, attentive playing from Camerata Salzburg and Leleux. With lesser players, the flute can seem limited in range; here, we heard chiaroscuro to rival a Raphael. KV 314’s slow movement was a song of tender consolation, delivered with seemingly endless reserves of breath – and, again, musicianship. Gallic airs, but a mitteleuropäisch heart beating beneath: Mozart may not have been in Paris when he wrote the finale, or indeed any of the work, but there was an apt sense of affinity to that musical capital, style and form revealed as two sides of the same coin. A Jacques Ibert encore in which all five ensemble members could briefly come together offered wit and colour

The First Concerto offered many similar virtues to the Second, with warm, detailed orchestral performance, and clear, meaningful phrasing from Pahud. Dazzling virtuosity, for instance in the first movement cadenza, remained entirely in the music’s service, the key to a veritable garden of delights. Seductive in its gracious euphony, the slow movement’s darker shadows were felt, without danger of overwhelming. The profusion of melody characterising the finale benefited from not dissimilar grace and formal understanding. Mozart’s turn to the minor rightly spoke of the opera house, while reminding us also how much his operas owed to his instrumental writing. I could not help but notice appreciation not only from Intendant, Rolando Villazón, but also from another audience member seated next to him, one Daniel Barenboim.

Leleux led an enthusiastic performance of the Linz to conclude. Its first movement proved full of contrast, not least between festal C major, trumpets and drums blazing, and something more intimated. If, at times, I found the contrasts a little overplayed, at least without more in the way of mediation, Leleux’s way with the work had me listen anew. There was, moreover, no doubting the excellence of orchestral response. The Andante breathed the air of a Salzburg serenade, its symphonic stature nevertheless made clear by the Haydnesque gravity of those trumpets and drums. If Beethoven’s music too sounded close, that is only because it is. A minuet both brisk and weighty was balanced again by winning intimacy in its trio, leading to a finale of great character and many (quasi-operatic) characters. Even in his later, more ‘monothematic’ writing, Mozart is not given to parsimony; nor should his interpreters be. Hearing the distinct character of each string section proved a particular joy as motifs passed between them. It was a duly celebratory close to another fine morning for Mozart.

Mark Berry

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