Mutter, BSO relax for final evening of Mozart concertos

October 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

By David Wright

Anne-Sophie Mutter concluded her series of the complete Mozart violin concertos with the BSO Saturday night.

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Boston Symphony Orchestra completed their cycle of the five Mozart violin concertos Saturday night, with a concert that was as carefree and extroverted as Friday’s was searching and meditative.

Part of the difference in mood was dictated by the works themselves.  Mutter and her intimate circle of 26 or so BSO musicians have shown themselves to be sensitive to every twist and flicker of Mozart’s volatile imagination, and so the selection of the concertos Nos. 3 and 5 (K. 216 and 219) for the first night of the cycle and Nos. 2, 1, and 4 (K. 211, 207, and 218) for the second appears to have been made with exactly that contrast in mind. The Concerto No. 2, for example, has many Mozartean touches, but sounds well studied from Haydn and the sons of J.S. Bach, while the Concerto No. 3 explores expressive realms unique to him.

Also, a different sense of occasion prevailed on the two nights.  Friday night was the annual opening gala—and also the start of a BSO season without a music director.  The shock of seeing the Symphony Hall stage mostly empty, with only a handful of musicians clustered downstage and no podium for a conductor, concentrated the celebration on what music is all about, and the performance by Mutter and her colleagues contributed deeply to that occasion.

On the second night, the initial jarring impact had worn off, and performers and audience alike appeared ready to kick back a little, to entertain and be entertained.  (The horn section kicked back a little too much, splattering simple passages in the finale of Concerto No. 1, but otherwise the ensemble playing was impeccable.)

Mutter’s spiccato passagework flashed delightfully in the fast episodes, and in the slow movements her vanishing pianissimo made her colleagues play more softly than orchestral musicians are often asked to do.  She was required to conduct more often than on Friday night, because Mozart’s Baroque concerto models have long tutti sections without the soloist. Mostly, however, she let her violin do the conducting.

All in all, Mutter’s Mozart cycle with the BSO, the most unconventional of season openers, gave the Boston audience enlightenment and enjoyment of a high order as they embark on a period of uncertainty for the orchestra.  That’s not a bad weekend’s work.

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