Austria Mozartwoche Salzburg 2024  – Mozart and Salieri: Olga Peretyatko (soprano), Danish Chamber Orchestra / Ádám Fischer (conductor). Grosser Saal, Mozarteum, Salzburg, 30.1.2024. (MB)
Mozart – Lucio Silla, KV 135: Overture; Don Giovanni, KV 527: ‘Crudele! Ah no, mio bene!’ – ‘Non mi dir, bell’idol mio’; Concert aria, ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te?’ – ‘Non temer, amato bene’, KV 505; Idomeneo, KV 366: ‘Oh smanie! Oh furie!’ – ‘D’Oreste, d’Alace’; Symphony no.36 in C major, KV 425, ‘Linz’
Salieri – Sinfonia, ‘La Veneziana’
Ádám Fischer is a fine if sometimes eccentric Mozartian. His concert performance of Il re pastore with the Mozarteum Orchestra at last year’s Salzburg Festival was for me a highlight, and his work with the Danish Chamber Orchestra has gained many plaudits. Understandably, if this concert, my final engagement at this year’s Mozartwoche, is anything to go by. Moreover, it confirmed the sensational qualities of soprano Olga Peretyatko, whom I had admired in Idomeneo at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden (review here) last year.
The concert opened with the Overture to Lucio Silla, a new production of which has just opened next door at the Landestheater (for which I hope to return to Salzburg later this season and report). In the meantime, this proved quite a taster, as bright, theatrical, and vigorous as one might expect of the young Mozart in D major, here palpably excited to get his hands on the Milanese orchestra. (Paris was not the only fruit.) Woodwind in the first section foreshadowed those of the warm, central Andante in A, with just a hint of the shadows to come. In the final section, Fischer employed a favoured device of his, also to be heard in the Linz Symphony, of restricting certain passages to solo instruments only.
Peretyatko joined Fischer and the orchestra for three numbers. First was ‘Crudele! Ah no, mio bene!’ – ‘Non mi dir, bell’idol mio’ from Don Giovanni. Opening very much in medias res, giving the accompagnato permitted the performers to prepare us for Donna Anna’s aria, rather than experience it as a pretty, even generically ‘dramatic’ thing-in-itself. It certainly emerged as consequent, treated not only to pinpoint, expressive coloratura and a luxuriant voice, but equal excellence from the orchestra as a whole, gorgeous horns included. ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te?’ – ‘Non temer, amato bene’ was written by Mozart for Nancy Storace, creator of roles for both Mozart (Susanna) and Salieri. Here again, we experience the most vivid of communication through words and music. Fischer’s decision to play Mozart’s piano part too was unfortunate. I have little doubt that he could play or conduct the piece perfectly well; doing both proved, alas, a mistake, and renewed one’s admiration for those pianist-conductors able to do so. Strongly connected to Idomeneo, the aria’s words (though not its recitative’s) coming from Giambattista Varesco’s libretto, it paved the way for the appearance of Elettra after the interval, in which Peretyatko’s star shone, if anything, still brighter. Immediately in character, she had us feel the vipers in Elettra’s bosom, as did the Danish strings, bows fairly bouncing off the strings. Voice and oboe entwined in a veritable dance of death. A whole opera with Fischer, perhaps indeed Idomeneo, would be just the ticket.
In between Donna Anna and Mme Storace’s aria, we had heard Salieri’s Sinfonia, latterly called La Veneziana by its 1961 editor Renzo Sabatini. It is not an ‘original’ work, but rather the encounter of two opera overtures, its first movement from La scuola de’ gelosi (indeed written for Venice) and the second and third from La partenza inaspettata. Fischer and the Danish players were again in their theatrical element; anyone could and surely would have guessed this to be the world of opera buffa. Conviction and skill in performance placed this on a different level from any of the Salieri performances I had heard earlier in the week. Counterpoint, gesture, and harmony in the first movement had the composer seem fully worthy of standing in this musical company. The charms of the second could likewise well have been thought the equal of an ‘early’ Mozart symphony or overture. Fischer made it sound easy: as important here as in Mozart. A rollocking hunting finale echoed Haydn, if without his single-mindedness, which might in any case have been less the thing for an opera overture.
The Linz Symphony, in its usual key of C major – rather than the D intriguingly if alarmingly promised by the programme – showed in its first-movement introduction that certain ‘period’ characteristics can readily be employed, should one wish, in this music without loss to a sense of mystery. The exposition proper responded in kind, offering as did the performance as a whole a judicious balance between, well, balance and symmetry on one hand and symphonic development on the other. (Those who complain Mozart unduly emphasises the former could not be more wrong.) The second movement was both more intimate and starker, Fischer excelling once more in reconciling apparent opposites and also displaying a keen ear for colour, to which the orchestra eagerly responded. Just occasionally, his handling could be a little fussy, but there was nothing too grievous. The night-air of Mozart’s Salzburg serenades was to be felt, albeit framed a little more darkly. A minuet hewn from fine marble framed a trio (her for soloists) with effortlessly idiomatic lilt and especially delightful bassoon. The finale went as it ‘should’, apparently competing demands again reframed in collaborative fashion. A noisy audience proved an increasing trial for listening, so observation of the final repeat was a definite advantage in this case. The music sounded all the more urgent until a final blaze in which Fischer gave modern brass its glorious head. It was a little showy, but why not? Clarinets returned to the stage for a remarkably keen encore performance of the Figaro Overture, bringing my Salzburg visit almost full circle.