Mozartwoche Salzburg’s music by Mozart and Salieri proves something of a mixed bag

AustriaAustria Mozartwoche Salzburg 2024 [3] – Mozart and Salieri: Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Camerata Salzburg / François Leleux (oboe/conductor). Grosser Saal, Mozarteum, Salzburg, 28.1.2024. (MB)

Emmanuel Pahud (l, flute) and François Leleux (r, oboe/conductor) © Wolfgang Lienbacher 

Mozart – Die Zauberflöte, KV 620, Overture; Andante for flute and orchestra in C major, KV 315/285e; Rondo for flute and orchestra in C major, KV 373/285c (arr. Pahud); Symphony no.38 in D major, KV 504, ‘Prague’

Salieri – Concerto for flute and oboe in C major

This was an interesting concert of music by Mozart and Salieri, the lesser-known music faring better for me than the celebrated symphony on the programme. There is nothing unusual in that, of course, especially in repertoire in which very different aesthetics are in play — and ultimately, it may be of greater importance to grant an opportunity to rarely heard music than to present a Prague Symphony to rival Karl Böhm or Daniel Barenboim.

The Magic Flute Overture, well known though it may be, stood somewhere in between. Tempi were apt and François Leleux took evident care with elements of Camerata Salzburg’s shading. The performance was clear and directed, if somewhat excitable, even fierce. Better that, though, than the po-faced puritanism of many in the Anglo-American wing of the ‘authenticke’ brigade. I sensed an idea – and the most any of us can have is an idea – of the eighteenth-century theatre, though it was difficult to warm to the astringent string tone, worlds away from Sándor Végh. Salzburg woodwind, however, sounded splendid, as they did throughout.

There followed two pieces for solo flute and orchestra, for which Emmanuel Pahud joined Leleux and Camerata Salzburg. I cannot claim to be a great fan of the lone Andante, KV 315/285e, probably an alternative slow movement for the G major Flute Concerto, KV 313/285c, but it was certainly played well here, with an Italianate long-breathedness that Salieri would surely have admired too. That said, a sense of the ballet – to my ears – is also suggestive of French music. (Think, for instance, of Gluck’s ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’.) Nothing wrong with that: Mozart often blends different stylistic influences. It is not always clear to me, though, quite how those different traits come together. Pahud’s arrangement of the C major Rondo for Violin and Orchestra, KV 373/285c, clearly struck a note of recognition among the audience. Hand on heart, do I think it works as well for the flute as for the violin? No, but it offers new repertoire for a solo instrument less blessed (though hardly without blessings) and, arguably, greater intimacy and sensuality. Occasional solo ornamentation was always tasteful.

Leleux collected his oboe, whilst continuing to conduct, for Salieri’s Concerto for Flute and Oboe. The first movement’s opening tutti brought both a different voice and a recognisable sense, once again, of theatre. The two solo instruments’ duetting enhanced that impression of opera. Echo effects amused some in the audience: they were well done, if with diminishing returns. I was surprised by the motivic insistence of some passages, but then I suppose we should recall Salieri was a teacher of Beethoven. At other times, the orchestral part was more rhetorical, again breathing the world of the theatre. The slow movement was charming enough, if without the memorability of even lesser Mozart (or Haydn, for that matter). I was not always convinced by its twists and turns but remained grateful for the opportunity to hear it at all. Here, as elsewhere, Heinz Holliger’s cadenzas offered something new yet in keeping. The finale offered a few surprises, though I struggled sometimes – doubtless labouring under an aesthetic too much derived from Mozart and Haydn – to understand their motivation. A sudden spotlight for the violas, for instance, was intriguing, but ultimately the movement remained somewhat four-square. As an encore, Leleux and Pahud played, without orchestra, the encounter between Papageno and Monastatos from Magic Flute.

Emmanuel Pahud (flute), François Leleux (oboe/conductor) and the Camerata Salzburg © Wolfgang Lienbacher

And so, on to the Prague, its first movement introduction rhetorical, even theatrical, rather than a harbinger of a notably symphonic performance. It was certainly full of incident and notes continued to fly off the page during the main Allegro, whose hallmark, gentle contrast for the second subject notwithstanding, was ebullience: very much a D major for (natural) trumpets and drums. Although enjoyable enough in its way, it felt a little long, especially given the exposition repeat, for something that seemed more inclined towards the early ‘sinfonia’ than the traditional Austro-German symphony. The Andante flowed quickly, as is now fashionable. It was similarly strong in gesture, weaker in overall line. Ultimately, it seemed more a collection of episodes than what we have come to expect. The finale worked best for me, if still lacking a strong enough sense of harmony. Melodic events tumbled forth and sterner passages had an undeniable drama to them, sometimes blazingly so. In context, observing the repeat seemed questionable: again making the movement over-long for Leleux’s approach in performance.

Mark Berry

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